Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”
I believe many of us would agree that one of the most difficult seasons of life to be in is a season of waiting. Waiting for the door to open or your dream to become reality. Waiting for the job offer, promotion, or career change. Waiting to get married, have kids, or retire. Whatever it is we are waiting for, such seasons can easily become times of discouragement and frustration.
This past week during a course I am currently taking, when the topic of seasons of waiting came up, my instructor asked the question, “While you’re waiting, how are you preparing?” Her comment immediately led me to reflect on thoughts shared by Andy Stanley in his book Visioneering (I first mentioned this book in my post Three Keys to Living Your Best Life and cannot recommend it enough!).
In Visioneering, using the example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, Stanley made a few fantastic points regarding what we can do during seasons of waiting that I would love to share with you. His insights help us understand that while it’s easy to say in such seasons that we are just waiting on God as an excuse to not do anything, seasons of waiting do not need to be seasons of waste.
To briefly re-cap the story of Nehemiah for anyone wanting a quick brush up, after years of disobedience and refusal to repent of their sins, God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed and the Jews to be captured by the Babylonians. Upon their defeat, the king of Babylon ordered most Jews to live in Babylon. Years later, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and the king of Persia allowed some of the Jewish captives to return to their homeland.
With the temple having been rebuilt and dedicated, the walls surrounding Jerusalem were still in shambles. Distressed by his brother Hanani’s report of the condition of the city walls and Israel’s continued disgrace, Nehemiah, a Jew who was still living in Persia and who had become the king of Persia’s cupbearer, requested permission from the king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. The rest of the book of Nehemiah tells the story of how Nehemiah led the way, despite much adversity, to see the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt.
With this backdrop in mind, Stanley made the point that when Nehemiah found himself in a season of waiting, desperately wanting the city walls around Jerusalem to be rebuilt, but having no way to do so, he did what he could: he prayed and he planned.
In regard to praying during a season of waiting, Stanley made the wise point that through prayer God can open our eyes to details, possibilities and opportunities we may not otherwise see. I especially loved Stanley’s observation related to what Nehemiah specifically prayed for: opportunities and favor. Stanley went on to say, “Our tendency is to pray for miracles. But in most situations, it is more appropriate to pray for opportunities.” He explained further that Nehemiah never once asked God to rebuild the wall, rather He prayed that God would provide him with the opportunity to rebuild it himself.
When it comes to your season of waiting, what are you praying for? Are you praying God would orchestrate a miracle that would require nothing from you, or are you praying for an opportunity for God to use you?
Next, when it comes to planning when in a season of waiting, Stanley discussed how while it may have seemed ridiculous for Nehemiah to plan when he had no way to move forward with his strategy, that is exactly what He did…and it paid off in a major way. When Nehemiah finally had an opportunity to discuss his heartbreak with the king of Persia, he had a clear plan in mind and was able to share it with the king. The king agreed to Nehemiah’s well thought out requests, and Nehemiah was granted the time and resources needed to begin rebuilding the wall.
As Nehemiah’s story illustrates, planning while you wait is crucial because in the words of Stanley, “In many instances, opportunity apart form preparation results in missed opportunity.”
When it comes to your season of waiting, how are you planning so that when your opportunity finally comes you will be ready?
One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Lincoln. He once said, “I will get ready, and then perhaps my chance will come.”
As we learned from Nehemiah, a season of waiting does not need to be a season of waste. Rather, it can be a productive time of preparation through prayer and planning.
If you find yourself in a season of waiting, how are you preparing? Over this next week, I would encourage you to begin preparing yourself for what lies ahead by praying and planning – because you never know when your chance might come.