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Friday, June 2, 2017

Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 1

What do you do when it feels like God has handed you the moon, with a promise He’s made to you… only He’s handed it to you in embryonic form? What if He’s asked you to carry it and let it grow inside of your spirit until you give birth to it? How, in practical terms, do you do that?

We’ve talked extensively over the last several posts of what it means to be pregnant with a word from Him. We’ve discussed at length the breathtaking transformation that happens on the inside of us as we press forward through the long gestation process. However, some questions remain. When we are pushing onwards on this race marked out for you and me… and the miles seem to stretch endlessly on in front of us… and the finish line is nowhere in sight… what are we supposed to be doing with ourselves meanwhile? Between here and there, how do we occupy ourselves? If we know He’s at work shaping the deep interior of our being – how can we best interact with His workmanship? If we’ve established that what’s needed is an active wait rather than a passive wait, what does that actually look like? In this post and the next, I want to tackle some of these questions.

To introduce some of the practicalities of active waiting, let’s take a quick look at Psalms. This beautiful book is full to overflowing with instructive examples to draw from. Here are two of them:

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Ps. 5:3, NIV).

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:5, NKJV).

In these verses and countless others, we observe the Psalmist in the same place as so many of us. He is waiting. And the way he does it is put there to model for us how to do the same. He is participating energetically in the waiting process. There are no bored arms crossed, no listless feet up, no apathetic thumbs twiddling. Instead, we see him throwing himself headfirst into what God is doing. He is leaning in, praying, listening, seeking, crying out, yearning, declaring, expecting. He is like Jacob, wrestling with God and not releasing Him until obtaining the blessing.

Our participation with God, as He tinkers with the very core of our being, is absolutely essential for the success of the operation. Understanding how vital this is, I want to share with you five practical ways to throw yourself, too, into what He is up to. These are some of the everyday things we can do to partner with His inner renovation project – as we push forward on this endurance marathon. Each one will nourish Baby Promise growing within. Each one will help move us incrementally closer to the finish line and the birthing of what we have so long awaited. For the sake of space, I will only share the first one here. Check back in with me for the rest of the list in future posts! (For two more to add to the list of five, you can read here and here).

1) Set the Joy

This valuable tip comes to us from (here it is again!) Hebrews 12. The chapter starts out with a charge to us to run our race with perseverance. The Spirit doesn’t leave us hanging! He immediately follows this with a “how to,” explaining: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” (v. 2, NIV).

This verse has powerfully nourished the growth of my soul. Once again, it was while I was exercising that my Personal Trainer, Holy Spirit, decided to dialogue with me about it. As I worked out my muscles, He was helping me simultaneously work out my spirit. I could almost see a twinkle in His eye as He dropped in His nugget for the day. He loves it when I’m listening.

“Jesus was not a passive player in enduring the cross,” He pointed out to me. “He aggressively, purposefully set His own future joy before Himself as He bore the anguish. He fixated on that joy with all the passion of His being. This gave Him the strength to hold on.”

My Personal Trainer continued, “He visualized every precious daughter and son that would be swept into oneness with Him as a direct result of what He was enduring. Looking forward through time, He gazed with ardent love at each of your faces, individually, one by one. Prying His attention off of the agony shooting through His entire being, He forced Himself to focus on future scenes of eternally blissful union with His cherished ones. He saw the broken chains, the captives emerging from darkness into radiance. He heard the uncontainable euphoric laughter, saw the ecstatic embraces, the tears of rapture, the overjoyed feet bursting with the compulsion to dance. He saw the prodigals returning and the broken hearts restored to glorious wholeness. He saw you in His arms forever and ever. He fixed His eyes on these things. Until His final breath, He grasped onto them with every last fervent ounce of His zeal. This is how He made it to the end – clinging to the joy.”

Set the joy. In this way, you, too will be empowered to reach the finish line. You may be in the midst of the weeping of the night, but fixate on the joy that is coming in the morning. “As surely as the sun rises… He will come to us” (Hos. 6:3, NIV). Just like you can count on the sun showing up tomorrow morning, you can count on the joy that is set before you. He will never fail you. He will bring you through. Set the joy. Remind yourself again and again that the best is yet to come. Direct your attention to the goodness ahead. Get obsessed with the promise of His faithfulness to you. Wrest your heart’s focus off of the circumstance around you and make it obey – make it concentrate intently on the beauty of Jesus. The more you gaze on Him, the more His hope works itself deeper and deeper into the fiber of who you are. Set the joy.

When I was in the midst of some of the darkest circumstances that I have ever faced, a dear friend suggested to me, “Get excited!” I glared at her, annoyed and nearly offended. Couldn’t she see that my life was falling apart? Where was the empathy? I laugh now remembering. She was right. What was coming was abundantly, inestimably beyond what I could have ever asked for or imagined. I have walked into the joy that I longed for all of my life – joy that consists of knowing Jesus as intimately as the breath that I breathe. Joy inexpressible and full of glory. He Himself has become my shield, my exceedingly great reward.

As we put one foot in front of the other on this perseverance marathon, we may not understand what’s up ahead. We may not know what it’s going to look like when Baby Promise is born. We may not have any idea at all about what shape our future joy is going to take. But this one thing we can stake our lives on: it will come – as surely as the sun will rise.

Set the joy, my friend. Get excited. What is up ahead is immeasurably worth whatever you are pushing through right now. Fix the eyes of your faith on that prize, and keep on running!


  1. Jennifer, I really, really connect with this post and the attached links. Thank you! You are blessed and a blessing!!)

    Ann Cooper

    1. That makes me smile big with wonderful encouragement. I am truly delighted to hear it, thank you so much for taking a moment to let me know, Ann! Love you!

  2. I am reading "backwards" from part 2 about showing up for battle. Wow! I never thought about Jesus making a conscious, active choice to fix His eyes on the joy--setting the joy before Himself! It reminds me of the Lamaze method of natural childbirth--you are supposed to choose a focal point on which to concentrate in order to be able to relax through the agonizing contractions. For my first birth I took a picture from a magazine of the cutest baby I had ever seen. The pic of that little boy had gotten me through morning sickness and all kinds of aches and weariness. Another birth or two my focal point was the face of my husband-I would have him sing Jesus Lovee Me over and over to me. My fourth labor and delivery I was in a birthing room on the top floor of a hospital and could see the lights of the city below. Somehow that perspective brought me peace during the pain. God's perspective--that's what I need to keep before me in this wait!
    Thank you once again, Jennifer!
    -Lindsey D

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that, Lindsey! You brought a smile to my face! Praise the Lord for His perspective to help us through the hardest moments! Love you!