As I go through this season of waiting, I’ve been experiencing God in new and different ways. He’s been speaking to me and it’s been so exciting to hear from Him and learn from Him. But even though it’s exciting, I still have times where I get lost. I get caught up in those old fears and failures and wondering if this season of waiting will just go on eternally.
In the past, praying and intentionally seeking God, humbling myself and fasting, all renewed that sense of excitement and desire to spend time with God. Not to mention that God often used that time of renewal to teach me something else.
Well, after starting a new job recently along with some other things going on in life, it’s felt to me like my desire to know God was waning and praying became difficult again. So, I tried something that had never failed to renew that relationship between me and God in the past: fasting. I fasted for a few days, a period of time I set for myself beforehand. But nothing happened. My passion for God wasn’t renewed. I didn’t seem to hear anything from God at all. Despite my most earnest effort.
I was left feeling more disappointed and frustrated than I had been when I began.
But then the other day I read this poem:
The Shepherd by William Blake How sweet is the shepherd’s sweet lot! From the morn to the evening he strays; He shall follow his sheep all the day, And his tongue shall be filled with praise. For he hears the lambs’ innocent call, And he hears the ewes’ tender reply; He is watchful while they are in peace, For they know when their shepherd is nigh.
I didn’t realize when I read it how it would end up affecting me.
As I read, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. I honestly don’t know enough about William Blake to know whether or not that was his intent with this poem, but regardless, that is where my thoughts went.
After all, Jesus Himself declares Himself the good shepherd in John 10:11. Really, Jesus is the only shepherd I know. So, as I read the poem about the shepherd, I thought of Jesus and contemplated the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep.
It wasn’t until today that the effect of the poem really came to fruition. I woke up this morning feeling frustrated about how things are going in life, my inability to return my relationship with God to what I knew it should be, and the lack of hearing from Him.
In the midst of that frustration I said a short prayer that went something along the lines of: “You are my shepherd, God, and I am lost. You’re going to have to come find me because I can’t seem to find you.”
This prayer was, of course, not actually pulling from that poem, but rather from the parable of the lost sheep found in both Matthew and Luke in which Jesus says, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” (Matthew 18:12).
I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting much to come out of that prayer. It was a quick prayer and I moved on with whatever it was I was doing at that time without much thought.
However, within a few hours, I heard from God. I won’t go into all of the details, because that would take too long, but I saw God line things up providentially to give me an answer to a question I had been pondering about Him and it was glorious. I couldn’t believe that, after weeks of feeling like I wasn’t making any progress or hearing from God about anything, suddenly an answer to something was given. And it felt great.
But I now recognize something else: it’s okay to ask God to come and get you.
Sometimes I think that there’s still too much religion and not enough relationship in me. I had it in my mind this past week that fasting would bring an answer to prayer. But when it didn’t, when my personal effort didn’t bring me the answer I was seeking, I was left even more frustrated than before.
I guess this was God’s way of telling me that I can’t force anything to happen. It’s all in His control and His timing. He timed it perfectly for me to be disappointed in my own efforts so that I could see it was Him that needed to come for me, not me for Him.
While it’s important for us to remember that it is always important for us to seek Him, it is also important for us to acknowledge that, though we are seeking Him, it is only because He was first seeking us.