Wilderness of Delays

December 26th, 2016

Jesse is a female youth worker who feels called to minister to the poor in Uganda, but no matter how much she knocks on the door, it stays closed. JJ is a single youth worker who wants to marry someday, but he cannot seem to meet “Mrs. Right.” Tanya serves in the juvenile justice system and wants to be effective, but she is restless and bored. She knows God has big things for her- she’s just not sure what’s next.

Jesse, JJ and Tanya all have one thing in common, something that plagues many youth leaders and eats at our souls. Delays. When our son was born with Down syndrome, the doctors told us that he might have some cognitive delays. We have learned over the years that Andrew’s developmental capabilities are very high functioning, but some areas are slower.

We’ve all experienced times of s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s, whether a traffic jam, standing in a long line for fast food, an unfinished basement or a plumber who is running days late. The Scriptures uses a particular language, terms that are deemed necessary during times of delays.

 Waiting. Persistence. Endurance. Perseverance.

Linguists may call it detours. Whatever you want to name it, we all find ourselves in anguishing situations that involves times of roadblocks, transitions and a land between where you are and what is around the corner. Delays appear to be the rule, not the exception.

When I see ROAD CONSTRUCTION on a long drive, I find myself getting a bit irritated. I can feel anxiety and impatience bubbling up from within. I do not like delays, and yet it is something we all have to deal with and somehow figure out how to handle those wilderness times.

Youth workers can be pretty impatient people.  I hear comments like, “Our group just isn’t growing in numbers” or “I need more staff members but we don’t have the budget.” I find it intriguing that the apostle Paul made “patience” the first of a long list of loving leadership qualities in First Corinthians 13.  It is fascinating to think about Paul, a man with a high motor for action, type-A personality, get-it-done, extremely driven and a soaring capacity for achieving goals is telling me, “Love is patient.”

What is your delay right now? Name it. ___________________.

Some of the problems I deal with come from my own expectations. For example, I have high hopes for some of my college students more than they have for themselves, which can lead me to be frustrated.

Paul’s final and equally disarming quality in 1 Corinthians 13 states, “love always perseveres.” Paul was undeniably an authority on persevering. Shipwrecked, beaten, persecuted, and imprisoned. Tough times can make us resilient on the inside. If you think life is harsh, read 2 Corinthians chapter 11 about Paul’s difficulties, you may walk away thinking your life has no problems.

As you consider walking through the tribulations of delays, consider four questions for the journey.

  1. When delays happen, how do you normally handle them? This is a question of patterns. Do you recognize a pattern, like anger, pride, jealousy or envy?
  2. When delays interrupt your rhythm of life, why do you react? This is an inquiry into motives, why we do what we do?
  3. When delays emerge, what comes out? This is a measuring question of our character, our inner life. It speaks to how we handle negative people, on how to get along with folks who are half empty.
  4. How often do I get agitated and aggravated? This is a question of maturity. That is why James writes, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature, not lacking anything “(1:2-4).

God will probably not answer your request, “Give me patience and give it to me now,” but I have a sense Jesus will build internal resolve within you as you journey through the wilderness of delays.

David Olshine is Professor of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University. David leads Youth Ministry Coaches (www.youthmincoaches) and has authored nineteen books, including Studies on the Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John (Zondervan).

This article was originally published in YouthWorker Journal and at YouthWorker.com. Reprinted with permission.


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