By: Jon Meerdink
I’m a planner by nature. I feel secure when I feel like I know what’s going on in my life. The farther ahead I have things planned, the better I feel. That’s why I was super excited when I was able to secure a job in my chosen profession right out of college. I had a plan in place and I was ready to go.
Three months later, I was unemployed. The job turned out to be…well…not what I was looking for, to put it positively. To put it negatively, it was one of the worst employment experiences of my life. After just 90 days, my plans had been completely shredded. With student loans bearing down and no prospects for future employment, I made the oft-dreaded decision of moving back to my parents’ house.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t the first time in history someone’s life hadn’t gone according to plan. For the sake of example, I direct your attention to the 17th century writer John Milton. Milton was as skilled a writer as there has ever been. He spoke about ten languages and wrote authoritatively and voluminously on politics and religion. In his spare time wrote brilliant poetry, because he was just awesome like that. By his 30’s, he was a rising political star with no limit to how high he could climb. But by the time he hit 40, he was completely blind.
As you realize, the 1600’s were well before the advent of computers, so all Milton’s writing would have been done by hand. Try closing your eyes and writing three sentences. It’s darn near impossible. In the prime of life, and in the middle of a promising political career, Milton had more or less been rendered non-functional. Milton was understandably upset about this. Being a devout (although somewhat theologically wacky) Christian, Milton wrote a poem expressing his feelings:
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
In modern English, that reads something like this: “When I think about how I’m blind even though I’m still pretty young, which essentially renders my one skill useless, sometimes I ask God, ‘hey God, how do you expect me to work when I can’t see?’ And then God says ‘hey, remember how I’m God, and I’m king, and if I want something done I just say it and it happens? Yeah, I have thousands of people to get stuff done if I need it. Remember that, and remember if I ask you to stand and wait until I find you something to do, standing and waiting is still working for me.”
Jumping back from Milton to me, I definitely understand the difficulty of waiting. It’s hard when you’re thrust from your own plans into the wilderness of waiting for God to decide to make something happen. It didn’t initially occur to me that waiting could be, in its own way, working for God. But think about it: if someday you find yourself at the point where all your plans have run out, chances are other people are going to know about it. If other people know, they’re going to watch you react. And if they watch you react, what will they see? Will they see someone accepting that God’s plans are greater than their own? Or will they see someone irritated, annoyed, and vocally frustrated that God took away something they had no control over to begin with? Waiting for God can be its own ministry, and the example you set for others could affect how they react when they encounter the same situation.
When you reach that point, I can’t speak for how God will choose to reward your waiting, if he chooses to do it at all. In my story, God found me a perfect job that I had no business getting, and I’ve been thanking him every day since then. For you things could be different. It could be months, even years before God’s plan is revealed, if at all. But know that waiting is working too, and your work can be your offering to God.
And remember John Milton? His waiting certainly was rewarded. Even after losing his sight, Milton went on to produce his greatest masterpiece: the poem Paradise Lost, a ten thousand line epic intended, in Milton’s words, to “justify the ways of God to men.” I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that a man who questioned God’s plans for his life is best remembered for a poem justifying God’s ways. After all, if waiting is working, a blind writer should know better than most how to offer his work to God.