Pray. Wait. Trust.

“Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

Ruth 3:18 NIV

Waiting-no one enjoys waiting, am I right? I am learning however, that God has called so many of us to wait. We may be entering a new year tomorrow but many people today, the last day of 2022, are filled with unanswered prayers and beginning 2023 with some scary unknowns. Timing, as they say, is everything. A season of waiting right now can especially frustrating, not just because it’s during a holiday season, but it stems right after being locked down in a world pandemic nearly three short years ago. Having normalcy stripped away from all of us and the inability to have any type of stability for nearly two years, left many, myself included, exhausted and if we’re being honest, impatient. To this day, I prefer grocery pick up and drive-thrus over walking into brick and mortar establishments because suddenly the world just got too “peoplely” and I was a lover of people prior to Covid. Add in that this past week was supposed to be a season of joy and being hit with unknowns that rob your peace just makes waiting all the more challenging.

Being called to waiting, especially on the tail end of a world wide lockdown or during a holiday season, should come to no surprise though. I think God’s best endurance lessons come when we can see the finish line yet walk through a season of delays that keep us from crossing it. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God giving people directions/promises and then making them wait. Abraham knew of Isaac 25 years before Isaac was born. David waited 15-20 years from the time Samuel said he would be king to the time he actually wore the crown. Joseph waited approximately 20 years also for his dream to come true. Each endured much hardship, struggle and interruption during their waiting. The world may have been created in six days but most of God’s promises came to pass after very long periods of trials, tribulations and waiting. Even Ruth had to wait for her kinsman redeemer.

Ruth was a Moabite widow, who followed her mother-in-law back to Judah. Although this was her in-laws homeland, this was a strange place for Ruth. Ruth was only married 10 years before she became a widow. In that span she lost her father-in-law and brother-in-law also. Losing a husband and both of her sons, Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, suffered the most. I can’t imagine that Ruth or Naomi realized this loss was leading to a waiting season. But that’s exactly what the rest of Ruth’s story will show us.

While traveling back to her home town, Naomi advises her two daughters-in-law to return to Moab. Naomi is so full of grief that she believes she has nothing left to give either of these two women. Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law does go back. But Ruth responds with this: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Thus, Ruth follows Naomi to Judah.

In the second chapter of Ruth, she decides she must go to work. Unbeknownst to her, she happens upon a field, owned by a family member of Naomi’s. She doesn’t apply for a job though, she enters the field for gleaning. Gleaning is not the same as harvesting. Gleaning was done by widows, the poor and destitute and it was an act of gathering the scraps of the harvest the workers did not pick up. Whatever they gathered they could take home. Gleaning was not a job, it was an act of survival. It was also dependent upon the land owner allowing one to glean. On her first day, she meets the owner, Boaz, who extends kindness and welcomes her to continue to glean in only his field. When she returns home with an overabundance of harvest, Naomi is not only surprised but overjoyed learning about Ruth’s encounter with Boaz. Naomi tells Ruth to do as Boaz said and continue to glean only in his field.

Chapter 3 begins with Naomi advising Ruth to show herself available to Boaz. If you look up timelines for Ruth’s story you can presume at least one year has passed from the time Ruth meets Boaz to the time she lays at his feet at the threshing floor. At first read you may think this all happened during the same harvesting season but Ruth 2:23 tells us Ruth gleaned from Boaz’s field until the harvest was finished. Chapter three begins with Naomi telling Ruth to go to Boaz and presumes she will find him in the threshing floor because it is harvesting season once again. If you know how the rest of the story turns out, then you know Ruth obeys Naomi, catches Boaz off guard and then waits one more day for him to negotiate for her with someone else who had more rights to her. When it comes to waiting, Ruth waited over a year for God to redeem her circumstances and restore her family. Ruth’s total waiting, however, was over 10 years because her first husband was not the man she would bare children with nor was he part of the bloodline that led to Jesus. But Boaz was and when Ruth bore Obed, she fulfilled that link in Jesus’ family tree lineage.

None of us should compare our waiting stories to those in the Bible though-at least not the timelines. If God is calling you to wait, as difficult as it may be, waiting will be your best option regardless of the length of time you’re called to wait. The question remains, what should we do in the waiting. Abraham, David and Joseph lived their lives and fought many obstacles during their waiting season. Ruth grieved, went to work and cared for her mother-in-law. Some people believe you should pour all of your energy into praise and worship during your waiting season. Others would tell you to serve God more or do things to better yourself. But God isolated Ruth and at times, He also isolated David and Joseph. So don’t be surprised if God not only calls you to wait, he cancels your busyness and isolates you too.

