We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
Can I get a witness that the Lord not only determines, but also TIMES our steps? In my experience of striving to keep in step with the Lord, he walks WAY more slowly than my preferred pace. In my seasons of waiting on God, I try to meditate on Jeremiah 29:11-13 to remind me of his fruitful plans for my life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)
Too often, I set my sights on the promised future—which isn’t where I should fix my gaze. I make the mistake of viewing God’s will as a destination, like a carrot just out of reach. I strive to be where I believe God has called me to be instead of striving to remain where God is.
I chase the Jeremiah 29:11 carrot while ignoring who’s holding the Jeremiah 29:12-13 stick.
“But God,” I cry out. “I HAVE called on you. I HAVE come and prayed to you. I HAVE sought you with all my heart. Why aren’t you listening?”
But Jeremiah 29:13 is about seeking and finding God, not pursuing and realizing his promises. I confess that I habitually fall into this line of wrong thinking while pursuing my God-given dreams. God knows I need constant reminders to pour my energies into following hard after him. I’m not supposed to run ahead, outpacing him in pursuit of his promises to me. If I keep in step with God, then I’m wrong to wonder why I haven’t realized the “hope and a future” he plans to give me… in HIS time.
The journey counts with God, not just the destination.
In other words, being in the center of God’s will has more to do with remaining than arriving. God gave me a vivid picture of this recently after I had driven to a prayer meeting.
I wasn’t running late on my way there, but I hate driving slowly—especially on the wide-open country roads near my home.
When I reached the one-lane portion of the straightaway, which has a double yellow line to stop crazy people from blindly passing, I came upon a service truck. That hugely annoying truck crept along at about 35 mph in a 55-mph zone.
I. Was. Stuck.
After a painfully slow, two-mile drive to the next intersection, the truck turned right onto the same road I planned to take. This time, a broken yellow line indicated cars could pass using the oncoming lane, which I did as soon as I gained enough speed after making my own right turn. I quickly reached the speed limit and relaxed, only to come upon an identical service truck nearing the next stop sign, about a mile down the road. Frustration at my short-lived freedom set in as I slowed and then stopped behind the truck, which had the same sideview mirrors and roof-mounted ladders as the slowpoke. I let out an audible sigh as the truck turned left, taking my route to the prayer meeting. I looked both ways as the truck progressed through the intersection. Upon making my left turn and accelerating to the speed limit, my assumptions vanished as quickly as the truck, which was becoming a spec on the horizon. Pleasantly surprised, I relaxed and reached my destination in a reasonable amount of time.
We opened the meeting by praying for several expressed needs, including asking God to comfort a woman whose son had died in a base-jumping accident. The heartbroken mother not only grieved deeply, she also struggled to understand how her safety-minded, conscientious son, who frequently went base jumping and sky diving and taught others to do so, could’ve lost his life doing what he loved.
After lifting several prayers, the meeting’s host asked us to sit quietly and listen for God to speak to us personally. I found a spot behind the sofa and sat cross-legged on the carpet. Wiping tears from my eyes, I did my best to quiet all the voices in my head so I could hear the still small voice of God. A worship song about waiting on the Lord and mounting up on eagle’s wings played as I waited for God to speak. The song ended, and in the silence a loving and familiar voice spoke directly into my thoughts.
I grabbed my journal and wrote this down.
“Stay behind the slow truck, Shawna. Don’t try to get around it. It’s enough that I know what’s ahead and I know when you must arrive. Even experienced jumpers can jump to their death, so don’t jump unless I tell you to jump. Driving here, the trucks looked exactly the same. One drove under the speed limit, and the other drove over the speed limit. Stay behind the slow truck for now. When the time is right, the way will open up before you and nothing will be able to slow you down. Strength will rise as you wait upon the Lord, so wait upon me and trust my timing.”
My eyes filled with tears all over again as I stared at the page in my journal containing the words God had just spoken into my heart. I had not expected to hear such clear direction, and I thanked him for the profound revelation. In that moment, I remembered something God taught me several years ago about the wording of Jeremiah 29:11. I smiled through my tears at the memory.
The promise in Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. It doesn’t say, “You know the plans I have for you” or “Let me tell you all about the plans I have for you.”
I am on a need-to-know basis with God, and frankly, I don’t need to know everything about his plans for my life. God knows his plans, and that’s good enough for me.
Remaining in step with God beats arriving ahead of time. So, stay behind the slow truck, my friend.