I spent a lot of time at the end of last year being weary of doing good.
Sometimes the hardest part of Christianity for me is choosing to do the right thing when the going is slow and the call is to wait on His timing for something I deeply desire. That’s not to say that I always do this perfectly or that I don’t sometimes rush ahead instead of waiting patiently. But as a Christian, I do believe that even good things can be had at the wrong time. In a world of instant gratification, however, waiting for the Lord to provide in the proper season can be extremely disheartening. Especially when I see others around me getting what I am longing for through methods that I know are sinful. Often my heart has cried with Asaph in Psalm 73, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” And like Asaph, “when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Choosing the right thing and choosing God’s timing is worth it when the end is eternal life in Christ.
But what about when their end is the same as mine?
Nothing rankles like watching someone who professes to be a Christian get, through sinful means, the blessing for which I have been longing and praying. Especially when, after they have gotten what I want without the wait, they receive grace and never seem to have to suffer any consequences for their wrong choices and actions. In those moments, the wait feels like a waste, and choosing to do the right thing is wearisome. Why not take the same course of action they have chosen when our ends are both eternal life in Christ and in the meantime I’m still waiting and they have already gotten what I only hope for?
In times like these, the part inside of me that never matured past the age of three wants to throw back my head and wail “It’s not fair!”
And somewhere in the midst of this line of thought, I find myself sitting outside the party with the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, resenting the grace of the Father in response to the sin of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Did all that time that I chose the sacrifice of service mean nothing? Why does it seem like those who wouldn’t wait and took what they wanted before the proper time are rewarded with all the benefits and none of the consequences? Yet, in the midst of my sulking and doubting His justice and faithfulness, the Father comes out to speak to my bitter and resentful heart.
“You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:31-32
What the older brother didn’t know, and what I often forget, is that joy is not found only in having the fattened calf killed, in being celebrated and restored. The joy of choosing to do the right thing comes from the fact that this choice keeps us close to the Father. Choosing sin and selfishness always results in driving a wedge between us and the Father. Though the end may be rejoicing in restoration, that restored fellowship can only come after it is broken. How much better to have a constant, unbroken closeness to the One who loves so lavishly? In self-pity and impatience, it’s easy to become fixated on the blessing, rather than realizing that the best blessing is being always with the Father. When my focus is on desiring what the Father can give me, the process of waiting for His provision can become a desire for Him to hurry up and get out of my way so that I can get what I want. Only when I am focused on the richness of relationship can I truly put my desires in the proper perspective. In this relationship, the means matter just as much as the end.
When the wait feels like a waste of time, the Father is teaching me to value His presence more than I value His gifts. When it doesn’t make sense to me that sin sometimes seems to be rewarded, I must remember that “God never promises a reason. He rarely offers an answer. He will always offer himself.” And being with Him renews my strength and makes the waiting worthwhile.