God’s Waiting Room
Exchange your toils for spoils. We experience different seasons in our walk with God; some more intense than others. But a season in God’s waiting room can be a matter of life and death.
The story of the doors
Twelve years ago, I was in a season in my life where I was caught up in the serendipities of God. Opportunity knocked. Doors opened. Revelation (and excitement) entered. There was travel and promotion and responsibility. I ran along the paths of his commands, down a corridor of possibility where surprising doors sprang open unbidden. I got to do the stuff. I got to step out. I was stretched and challenged and some of the things I had to do were scary, but it was good. It was God.
And then I ran straight from the corridor of possibility, still panting and still pumped, right into the corridor of stuck.
The corridor of stuck looked much the same as the corridor of opportunity. In my mind, I see it as a carpeted, white-walled corridor with lots of white doors on both sides of it. But this time, none of the doors opened. I tried all the handles, rattled them, knocked, shouted through the keyholes. But no, I’d run straight into a cul-de-sac. I was in God’s white waiting room and there was nothing to do but sit down on the carpet and wait.
I hated the corridor of stuck. It felt wrong. I looked back down the corridor at the place I’d been in just moments before, where everything fell into place effortlessly. I wanted to go back there.
"I wondered again if it was my fault that my doors were bolted shut."
And then of course I got to wondering where I’d gone wrong. Had I failed? Messed up? Taken a wrong course? Heard God wrong? Missed it? (There’s lots of time to think about these things in the corridor of stuck. Heaven knows you’ve got nothing else to do.)
I repented. I ranted. I wept. I got bored. Really, really, really bored. I think I napped for quite a long time. Hard to tell, nothing happens in the corridor of stuck.
After a while, God spoke to me about stuff. He reassured me. He explained a few things. That was good. I felt better about how I ended up there. But I was still stuck. I got up and tried the handles, but no, the doors were still all closed. My friends texted me about how their doors were opening and how exciting it was… and I was pleased for them. But it hurt. And I wondered again if it was my fault that my doors were bolted shut.
Then one of the doors opened just a crack. I held my breath… this was it. Doors were going to start swinging open again. I crept up to the door and looked through expectantly. It wasn’t perfect on the other side but it was a possibility. My heart beat a little bit faster. I did a little jig of anticipation. Then the door slammed shut. I heard someone draw the bolt and lock it.
It was right about then I gave up on doors. I decided doors were not the way out of the cul-de-sac of stuck. I was stuck with stuck so I had to find a way to make stuck not suck.
I tried to make stuck fun. Not much you can do on your own, in a white walled, white-doored corridor, so I did a few handstands. Cartwheels. Sang a few songs. A little hope, in the back of my heart, hoped if I stopped waiting for the doors to open… they might just open. Take that, doors, a double bluff. Ha! The doors didn’t take any notice.
"I know God opens the doors and He makes the possibilities."
So I lay down. Nothing to do but wait.
He spoke to me sometimes while I waited. Encouraged my heart. Blew on the embers of hope. I knew there was a way out but I’d be blowed if I could find it. I had nothing to look at. Nothing to do. I died a million deaths.
Friends told me about their open doors. I rolled my eyes and sighed.
Friends told me about their closed doors. I said, “I know, you’re not alone.”
I figured, well, I’m just a closed-door person now, in a closed-door life. But you know, if God wanted to open the doors, He could open the doors. So, I guess He doesn’t want to. So this is me now. I’m called to the place of the closed-doors. Ho-hum.
Then, by chance, I heard a friend talk about his open doors. And something stirred in me. Despite the closed-door situation, I realized, I was needed in the kingdom. There were all the people with all the open doors running hither and thither doing the stuff. And I was lying flat on my back looking at the ceiling. I needed to get back up and help them. There was stuff I needed to do.
“Enforced times of waiting aren’t due to our sin or failure. They’re a vital season in our lives.”
Just then, someone I didn’t know walked up to me. He told me about an open door where I lived. An open door right near where I’d been waiting and watching. I laughed. I knew all the doors in my cul-de-sac and believe me I’d have known if there was an open door. But just in case he was right, I tried a door handle.
This door sprang open and I fell into another corridor of possibility.
It didn’t look like the other corridor of possibility. It was smaller and narrower and darker and there weren’t many people there. It was a hidden corridor. Not on the main plans. But I knew it was my corridor and I ran in. I’m different now too. I’m not putting my hope in the corridor of doors, though I plan to keep running in its possibilities. I know God opens the doors and He makes the possibilities.
