By Ken Costa
Waiting can be so hard. Many of us know all too well the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs when forces outside our control conspire to put our dreams on hold. In the words of the writer of the Proverbs, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Yet the next line is the hope that we cling to: “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Dreams are not just fantastical diversions in our lives, but the very stuff of living. And they matter to God.
We have to have determined dreams, not daydreams, if we are to fulfill all that God calls us to. It is important that dreams and determination run together, in order to separate our frivolous fantasies from our God-given ambitions.
I have noticed over the years that people fail not because of a lack of dreams but because of a lack of determination. It can be difficult to endure the tediousness of the waiting room, and those who lack the determination to see it through can often walk out in frustration. Determined dreaming is not the listless daydreaming where we gaze into the middle distance, imagining a better world. We need to engage our wills and commitment. To fulfill our destiny, we require determination and discernment.
In the Bible, we read of a king who found his calling apparently blocked by the might of the political establishment. In 1 Samuel 16, we see the teenaged boy David anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel. But it was perhaps fifteen long years before David was able to ascend the throne and fulfill the destiny God had laid out for him. There were times in the wilderness when David questioned whether this had all been a huge mistake. There were times when he wondered if he had been forgotten, if God would ever fulfill the promises that he had made.
Despite his questions, his repeated cry of “how long?” he clung to the calling that he had been given, and to the faithfulness of God. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Ps 13 vv. 5–6)
The story of David is a great lesson for us today. His trust in God kept him steadfast in his calling throughout those periods of waiting in the wilderness. Whenever doubts came upon him or he questioned the calling that God had placed on his life, he chose to reaffirm the faithfulness of the Lord. This was his game before the game, a time of deep learning and maturing as he grew to trust in the promises of God. But for David, trusting in God also meant trusting in the ways of God.
How tempting it can be for us to cut corners, to rationalize that compromising our integrity is the only way to secure our God-given dreams. But God does not want us to compromise. Trusting that God has called us into something means trusting that he will bring it to fruition in his way and in his time. When we try to force his hand—when we try to fulfill those dreams in our own way and our own strength—we will create further obstacles to following in the callings that God has given us. Paul wrote at various points in his letters about running a good race. It’s not simply about getting to the end, but about getting there with integrity. How we approach the game before the game—how we prepare—is integral to running such a race.
When we get to the end of all things, will we be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)? Will we be able to look back on those seasons of waiting, confident that we remained faithful to the calling of God? Let us be like King David and like Paul, who spent the game before the game faithfully waiting on the Lord’s timing, refusing to take the shortcuts the world offers. They believed that God would “be [their] guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14). His calling on our lives remains strong, even as we wait.