Practicing Faithfulness in the Space Between

Practicing Faithfulness in the Space Between // via Leslie Ann Jones

Note: This is the third and final post in a series on seasons of waiting. In the past couple of weeks, we've talked about trusting God when hopes are deferred and Betsy Childs Howard's book Seasons of Waiting. Today's post is about practicing faithfulness in the space between.

When I was in college and felt the burning of God's call on my heart, I envisioned myself doing great things for the kingdom. Living with boldness and fire. Going and giving and serving and teaching and basically being a rockstar for Jesus.

But then real life stepped in. I married an engineer, and if you know any engineers, then you know that they are at their very hearts logical and practical planners. It's what makes them good engineers. It's part of what I love about Dennis. But the very pragmatism that is so much a part of him also means that the life I had envisioned for myself is different from the reality that God had planned for me.

In all honesty, I never imagined living in a small Southern town and serving as a room mom for my children's teachers or as a substitute Sunday school teacher for the senior ladies at church. This life isn't nearly as bold and fire-filled as I had planned, and yet I now know that this is exactly the life that God had planned for me all along.

I spent a lot of years frustrated at just how slowly things were going for my ministry. Even though I knew and believed that children are a blessing, I cried when I found out I was pregnant with our youngest daughter because I thought it meant that it would be at least five more years before I could do something big for God.

As if shaping the hearts and lives of tiny humans is nothing at all.

I know what it means to wait for a dream to be fulfilled. I'm intimately acquainted with the bitterness that wells up when you see someone else living the life that you long for. But the longer I waited, the more I started to wonder if maybe I had gotten things mixed up. Maybe God had placed more than one calling on my life. Now I know that my mistake was in believing that the calling of motherhood was any less important than the calling to teach the Word.

I don't know what sort of waiting season you're stuck in, but I don't doubt that you're waiting for something. You could be waiting for a spouse or longing for a child or wishing for more purpose in your life. I don't know how everything will work out in the end. But I do know this: your waiting season is not pointless. Know that God can, and does, use the unlikeliest of situations to accomplish his good plan.

I've been reminded of this truth several times lately. The story of David and Goliath has been popping up with some frequency, and I, of course, took it to mean that God was trying to tell me something. I can be a bit hardheaded at times, so he brought it up again, and again, and yet again, until I got the message. 

We first meet David in 1 Samuel 16—just one chapter before he slays Goliath. And he's an ordinary boy. A shepherd and musician. The unlikeliest of candidates to become Israel's next king. And yet, in God's eyes, he was exactly the right one for the job. There's just one tiny problem. Israel already has a king. The current king, Saul, has displeased God, and because of that, he will be displaced from his throne. Eventually. But not yet. David has no choice but to wait.

So here's the thing that God keeps pressing on me: While David waited, he kept on doing the work that God had given him to do for that day. He had been chosen as king, but knowing it wasn't yet his time, he continued to be faithful to the tasks in front of him. And the crazy thing is that if he had not kept on doing his work as a shepherd, he wouldn't have been prepared to defeat the giant.

Sounds crazy, right? You really should read the entirety of 1 Samuel 16-17 when you get a chance, but for now, know that while David's older brothers were off doing noble things for Israel, David was back home tending sheep. His father sends him to carry food and supplies to his brothers on the warfront, and when he gets there, he's shocked to find the army of Israel quaking in their boots at the taunts and threats from the Philistine champion, Goliath.

David, handsome teenage shepherd boy that he is, immediately volunteers to fight the giant. When everyone, including Saul, points out exactly crazy that is, David won't listen. Instead, he argues his case. Listen to what he says:

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God . . . The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.   1 Samuel 17:34-37

First of all, if you've gone head-to-head with a lion and bear and come out on top, I want you on my team. Just saying. But seriously, let's talk for a minute about this, because it's important. David was a shepherd. It was a lowly job. There wasn't much praise and glory to be had there. And yet it was a job that he did faithfully and consistently. 