If you’re a control freak like me, and you center your life around staying busy, you not only dislike your plans being changed but you have no idea how to “be still.” Isolation is not your favorite comfort zone either. If you’re also an overthinker like me, you may deeply struggle with shutting off your brain to even focus on hearing from God. Silence fills you with doubt, worry, and leads to more overthinking. As your impatience grows, you may get one word answers. This is not God being cryptic or playing games. This is simply His way of saying, “wait and trust.”

God’s waiting is never futile and there is always a lesson of trust in every waiting season. Trusting doesn’t always come easy to some of us though. Especially for those who have been betrayed by so many or have accepted the belief that God’s best is the opposite of what we think is best for our lives. To add to it, God doesn’t give us directions in how to trust. He simply just says to do it. Pray. Wait. Trust. Three simple words that are easy to God and nearly impossible for you and me. But, if we, like Ruth, can wait to see what will happen and trust that God is settling the matter, we can find peace to endure the waiting season, no matter how long He calls us to wait.

Feed Your Soul, Not Your Craving

“but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:14

It’s almost 6:00 a.m. on the last day of 2022. All is quiet in my household and neighborhood. I’ve wrestled with disrupted sleep all week, so of course, I’ve been awake for over an hour. Strangely, I am craving a Coke. Not just any Coke, but the kind made with pure cane sugar. I have not had one in well over a year. Perhaps hearing the mention of this kind of Coke on a TV show I watched earlier this week is what triggered this craving. I don’t have any in my home, and the nearest store I could buy one is at least a 30 minute drive. I tell myself it’s too early to drive to the store, especially just for a Coke. But this craving isn’t going away. I start to think of what I could substitute instead-perhaps a McDonald’s fountain Coke. The nearest McDonald’s is only 15 minutes away. That’s not too far, and since they have drive thru, I could just throw a coat over my PJs, because no one would see what I was wearing anyway.

Alas, I tell myself, it’s too early to drive to McDonald’s also. But I still can’t shake this craving. I think I just need something carbonated and sweet. Then I remember my beverage fridge in the garage. Occasionally there is Diet Coke in there. It won’t have the same sweet taste as a Coke made with cane sugar, but it will be carbonated and taste somewhat like a Coke. It may be too early to drive anywhere, but it wasn’t too early to walk outside to my garage. To my disappointment, there was no Diet Coke in there. There was, however, a 24=pack of bottled spring water that I had just purchased from the store yesterday. I knew water wouldn’t come close to satisfying a sugary carbonation craving, but I resigned to accept that craving a Coke must mean I’m thirsty and water was my only option to quench my thirst. As I took my first drink I knew I was right-my body was indeed thirsty. At 6:04 a.m., the entire 17-ounce bottle of water is gone and my body is still wanting more.

Water didn’t satisfy my craving, but it did settle my thirst. My body needed hydration not sugar or carbonation. This is also true for the cravings in life. There are so many things our natural selves crave that do not feed our souls. Comfort for example, is a craving most desire to combat stress. Various foods and clothing are made for comfort. When we crave comfort, we eat mac and cheese and change into sweat pants. We curl up on our couches and watch our favorite television shows in an effort to get comfortable and rid ourselves from a stressful day. But what comfort isn’t what our souls need? What if the lack of comfort is merely a stirring in our spirit, triggering a soul need, but we feed the craving instead of the soul? When that happens, we tend to have to buy bigger sweat pants. Why, because no amount of comfort food or relaxation will satisfy what our souls need. We can stuff ourselves with indulgent foods that taste satisfying but leave us feeling sick and tired when our bodies start to digest it. The same is true for feeding any of life’s cravings that do not meet the needs of our soul. The woman Jesus encountered at the well, is a prime example.

The woman at the well had soul needs. Her soul needed love and wholeness. But her heart craved lust and a need to be desired. She chased her cravings and ended up in five failed relationships. Jesus knew that about her when he greeted her. He didn’t shame her. He doesn’t even mention these details about her when they first meet. When Jesus first encounters her, He asks for a drink of water. It’s not until the end of their conversation that Jesus brings up her relationship status. He mentions it after he tells her how to feed her soul. Through an exchange about water, Jesus tells her about a living water that when consumed eliminates one’s thirst. Then He tells her to go tell her husband, already knowing she is not married and the history of her five failed marriages. This was His way of showing her that what she was craving was not feeding her soul. No human relationship can feed our souls. Our souls were designed to be fed by Jesus only. He feeds our souls when we soak in His presence and consume His word. If we don’t recognize what our soul needs, we will inevitably be sidetracked with false cravings. Take inventory of what you’re chasing after. If it’s money, power, control or lust, you’re feeding cravings. If you’re chasing after Christ, you’re feeding your soul. Feed your soul, not your cravings.

