Waiting on God requires more than patience. It calls for discernment, in good measure, which, in turn, calls for accumulated experience with trouble and tribulation. It’s something of a journey that calls for, often tough, periodic testing.
Having long ago chosen to strike out on my own with a personal relationship with Jesus, rather than plug into any specific denomination or doctrine of Christianity, I’ve had to figure out for myself how to hear God’s voice above the din. Full disclosure, I haven’t always been successful. Sometimes I heard the voice I wanted to hear and took a pitted path that I might have avoided.
But God is so good and He has always managed to rescue me, because, while I do not trust myself, I do trust Him, and He gets me back on track. Those were the times I had to earn some hard lessons and, in the process, added on a bit of discernment as I bandaged my wounds.
It is a fine line to walk though, I do concede, knowing when to be still and wait, and when to step out.
There is an old story about a man who had to climb up into his attic to escape rising flood waters in his house. Frantic he cried out for God to deliver him. Eventually he was forced to break open a hole in his roof and he climbed out and sat on the peak, desperately praying for help. Soon a boat came along and shouted for him to get in. He waved them off and said he was waiting on God to rescue him. Then a helicopter appeared and he waved that off with the same reason.
How does this story end? Does he get another chance to be rescued or does God allow him to suffer until the storm stops and the waters recede. He would likely be very hungry, cold, in shock and traumatized and quite possibly angry at God for not answering his prayers by that time.
And so it goes when we pray for an outcome but do not recognize the answer God gives us. Sometimes He says, “Wait” sometimes He says, “Do” - but if we don’t know how to interpret those commands, if we aren’t armed with discernment, we can still stumble and choose wrongly, thereby causing our own delayed rescues.
Having been around the block a few times in the last 72+ years and suffered my share of discernment learning experiences, I still can’t explain how I know when it’s time to wait or do. I guess it’s a condition that is one of a kind - unique to each follower, a one on One dedicated channel. I think the closest I can come to advising anyone else how to hear the still small voice is expressed in the lyrics of Mark Harris’ song Until.
Until this mountain moves
Until the path is clear
Until Your voice is the only one that I can hear
Until I see Your hand
Until I know Your heart
Until I trust the grace that's carried me this far
I will be still, until …
Note: the preposition/conjunction ‘until’ implies that we need to be at the ready to leap, in faith, into the boat or helicopter, even if we are afraid to jump or think it's too hard or scary to climb the rope, or that it's not what we prayed for or were expecting.