What would you have done if you were out tending your sheep and a lion wanted one for dinner? Personally, I would have let the lion have as many sheep as it wanted, as long as it left me alone. But David didn't do that. He stood up for those he was charged with protecting. He fought off the fiercest of opponents. And it was that readiness to step in and do what needed to be done—even at great personal risk—that enabled David to stand before Goliath with confidence.

Do you see what's happening here? God was preparing David all along. David couldn't have known that there was a giant in his future. He didn't know what God had in store for him. But the Lord did. He put a task (raising and defending sheep) before David that would prepare him for the work ahead, and it was David's faithful commitment to that task that gave him the skills necessary to strike down Goliath.

Not only that, but David also knew whose he was. He knew that he was the Lord's anointed. He knew that through his training as a shepherd, God had given him all he needed to defeat Goliath. He wasn't being arrogant or cocky when he insisted that he could do it. He was resting confidently in the knowledge that God had called and equipped him for the challenge ahead.

How does all this relate to you and me? Well, I personally find great comfort in the knowledge that God honors faithfulness in his people. David wasn't perfect. He made mistakes in his life. Big ones. But he also made it a habit to be about the business of God, even if that meant tending sheep for a while.

Is it possible that God is using your current circumstances as a training field for something he has planned in the future? Maybe you have big dreams but you're stuck in a place you never wanted to be. If so, you have two choices: you can give in to the bitterness and disappointment that threatens to overwhelm, or you can honor God and practice faithfulness in the space between. I hope you choose the latter.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Seasons of Waiting: An Interview and Giveaway

You know I love to read. And you know that I love to share what I'm reading with others. But do you know what's even better than that? Sharing a book written by a friend!

Betsy Childs Howard and I studied together at Beeson Divinity School several years ago. These days, she's an editor at The Gospel Coalition, and she's written the most thoughtful book on practicing faithfulness when dreams are delayed. Her book, Seasons of Waiting, was inspired by her own wait for a spouse. In it, she offers a theological perspective and purpose for various seasons of waiting, whether it be for a spouse, a child, healing, or a home. I found Betsy's words to be both comforting and encouraging, and I think you will too. 

I reconnected with Betsy at TGC's women's conference this summer, and she graciously agreed to a little Q&A for you. Because everyone loves a giveaway, and also because I found it so helpful, I'm giving away a free copy of Seasons of Waiting to one lucky reader. Details follow the Q&A with Betsy, at the bottom of this post. But before we get to all of that, here's a little video to give you a taste of what you'll find in the book.


Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What does life look like now?

I’m from Birmingham, AL. I went to Wheaton College. I also earned a Masters of Theology at Beeson Divinity School during the time that I worked there. I now live in New York City where my husband and I are planting a new Anglican church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Q: Share a bit about your writing journey. When did you first feel the Lord prompting you to the writing life? How did Seasons of Waiting come to be?

I am not someone who writes all the time. I really enjoy writing, but I went many years without writing anything. Several factors converged through personal connections to give me some online writing opportunities, which I took advantage of. This led to a publisher approaching me about writing a book. I was excited and flattered, but I didn’t want to write a book if I didn’t have something that needed to be said. It took me about four months to think and pray about it and decide that all that God had been teaching me about waiting might be something that others could benefit from.

Q:  What are the top three things you would share with women who are stuck in a season of waiting?

  1. Don’t worry about whether you can make it for the rest of your life. Just ask God for what you need to make it through today.
  2. Remember that, even if your season of waiting ends, you will always be waiting on something. Seek now to draw near to God and learn more about his character. This will benefit you in the future no matter what you are waiting on.
  3. Keep an eternal perspective. If you are a believer, this life is not your only shot at happiness. That realization helps waiting not feel quite so desperate.

Q: One of your key points is that each of our stories are parables that point to a larger truth. How did this realization affect you in the midst of your waiting?

It made my waiting seem personal rather than wasted time. It helped me feel like God was using my waiting to point me and others to his salvation story. Seeing my wait for a spouse as a parable of the Church waiting for her Bridegroom increased my longing for his return.

Q: How have other women helped and encouraged you in your waiting seasons?

Sometimes it is hard to talk with others about the areas where we feel most vulnerable. We need to do it anyway. Those friends with whom who I’ve shared my deepest desires, who have prayed for me, are those that I’m closest to. And they’ve been able to rejoice with me when God has answered my prayers!

