I’m not a very handy person, but I very much enjoy doing “handy” type things. That seems counterintuitive I know, but I think my enjoyment of little projects, particularly of a physical nature, is more about the psychological than it is about the value those projects tangibly bring to our home. This has become especially true for me during the last five months of COVID and quarantine.
In those five months, I have replaced a window, built a treehouse, planted and maintained a garden, repaired a screen door, cleaned out and rearranged the garage several times, and replaced a doorknob. By the way, you should read “sort of” after each one of these things so you don’t overestimate my abilities. So why keep doing stuff like this that I’m not particularly proficient or successful at? Again, it’s about the psychology.
The work I spend the bulk of my mind doing is the type of work in which you work and work and work each day on the same kind of project, either because it’s cyclical in nature and therefore doesn’t really come to an end, or because it’s a long-term project that only comes to an end after weeks and months of concerted effort. But these around-the-house projects are different. There’s a visible, limited task to be done. And when you do it, there’s tangible, visible evidence that you did something (even though it’s not perfect in my case). So there is a much more immediate kind of satisfaction and gratification to the around-the-house work that I don’t often get in the daily work. In the daily work, it’s not uncommon that I, and maybe you as well, switch off at the end of the day and wonder, What exactly did I accomplish today?
That can be a frustrating feeling. And in a similar way, we might look around the world day after day and apply that same sort of question to God. With no visible change, with no immediate difference, with no tangible impact we can perceive, we might wonder in our hearts, What did God actually accomplish today?
There are certainly exceptions to that, but they are, in my experience, exceptions. And yet there’s a desire in us not only to believe God is at work every day, all the time, in big and small ways, but to actually see the evidence of that work. Into that attitude and desire, I’d point us to one verse from Hebrews that gives us at least two truths about the work of God and our longing to see it happen:
These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth (Heb. 11:13).
This verse comes, of course, after a long list of people who lived faithfully. In Hebrews 11, the author summarizes the high points of the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarai, commending each for their faith that was demonstrated in real, physical actions and choices. And in these examples, we see two things required for all of us who want to see the work of God:
That’s what Hebrews 11 is about. It’s about the necessity of faith in order to please God. This is what marks the people of God – it is our belief in who God is and what He is doing – and that this belief is so strong it motivates us to align our lives to a greater reality than what’s presently visible. We live, we move, we make choices not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. And this is the very nature of faith – that we are daily choosing to believe that which our physical circumstances contradict. Indeed, if everything around us aligned to the realities we know of God from His Word, then there would be no need for faith at all.
If we want to see the work of God, then we cannot merely look with our eyes. With our feelings. With any of our senses. We must look bigger. We must believe bigger. While it’s true that every once in a while what we believe does break through into the actual physical realm, we live by and large in the greater reality of faith. And we must purpose ourselves to be governed by this reality if we want to see the work of God.
We have faith, just as these men and women did, but we must also have patience. Hebrews 11:13 is both encouraging and discouraging in this respect. Encouragingly, when we go day after day and do not see the physical evidence of God’s work, we are not alone. Neither did Noah, Abraham, Sarai, or any of the others. We are in good company. Discouragingly, though, none of these people saw the fulfillment of everything they were believing in their lives. Not one.
So if you are only going to be satisfied when you see the complete fulfillment on earth of everything in your faith, then buckle up, because it’s not going to happen. Like them, we will get glimpses of the work of God, but will not see it in full. Not yet. Not completely.
God plays the long game. He plays the long game with all of history, moving and working in ways more extensive, comprehensive, and intricate than we can possibly understand. So we trust… and we want. Patiently. Believing God will stay on His path, His trajectory, even when we get lost in the everyday.
Take heart, friends. Continue on the road. Do not give up or become frustrated when you do not see the immediate evidence of God’s work. Be faithful. Be patient. Walk on knowing that God is always at work even when we cannot see that work with our eyes.