Sometimes following God requires us to stop before we tell other people our direction.
Alison and I sat across from each other with Chinese food between us. The conversation we needed to have involved how my life would be different in a few months, and how that would affect her. She was 16, in my high school small group and already surrounded by change. All of the other girls in my group were seniors, embarking on college after the summer.
After asking every question I could think of, I knew I had to make my move. Nervously, I found the words, "Alison, I wanted you to be the first in our small group to hear the news. I'm moving to Austria in a few months to work with youth. I won't be leading a small group your senior year."
I stopped talking, remembering when my high school small group leader had moved my senior year. I had been crushed.
I debated telling Alison four months ago, but God had prompted me to wait. Prolonging the talk didn't make sense. I knew it wouldn't change our feelings about the situation. We would both be sad that this mentorship couldn't continue, especially for her senior year. As I prayed about this conversation, the Spirit whispered, Not yet.
Will I End Up in a Pit?
When God confirmed that the next season of my life would involve youth ministry in Austria I was excited and nervous. My first inclination was to want to tell everyone.
I feel a kinship with Joseph. I wonder if he desired to shout from the rooftops that, one day, his older brothers would bow down to him.
"Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them." (Genesis 37:2)
I'm not sure what Joseph's brothers were up to, but it sounds like Joseph was a bit of a tattletale. He was definitely favored by his father, and his brothers hated him for that.
"Joseph had a dream and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, 'Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.'" (Genesis 37:5-7)
Given the context of Joseph's relationship with his brothers, it appears he made a selfish decision to make sure they knew what God revealed—now.
God has mysterious ways of working, and maybe he did intend for Joseph to share this outright. As a result of his brothers' anger over what he shared, he ended up in a pit and then sold into slavery to Egypt. Sharing what God had shown him backfired.
I wonder if Joseph learned his lesson. Years later, he responded very differently. Joseph was in a high position; Pharaoh had made him governor of Egypt. His brothers came to gather food for their family, so they faced Joseph once again. Here was his chance to rub his prestigious position in their faces, making them feel guilty for the ways they had treated him, selling him to the Egyptians.
Joseph acted like a stranger with them for a while, and even spoke harshly. It appears he tested their hearts to see if they had changed. But at the right time Joseph revealed himself and shared God's grace. (Genesis 45:3-5)
Between age 17 and 30, Joseph learned the art of waiting on God's timing. He had to wait a long time before he even became governor of Egypt. I'm sure he had to learn to trust God when he was in prison and didn't understand how that dream he had would ever come true. Maybe he used that time to consider how he would share God's dreams in the future. And Pharoah even gave him the opportunity to live that out with humility and honesty.
Between You and Me
There is satisfaction in sharing what God has revealed or how He has led. Sometimes it can be our way of validating that we really do have a growing, intimate relationship with Him. But think about this: After you've had an intimate conversation with someone you're close to—a family member, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse—do you blurt out to others what they've shared without their permission? Taking intimate information and sharing it with the world wouldn't increase your intimacy and trust, but actually squelch it.
God wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him. Wisdom comes through surrendering what He's shared with us, by asking Him how and when these conversations should take place.
It's helpful to ask myself, When have I been disappointed for waiting? There were times I wanted to tell people about where I was going and what I would be doing next in Austria because I desired some attention, instead of keeping the focus on God. My motives were selfish. God tested those and built more humility in my life.
At times I questioned whether I was being honest by not sharing. Yet, whenever I received a question that even got close to the topic of what was next in my life, I could see God's hand in giving me a way to honestly answer and not reveal all the plans He had shared with me. He protected the information, as I trusted Him.
Right Time, Right Place
God discloses His truth to our hearts all the time, if we allow Him to. As we grow closer to Him, it's helpful to take what He's revealed and ask these questions:
1. Why did God share this truth with me? We are taught to share God's truth with everyone. But sometimes God wants us to hold onto something He's pinpointed in our hearts so we can learn from it and put it into practice. When we jump into sharing all that God is revealing, we should check our motives. Are we trying to validate our relationship with Him to other people or seeking to make ourselves look better? If so, silence is probably our best option.
2. How will this affect someone else? We need to put on the other person's shoes and walk around in them. Will what we have to share edify them? (Ephesians 4:29) God may even communicate that we need to confront someone, but immediately running to that person may not be the best approach. Think about how the people in your life will be impacted.
3. Is it wrong to wait? Pray for God to teach you His ways and timing; it doesn't come naturally. It's hard to wait and watch for the right opportunity, but it could keep what you have to share from being misinterpreted. God prepares you as much as He prepares the other person's heart to hear what you have to say.
God had prepared Alison's heart for our conversation. She picked at her food, and then looked up. "I am really excited for you." She paused. "But sad for me." I appreciated her honesty.
When I first found out I was leaving, Alison was in a hard place, and my words wouldn't have been received well. I see now that it could've hurt our relationship.
We finished our dinner and talked about what the next school year could look like for her. I hoped we would stay in touch while I was gone. But I knew if we didn't it wouldn't be because of something I said ... at the wrong time.
Copyright 2008 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.