What is God Preparing You For?
Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: Six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace. Esther 2;12-13
Do you feel that life is standing still? Does it seem that day after day nothing changes and that God has forgotten you? No, He hasn’t forgotten. He is simply taking the time to prepare you for a special task, for a future opportunity. Preparation, along with obedience and service, is part of God’s process in the season of growth. Like Esther, we have to be prepared for our King, to be of help to His people.
Because we don’t always understand God’s ways, at times we may think we are ready for anything. We’ve been reading the Word. We’ve been in prayer. We’ve been listening to good teaching. What else do we have to do?
We have to believe that God knows what He is doing while we go through the preparation process. Esther’s confidence grew during the time she spent in preparation. She would have felt far more afraid going into the king’s presence if she hadn’t passed through the process of royal preparation.
While God prepares you, and it seems that time is standing still, it’s helpful to remember whose we are and where we are. It is better to be standing still in His will than moving around at high speed outside of it. “But you don’t understand,” you may be saying. “This has been going on way too long. If I had to wait one year I could handle it, but I have been waiting five, ten, twenty years!”
God’s timing is a mystery. If we start comparing the time we spend waiting with the time others spend, we will be terribly frustrated. God has a unique design for each of our lives. And because He is a God of variety, our time of preparation and our season of growth will be unlike that of anyone else.
Esther’s goal was to go before the king, to be welcomed and not rejected, and to ask him to be merciful to the Jews. Our goals are different, but like her, it will take time for us to achieve them satisfactorily. We may need more education. We may need to get in better physical shape. We may require spiritual growth and insight. We may need to mature emotionally. Whatever it is we need to do, some of it will be done with the help of others, but most of it will be done in private.
I know that solitude is not our favorite pastime. Neither is waiting. We want to skip this whole stage because it is time-consuming and we’re anxious to get on with business. Maybe we should always ask ourselves a couple of questions. Whose business is it we want to get on with? And whose schedule are we on? If you are on God’s schedule, you can rest in the knowledge that He is in control, His timing is perfect, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Making the decision to stay at home with my kids until they went to school was tough, and those days seemed endless at the time. For years I was invited to speak, and when I gave my best shot at saying no, some people responded in horror. “You are Tony Evans’s wife. You have to be able to speak!”
I would respond, “I’m waiting for my release papers from my Designer. As soon as He gives me the OK, I’ll be happy to speak.”
Does this time of waiting, this period of preparation, and this season of growth loom over you like a huge mountain? I love what Bill Hybels says in his book Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God (Downers Grove, Ill.:1988, 70-71):
“How do you pray a prayer so filled with faith that it can move a mountain? By shifting the focus from the size of your mountain to the sufficiency of the mountain mover, and by stepping forward in obedience.”
“I challenge you to shift the focus of your prayer. Don’t spend a lot of your time describing your mountain to the Lord. He knows what it is. Instead, focus your attention on the mountain mover – His glory, power, and faithfulness. Then start walking in faith, following His leading, and watch that mountain step aside.”
Preparation for the Worst
Of course God prepares us for the good works He has planned for us. But He is also a master at preparing us to handle valleys, even when we don’t see them coming. One day I developed an acute sense of nervousness and was incapable of driving. I pulled over to the side of the road and prayed for help. And God started ministering to me. Scripture after Scripture ripped through my soul. I knew deep in my heart that the Lord was preparing me for something.
Two weeks later Chrystal called from college. She was crying so intensely that she couldn’t even talk. Finally, she was able to pull herself together and I was able to hear those dreadful words, “Mommy, I’m pregnant.”
After the initial shock, Tony and I found strength in the Lord. We immediately started mapping out a plan of action related to finishing college and delivering a baby. But two weeks later I crumbled under the load of disappointment. I kept asking God, “Why? Why would You let this happen?”
My remorse and sorrow were for His Name’s sake. Our major sadness was based on the fact that Tony was pastoring a large flock and we had disappointed them.
My cry of “Why, God, why?” wasn’t voiced out of anger. It was a human cry, a mother’s cry, a cry of desperation out of my own agony. If the Lord Jesus cried out from His cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” I think it is OK for us to ask the “Why” questions too, but here’s the important thing: Can we handle His answers?
Why does God allow hurt to come into our lives? Again, we can relate to Esther. Certainly she had to deal with some difficult questions of her own. Why did she lose her parents? Why were the Jews enslaved by the Persians? Why was she in the king’s court when so many Jewish girls were suffering outside the palace walls? First Peter 4:12-13 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
During those challenging days when we came to terms with Chrystal’s pregnancy, the Lord ministered grace to us through the church. He demonstrated to us that He is a God of love. And by love, I mean that He does what is best for us.
For several months before Chrystal’s call, Tony and I had discussed a longing in our hearts for another child. We had come to the conclusion that our only option was to adopt. I remember making the statement, “I will only adopt a child from within the family or from a close family friend.” God works in His own ways. The birth of Kariss, our granddaughter, met the deepest need in the life of our family.
And what about the pregnancy itself? How should we respond when our children make mistakes? Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” God, the perfect Father, the best possible Parent, has children who stray. We are in good company when our children go wrong. God understands our grief. The next time your children’s failures make you feel like you’ve done it all wrong, deal honestly with your own failures. But also remember – you can lead a child to the waters of wisdom, but you cannot make him drink. Let’s just hope and pray that our investment in our children’s lives will cause them to thirst for the Living Water, which can only be found in Jesus.
A Season for Everything
What is God preparing you for? You might have some indications about the future as you move through your seasons. It could be a gradual revelation, where little by little you see growth. It could be a complete mystery, in which you have no choice but to walk by faith. I kept running into wonderful people who had already determined what God wanted me to do. It must be directing the choir, it must be heading up the children’s ministry, it must be leading the ladies’ ministry, it must be counseling, it must be, it must be. Although all those things have their rightful place, and I have played a role in all of them to some degree, as it turned out, my specific call and gifts were not fulfilled in any of those areas.
When the clamor around you is drowning out God’s still, small voice, you need a Mordecai. You need someone in your life who will encourage you to follow the course the Master has laid out, to run the race with endurance. Take one step at a time and only step where He leads.
As you abide in Him, you will naturally begin to think His thoughts. It is possible to be so close to Him that your thought life reflects His desires and direction for your life. People should see us coming and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus Christ. She acts just like Him.” John 15:7 promises “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” I want to know Him like that, don’t you? But you can be sure that it will take lots of preparation time. It takes time to learn to abide.
Now you have some choices. You can be like some tea drinkers. You can let the bag stay in the hot water, or you can dip it in and out of the cup because you do not want it to get too strong. If you want to have a full life in Christ, saturate yourself in His Word and steep yourself in prayer. He will probably take you through some hot water to make you strong, but you will be strong indeed.
Although, throughout our lives, we are always called to obey, to serve, and to be prepared for whatever God has for us, the rigorous season of growth doesn’t last forever. This too will pass. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 tells us that there is time for everything, and after this season of growth, we will enter a new season, the season of harvest.
Lois Evans is senior vice president of The Urban Alternative, a prolific writer, and a recording artist. Additionally, she runs the annual First Ladies Conference for senior pastors’ wives and is married to Dr. Tony Evans. They live in Dallas, Tex. You can contact her at www.loisevans.org