Wild animals, don’t be afraid, because the open pastures have grown grass. The trees have given fruit; the fig trees and the grapevines have grown much fruit. So be happy, people of Jerusalem; be joyful in the Lord your God. Because he does what is right, he has brought you rain; he has sent the fall rain and the spring rain for you, as before. And the threshing floors will be full of grain; the barrels will overflow with new wine and olive oil. Joel 2:22-24
Anticipation and anxiety often co-exist.
When has your experienced anticipation and anxiety at the same time?
Anticipation is looking forward, usually in a positive way.
Anxiety is apprehensive or fearful concern.
We can anticipate a harvest in our life with anxiety.
We want to see the fruit of previous seasons. We look forward to being beyond where we are and growing into a season we can enjoy. God is ready to see us reach a fruitful season, but he knows the perfect timing. He also knows the unrealistic expectations of seasons we have for our lives. There isn’t a single season that is all about harvest in the sense that we get to lie back and enjoy the fruit of our labors with no effort, because even harvest itself takes effort. Preparing fruit to be enjoyed requires work. Spiritual growth demands engagement and effort no matter what the season. Involvement is a requirement to growing closer to God.
Harvest isn’t just about God providing something for us. It’s about him extending something to us only he can give: his mercy. We might view a fruitful time as simply receiving a basket full of fruit. He is actually filling us with his gracious, abundant mercy.
The book of Joel laments over drought and locust plague, calls for repentance among the people of Israel, and declares the promises of God’s provision. God will provide, because he says he’ll provide. He waits on us to respond in obedience, because he wants to be gracious and generous. He’s ready. We think we’re ready but there are many times we haven’t fully experienced what we need to experience in order to come to God in repentance. Our attitudes and heartitudes aren’t exactly where they need to be. We need to take one step closer to God, humble ourselves before him, and open our hands and hearts to him in assured expectation. We often step only to where we think we should have to go and open our hands in expectation without having emptied our hands and our hearts of ourselves and our personal dreams and desires.
We anticipate God’s mercy, but we’re anxious about what it will involve. God loves and pursues us unconditionally, but to receive his mercy, we must come to him willing to receive what he has to give. We have to trust his vision, purpose, and timing. God will always be merciful when we are obedient. But he will not be placed into a box of expectation. We cannot have a god small enough for us to understand but large enough to impact and change our lives. We often want the two to co-exist. God will impact and change our lives, but we will not always understand.
So, what can we anticipate?
- God’s mercies.
- God’s great and wondrous works.
- God’s abundant power.
- God’s love for his creation.
- God’s goodness.
- God’s grace.
- God’s promises to always be fulfilled.
Perhaps we pair anticipation with anxiety at times because even when we trust God to come through on his promises, we’re not positive what his timing will be. What if we don’t make it to see the fulfillment of his promises? Well, that’s not possible in faith, but it’s certainly possible we won’t see what we expect to see within this life. However, a relationship with Jesus assures us of eternal life for him. God doesn’t say every promise will be fulfilled here on earth.
What do you learn about God’s promises from the following verses?
So when you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Your giving should be done in secret. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you. When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.
And when you pray, don’t be like those people who don’t know God. They continue saying things that mean nothing, thinking that God will hear them because of their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. So when you pray, you should pray like this:
“Our Father in heaven, may your name always be kept holy. May your kingdom come and what you want be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Give us the food we need for each day. Forgive us for our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us. And do not cause us to be tempted, but save us from the Evil One.” (The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.)
When you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They make their faces look sad to show people they are fasting. I tell you the truth, those hypocrites already have their full reward. So when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then people will not know that you are fasting, but your Father, whom you cannot see, will see you. Your Father sees what is done in secret, and he will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4,6-13,16-18)
God promises us we will be rewarded for our faithfulness, lived out through such practices as fasting, praying, and service. He doesn’t provide a timing of reward. We assume the reward will immediately follow what we do. That’s how the world generally works. We pay for something, and we receive it. We bake something, and we can eat it. We build something, and we can use it.
Compare the verb tenses of the words indicating the timing of what we do and when God promises to reward us.
God will reward us. He decides the timing, and his options aren’t limited to our lives on earth. He handles all rewards in heaven as well.
We can take a lot of anxiety out of our anticipation if we fully place our trust in God and his timing. We can know there will be a harvest without needing to know when and how much. We can know there will be rewards without needing to know when and how much. When we trust God for his promises and provision, we let him do the promising and providing. Our role is trust. Our role is faith.