Sacrificial Love

“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.”

Genesis 22:8 NIV

Richard Bach is noted for saying “If you love someone set them free. If they come back they’re yours. If they don’t they never were.” Although internet investigators cannot substantiate this, they did find a similar quote by Jess Lair (1969): “If you want something very, very badly, let it go free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.” (from the book, I Ain’t Much Baby—But I’m All I’ve Got) This concept of loving something or someone and setting it free forms a belief system based on fate. It’s about as effective as making a wish before blowing out your birthday candles or throwing a coin into a “wishing well.” It’s indecisive and inconclusive. It’s wishy-washy and neither practical nor stable. Love is not something to chalk up to fate, it is a gift and a promise from God. It’s a gift He freely gives but sometimes asks us to temporarily give up. Especially if our love for something or someone exceeds our love for Him or if He is testing our loyalty to Him.

The Greeks describe love seven different ways; eros which is romantic love, philia which defines friendship love, storge is unconditional familial love, agape which is an unconditional selfless love, ludus which describes playful or flirtatious love, pragma which is a long lasting, committed love, and philautia which is self love (from: The Bible also tells us what love is and what it is not. 1 Corinthians 13 is a famous reading at most weddings describing love as patient and kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. As the reading progresses we are reminded that love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things. But right in the middle, just after love is kind and just before love bears all things, is this sentence: love is not self-seeking. Both the Bible and the Greeks can agree on the concept of love-it is unconditional and it is sacrificial. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a glimpse at what sacrificial love looks like but let’s take a deeper look at what it is and is not.

Sacrificial love, is not sacrificing love. It is not falling in love with a person or a dream and then throwing them away to test if the dream or person were actually meant for you. It is not pushing people away because of fear or uncertainty either. In fact, 1 John 4:18 tell us: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Do not run away from or close your heart off to love out of fear or confusion. Seek God’s help in overcoming your fears and allow His love to teach you how to truly love and freely accept others’ love. When we are walking in God’s calling of love, we should experience no fear or spirit of timidity. We should only know His peace that surpasses all understanding. But we know the devil uses fear to jerk us off the path of God’s calling. It’s why we read how “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” is written in the Bible approximately 365 times. That’s a reminder a day for an entire year. (from: When fear rears its ugly head, we need to squash it like a serpent under our feet reminding ourselves that there is no fear in love.

Sacrificial love is not sacrificing all of yourself for your family or dream either. In fact, sacrificial love is the opposite of completely losing yourself. It’s about stepping outside of yourself and sacrificing your own will because your love for God is greater than your love for yourself. Abraham is a prime example of this type of sacrificial love.

Abraham had a dream. All he ever hoped for was to be a father. God promised Abraham he would be a dad but he made Abraham wait 25 years before keeping that promise. Abraham trusted God but had a few moments of doubt during his time of waiting. Can you blame him? How many of us could believe we heard God correctly if we were still waiting on Him to keep His word for that long? At one point, Abraham tried to manufacture his own miracle having a son with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant. But God told Abraham, Ishmael, his son with Hagar was not the son God had promised him. Instead, Abraham’s wife Sarah, at the age of 90, would bare a son whom Abraham was to name Isaac. Did you know the name Isaac means “laughter”? Interestingly, both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God reminded them that Sarah would have a baby because they thought they were too old to be parents. How many of us, who have been waiting on God to fulfill His promise are at a point of that kind of laughter? More interesting than that is the fact that God’s covenant with Abraham, was the very definition of laughter. This tells me that God’s dream for you and me involves laughter too.

Isaac, not Ishmael would be God’s covenant with Abraham. God kept his word, and Isaac was born. Special note, God didn’t forget or throw Ishmael away. In spite of Abraham playing God by having a son with Hagar first, God still blessed Ishmael, making him fruitful and increasing his numbers. (Genesis 17:20) I believe God’s care for Ishmael shows that He will redeem any circumstance or at least uses every circumstance for His purpose, even when we get in His way and try to play God in our own lives.