Q: What is the key to finding purpose and joy where you are rather than where you wish to be?

I think that we should seek to find contentment and joy in our relationship with God and seek his purpose for our lives rather than our own. That’s different than being completely content with your circumstances. You might have a terrible job situation—I don’t know that God is calling you to be content with that. But as long as you are in that terrible job situation, you can seek joy in the Lord, seek to be used by him where you are, and believe that he has a good purpose for you there. It doesn’t necessarily show a lack of godly contentment to be honest about the difficulties of whatever season you are in. But we must always seek to draw our deepest strength and joy from our all-sufficient Father. There is no lack in him, so there is no reason for us to lack contentment in him.

Q: How has the gift of hindsight changed the way you view the years you spent waiting for a spouse?

I’m grateful for all the relationships I had during my single years. I’m introverted and a homebody, but loneliness forced me to be more social and throw myself into church life. I’m glad that God used years of singleness to deepen my friendships. I also think that getting married at 34 rather than 24 has helped me view marriage as a gift rather than a reward for going about dating the right way.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? Please speak freely here.

Singleness ended my wait for marriage, but it began other waits. I’ve been waiting on a baby for what is starting to feel like a long time. We’ve had a lot of waiting to do with the church plant that we are working on. I’m now far from my family and living in a small, rented apartment, so I am experiencing the wait for a home in a way that I didn’t when I lived in my hometown. All of the truth God taught in my in my wait for marriage are applicable now. No wait is wasted if you press into God’s goodness.

Contest closes October 9 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the contest closing. Good luck! Until next time, grace and peace.

Trusting God When Hopes Are Deferred

Trusting God When Hopes Are Deferred

Well, it finally happened. My oldest daughter started first grade this year, and I feel like the entire world has opened up. The first day of school, as the hours stretched out before me, I wondered what in the world I was going to do with all the time that had suddenly fallen in my lap. I could write. I could design. I could read a book. I could do all the things that I’ve been putting off for all the years that I’ve been a mom of little ones.

For so long now, my life has felt small. Don’t get me wrong. I love my girls, and I love this life that God has given our family, but as a mom of tiny people, there was really only so much I could do between wiping noses and picking up toys and nursing booboos. It was a sweet time, but it was also a hard time, and now that I feel it drawing to a close, I can’t help but be excited for what the Lord has in store for us next.

Several years ago, when I was a mom to just one baby, I read a blog post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner about all the messages she gets from new moms—moms who have something to say but don’t have the time to say it. Her response has stuck with me and encouraged me over the years, and I want to share it with you now.

If you’re a mom of littles, and your world feels so much smaller than you imagined, remember that this is just a season. It can be frustrating and discouraging to look around and see other women who seem to be doing it all. They have babies and thriving businesses. They’re rocking newborns and a writing career. They have everything you desire. Everything you’re striving for.

You want. You dream. You ache. God has given you a burning desire for more, and yet, most of the time, you’re doing good to make it to the grocery store and keep everyone in your home alive for another week.

I want to tell you that it’s OK.

You don’t have to do all the things right now. You just need to be faithful with the tasks that God has given you today. Take care of your babies. Feed your family. Maintain your home. And while you’re doing all of those things, let God shape you. Let him mold you into a better version of yourself. Let him use the waiting years for your benefit and his glory.

Because here’s the thing. Hope deferred will only make your heart sick if you let it. These years of waiting? They’re not pointless. God is doing something in you. Treat this time as a profound gift. A time to learn. A time to grow. A time to become the person that God is pushing you to be.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11. Scripture Art by Leslie Ann Jones

And someday, maybe sooner than you realize, your days will open up. You’ll be standing on the edge of a new season of life wondering what you’re going to do with all the time on your hands. And you’ll know with certainty that God has been preparing you for this moment all along.

Be encouraged, sweet friends. What they say is true. The days are long, but the years are short. This time will come to a bittersweet end before you know it. Don’t lose heart. Trust God. Maintain faithfulness. This waiting? It’s worth it.

Until next time, grace and peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-12