I’m in a little less of a rush this time round.
Exchange your toils for spoils
The town where I live, Bournemouth in the UK, is jokingly called “God’s Waiting Room”. So many people retire here beside the sea it’s as if here’s where they come to die. Coincidentally, a lot of my time in God’s waiting room… in the cul-de-sac of stuck... has been here in Bournemouth. But I’ve come to the conclusion that these enforced times of waiting aren’t due to our sin or failure. They’re a vital season in our lives.
But what’s the point of them?
Well I’m sure God is working in our hearts in many ways in these waiting or winter seasons, but I find a few things He does revealed in a strange story in 2 Kings.
In 2 Kings 6 and 7, Elisha the prophet is trapped in the city of Samaria during a siege. Outside the city lie the armies of the Arameans. The siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for 80 shekels of silver and a quarter or a cab of seedpods for five shekels. The people trapped in the besieged city were starving to death and they became so hungry that a donkey jaw and seedpod stew sounded like a feast. In one particularly hideous section, it turns out one woman has tricked another into cooking and eating her son. In the midst of this dire situation Elisha announces; "About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria." (2 Kings 7:1 NIV)
It’s a completely impossible situation. The people are trapped, the city gates are closed because the Arameans are surrounding them. There is no flour in the city, so how can 24 hours lead to a total turnaround?
Now we have four lepers. They figure they’re going to die one way or another so they might as well sneak out of the city and go and surrender to the Arameans. But when they get to the Aramean camp, there’s no-one there. The Arameans had upped and left in a mighty panic and left all their stuff behind. Including a lot of food. Verse six says, “For the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army.” (NIV) They legged it, thinking the King of Israel had hired an army to get them. And so Elisha’s words came true. They flung open the city gate and the people went out and plundered the enemy’s camp.
What happened to the people while they were besieged? Their hunger grew and grew. Their flesh withered. And they were tempted to cannibalize their children. But when God acted on their behalf, He drove their enemies away without them lifting a finger. They walked in and took the spoils of war without doing any actual fighting.
Know What You're Up Against
When we’re in a waiting season… our flesh fails, our self-effort weakens, our self-reliance fades. And we get hungry, so very hungry for God. Of course, the temptation is to give up hope, to cannibalize our own dreams. But if we wait, even when there seems to be no open door, eventually the gate swings open and we receive the spoils of a war we haven’t fought.
Our enemy is a defeated foe. He has already lost. The battle we’re in is the battle to rest. The battle to lie down and die to our own flesh; to our own efforts. When we’re in a season where the doors fling open it’s wonderful, but we can so easily start to run through them in our own strength, to start to believe it’s because of something we’ve done that the doors open.
"He creates a greater hunger in us for Him so He can fill us."
When we rest and let God do the work, it’s hard. Because our flesh hates to rest. It hates to soak. It hates to admit its weakness.
The battle is to learn how to rest and allow God to put the frighteners on the enemy. God doesn’t need our strength – He’s God. He needs our weakness. Our trust. It’s easy to trust when all the doors are flinging wide open. What about when they’re not? That’s when trust can go deep.
He wants relationship. He wants to be wanted. He wants our eyes to be fixed on Him with expectation, even when there are no signs of life. He creates a greater hunger in us for Him so He can fill us. He stretches us in the waiting, like a pregnant woman’s skin stretches so she can contain the growing baby. He stretches us so we can contain more of Him. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NIV)
Arm Yourself with Intimacy
The greatest weapon at our disposal is our intimacy with Father. Our dependency on Him. Taking time to soak and wait on Him is vital so we get to know Him and hear His voice. Yes He will use us to do mighty deeds but it’ll be as we’re first and foremost laid-down lovers of God.
“Waiting is hard but it yields amazing fruit.”
Heidi Baker tells of how all her efforts and striving as a missionary after many years had only led to one small grape of fruit - one small, failing church. But how after she encountered the Father’s Blessing at Toronto the fruit of her life exploded exponentially and there are thousands of churches in Mozambique now. I remember her saying how she would take the morning to soak with God before going out into Mozambique to do the stuff – rescue orphans, feed the hungry, plant churches. With the depth of need awaiting her everyday in Mozambique, Heidi needs that time with God to walk into it with faith and hope. When we’re abiding in the Vine, we’ll bear much fruit. Apart from Him we can’t do anything.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8 NIV)
Waiting is hard but it yields amazing fruit. So let’s exchange our toils (self-effort) for the spoils of war. There’s an enemy camp to be plundered if only we’ll wait on God to move.