The birth of Isaac isn’t Abraham’s story of sacrificial love. If you are familiar with any Sunday School Bible story, then you know what happens next. As if Abraham waiting on God for 25 years didn’t already show his trust in God’s word, God tests Abraham’s faithfulness too. He calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. (Disclaimer-this took place a bazillion years ago BC. Sacrificing children now is not only illegal but NOT at all what I believe God would ever call any of us to do. In other words, do not try this home.) Now I don’t know about you, but if I waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise to me, to fulfill the one thing my heart truly desires, then turn around and say, “sacrifice if for me” I’d respond like cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Hughes Entertainment, 1989). Only instead of saying, “Are you serious, Clark?” I would ask, “Are you serious God?!” To add to this, keep in mind Abraham had no warning, just a sudden calling from God to go and sacrifice the very promise He had waited on God to fulfill. Raise your hand if you don’t respond well to anything that happens suddenly, especially if you’re left feeling turned upside down and blind sided. Picture me typing with one hand right now because I’m flailing the other one up in the air.

Abraham however, doesn’t question God. The next day, he takes his son, a donkey, a few of his servants and all he needs to build an altar and heads up the mountain with an obedient heart. Can I stop here for just one moment? The Bible I read leaves no mention of what Abraham was feeling or thinking during this time but I can imagine Abraham was full of anguish, perhaps even a hint of confusion or despair. If nothing else, this had to be breaking Abraham’s heart. I point this out because I believe questioning God’s calling, especially when it feels contradictory to what we know He promised us is a natural human response, just as anguish, confusion, heartbreak and/or despair would be natural human feelings to process. I don’t think it’s a sin to feel any of these emotions. Sin occurs when we lose faith and allow these emotions to redirect us instead of walking in obedience with God. This could look like telling ourselves we heard God wrong or choosing a substitution to sacrifice instead. Abraham could have woke up the next morning and told himself he dreamt the whole thing or he could have convinced himself getting rid of Ishmael and Hagar, something he had already done, was what God really meant. He could have even tried to have another baby with Sarah and use that child as the sacrifice. Instead, he chose to obey and God honored his obedience by sending a substitution and sparing Isaac’s life.

Abraham’s story has an example of another sacrifice, which is Sarah’s sacrifice for Abraham. Women of the Bible were known to see their identity and worth through their ability to bear children. If they were barren they viewed themselves (and society also viewed them) to have little to no value. A moment of transparency, God has gifted me two children. Both of which I call my miracle babies because my chances of having them were lower than the average healthy woman. After having them, continued complications led to surgery that removed any chance of me ever bearing more children again. Like Sarah, I too, struggled with my identity as a woman, questioning my worth and my value after I could no longer bare children. I had to allow God to redefine me and show me who I am in through His eyes to be free from those thoughts and feelings. In the Bible, the barren ones would share their husbands with their maidservants and fulfill their identity through their maidservants’ children. Another disclaimer: this is not a socially accepted practice today nor am I recommending it. Why? Because, as in Sarah’s situation, this brought about jealousy and only increased the barren woman’s insecurity. Anything that brings about jealousy or insecurity is not a form of sacrificial love. God will never call us to make a sacrifice that creates either. God’s calling may hurt, and we may not want to let go of what He’s calling us to sacrifice, but just as He provided a ram for Abraham, if His calling is only a test, I believe He will provide a substitute sacrifice for you and me too. It will never leave you feeling jealous or insecure.

God put sacrificial love on my heart this morning as I was praying over circumstances beyond my control. As I poured out my heart out to Him today, I found myself asking Him to help me let go of my own pain and heart’s desire in order to focus on what really needed to be pray for. God called Abraham to sacrifice what he loved to prove to that he loved God more. He may call us to do the same. Sometimes, God isn’t calling us to let go, but His test may be to loosen the grip on what we love in order to trust Him more. Loosening our grip can be just as painful as letting go but as God showed me today, obeying Him and praying for His greatest good, in spite of our own pain, is a true act of sacrificial love. As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this weekend, reflect on the greatest sacrificial love of all-Mary gave birth to a son. A son who, 33 years later, demonstrated His great love for all of mankind by dying on a cross. While reflecting on this, don’t forget, even Jesus questioned God’s calling for this great sacrifice. Just before He was arrested, alone with His thoughts and two of His disciples, He prayed-““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV) If God is calling you to walk in sacrificial love, I think it’s ok pray this very same prayer-Lord, take this cup from me. Yet not my will but yours be done. Remember this-a sacrifice is not a closed door. Abraham did not loose his son. The world did not loose Jesus. No sacrifice that God asks you to make will leave you empty. When the time is right, God will provide the ram to replace what He called you to sacrifice and let you keep all that He has promised you. Perhaps sacrificial love isn’t about sacrificing at all. Perhaps it’s merely walking in love, trusting and obeying God, no matter what He calls us to do.