There is a classic psychological question you may be familiar with that is related to our ability to wait on God: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?”
When we pray the words of the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” we present God with three requests.
1) The first request is for the ability to accept the things that we cannot change. Here we ask God to help us to entrust those things that are outside of our control to God. And it right to ask for this, for we need to let God do God’s part.
2) In the second, we ask God to give us the courage to “change the things we can.” In this request we ask God for the courage to do the things that are within our control in order to change those things in our lives that need to be changed. It is right to ask for this, for this is our part.
3) In the last line, we ask God for the wisdom to know the difference between the two. It is in this final part of the prayer where peace is to be found, because it helps us to separate what is our part from what is God’s part. We need to do our part, and we can rest assured that God will do God’s part.
It may take what seems a very long time for the work God is doing to evolve to a point where we can perceive it. Often, it is only in hindsight that we can perceive what God has done. It is important to realize that there is an in-between time that we all experience in our faith life. It is the time that comes after I have done what is within my control to change my life, while still waiting on God’s part to be realized.
Living patiently with joyful hope in the in-between time can be one of the most challenging and yet most rewarding things we can learn to do. For an action-oriented person, the in-between time can seem like a time in which not much is happening, or at least not happening in the way, or as rapidly, as we would want it to occur. If we are experiencing a fearful or lonely period in our life, it can be especially difficult.
This in-between time can seem like an awful desert. We may quickly grow impatient and begin trying to implement changes ourselves. That is certainly not always wrong, but more often than not, actions motivated by our impatience don’t obtain positive or lasting results. We need to learn to become more comfortable living in the in-between period, giving God time to do God’s part. If we can learn to be patient during this period, we will discover that is is possible to find a balance between when to make things happen and when to let things happen. We will gradually come to understand that the in-between time that we may perceive as being a kind of down time is actually quite fertile. Things are developing and taking shape during this period, although we may be unaware of them.
The ability to let God do God’s part, to be patient during the in-between time, depends largely on whether we really believe anything is happening while we are waiting. There is a classic psychological question you may be familiar with that is related to our ability to wait on God: “If a tree falls in the forest ant there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” To believe that a tree falling in the forest, without anyone there to hear it, truly does make a sound requires a certain level of spiritual development and trust. The answer to this question can be an indication of whether a person truly realizes that he or she is not God, or instead has a false, inflated sense of his or her own importance and ability to control life. It suggests a level of growth in which we are able to perceive God as “Other,” and that is significant. It means that we truly believe there is a Higher Power (referred to by many as God) who can and does act upon our life in ways that may yet be unknown or at least unclear to us. That belief, that knowledge, makes it possible for us to wait.
Neither making things happen nor letting things happen is right for every situation. There are times when it is appropriate to take action and other times in which waiting a situation out, allowing it to evolve, is the right thing to do. It is important to realize that both stances, both attitudes toward facing particular situations, are required of us at different times. It is in learning to discern which manner of approaching life is appropriate for a particular situation that inner peace is to be found. It can be helpful to ask yourself from time to time, in relation to whatever might be happening in your life, “At this time, should I be making things happen or letting things happen? Is what I am focusing my attention on now within my power to change, or is it outside of my control?” Trust that the answer will intuitively come to you, and allow yourself to be guided by it.
Most of the time, giving a situation time to evolve is a good idea. Learn to trust in the slow work of God in your life. Although you may not be aware of it, trust that it is taking place, because it is. How do you want to spend your in-between time: fretting…or confident, trusting that God will do God’s part?
Loving God, letting go after I have done what I can, and trusting that you are at work in my life in ways yet unknown to me is difficult. Help me to trust during my in-between time so that I may have the peace of mind of knowing in my heart that eventually all shall be well. Help me to realize that your work in my life does not depend on me always being aware of what you are doing. Grant that I may give you the benefit and the respect of trusting that you are doing your part. Amen.
This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, Written by Charles W. Sidoti.