This is a story about waiting. Waiting on God to act and to provide, and seeing what happens when he does.
Four years ago, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life, I sought counsel from Carol, a denominational leader and a good friend. She encouraged me to consider the consequences of both options. “In six to nine months, will you feel energized, creative and resourceful?”
Immediately, I knew my answer.
And thus ended a chapter of my life, which introduced another. And Carol was right. And as a result, I can personally attest to the good things that happen when we take seriously the words found in Isaiah 40:31:
He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord
shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
In the Spring of 2018 Linda and I set a date. I would resign from my pastoral position at River Ridge Covenant in Olympia, Washington on August 1 if I had not received an offer of employment by then.
The church was no longer able to afford having two full-time ordained pastors on staff. For twelve years I served as the Lead Pastor, and Dan Meyerpeter had been our Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministry for six years.
All the signs and the sentiments of leadership pointed to Dan being laid off, a prospect that neither Linda nor I found acceptable. Married for six years to Paige with two young children, I knew he was actively looking for other ministry opportunities in our denomination.
But seeking and receiving a position is a lengthy process. I didn’t want Dan to resign without a call, for it can be interpreted as vocational suicide. Pastoral search committees start to speculate about “the real reason” a pastor left their church.
Therefore, we decided that I would resign on August 1 so he wouldn’t have to. His position with the church would be secure, and could lead them through the transition period.
Of course, I was also pursuing other ministry possibilities, but there weren’t many options for a sixty-three-year-old white male – either inside or outside the church. I was very interested in and had the necessary training for one specific position – a Hospice Chaplain – and applied for job openings all along the west coast. But not one agency saw enough promise in my resume’ to request an interview.
On July 23 I wrote these words in my journal:
I’ve lost my equilibrium and the gloom has settled in.
The church leadership has determined that we can make it financially if we eliminate the Associate Pastor position.
I’m trying hard but am not succeeding in my efforts to release control into God’s hands and trust him.
I had put an August 1 date on our decision whether to stay or to leave, and that’s just around the corner. I don’t know what to do. Ralph* said I’m hearing many voices, but I need to seek God’s voice first of all.
Eight days later, on July 31, I received a call from Community Home Health and Hospice in Longview, Washington, one hundred miles south of Olympia. She asked if I was still seeking employment, and if so, would I be willing to come for an interview.
I quickly said yes twice, and asked when they wanted to meet. How about tomorrow, August 1? she proposed.
Have you ever had multiple feelings well up in you at the same time? Surprise, elation, amazement, relief – I was an emotional grab-bag, but managed to sound semi-professional as we set up the interview … which went very well.
But the drama continued. Although I received an excellent offer of employment on August 9, another development prompted my previously-mentioned call to Carol. Pastor Dan was likely going to become a Lead Pastor at a Covenant church in the Sacramento area. Should I accept the job or stay at River Ridge? My mind was swirling:
Should I decline their offer and stay for another six to nine months to help the church through the transition?
Is it fair for River Ridge Covenant to have both pastors leave at the same time? Will the congregation survive?
Thankfully, during our conversation Carol posed the question about the two options that lay before me – “In six to nine months, will you feel energized, creative and resourceful?”
I accepted the position of Hospice Chaplain, and yes, my strength was renewed. And it remains strong these four years later. I love this work! **
But this story contains a principle that is far more important than the recharging of my vocational batteries. I share it to highlight the spiritual principle – might I say command? – of waiting on God.
I am admittedly impatient. I do not like to wait, and I prefer progress that I can see. But learning to trust God – by far, the best definition of faith – means deliberately halting one’s own efforts so we can watch for him to do his work. In this story, I waited for God, and he showed his faithfulness. And just as he promised, my strength was renewed.
And I asked God with a smile ... why did I have to wait until August 1?! …
What about you?
May you be inspired by the following testimonies about your God, and about what happens when you wait for him.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Wait for the Lord, and keep his way.
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.
Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships.
God, the one and only —I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. ***
Benediction of Blessing
May you learn to hit the pause button on your own efforts as you wait for God to act.
May you do the right thing, trusting that God will come to your aid.
May your stories about waiting on God echo the declarations of your biblical ancestors.
* Ralph Moller is a ministry colleague and a trusted friend. For many years we met regularly, either in person or on the phone, to encourage and pray for each other.
** For a clear understanding of the work of a Hospice Chaplain, my last post might help.
** Psalm 37:7,34; Psalm 40:1-4 The Message; Psalm 62:1-2 The Message; Isaiah 64:4-5.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM