Waiting: God’s Cure for Unredeemed Ambition

In his book, Rescuing Ambition (Crossway, 2010), Dave Harvey skillfully explains the practice of God to curb and refine our ambitions through the often painful process of waiting on him.

Waiting is God’s backhoe in the excavation of our ambitions. Waiting unearths and brings to the surface what we really want. Yet waiting is a strange thing. God’s purposes are not a bus stop where we just sit, waiting for the right option to come by. No, we keep walking while we wait, and we wait while we walk. This may sound ironic, but it serves many purposes (p. 72).

Harvey offers three possible reasons why waiting is so important to the rescue of our ambitions. First, waiting purifies our ambitions.

Reach your hand into a river and grab a handful of rocks. You can tell the ones that have been recently deposited and those that have been there a long time, waiting. The new arrivals are rough with edges and sharp points. The other rocks are smooth; time and water have worn away their rough exterior, revealing a polished, beautiful stone. For us, waiting has the same effect. God purifies our ambitions by delaying their fulfillment. An ambition with a waiting sign is an ambition being smoothed in a riverbed of God’s activity (p. 72).

Second, waiting cultivates patience.

Perhaps in reading this you’re becoming aware of impatience toward God and his timing in your life. But is God’s timing not perfect? Are his ways not perfect? Is his will not perfect? Is his character not perfect? And hasn’t all this perfection been displayed for us in the cross? Who are we to question God in impatience when he has so perfectly displayed his love for us in the shedding of his Son’s blood on the cross? (p. 73)

Last, waiting redefines our definition of productivity. In our culture we define success and work by “productivity.” We keep tightly packed schedules and run from one place to the next, fearful of not being able to maintain all our commitments, and failing our own expectations.

Waiting is often God’s reorientation program aimed at our definition of success. He lovingly empties our misguided preoccupation with accomplishment and fills it with ambitions to know him and be like him. God isn’t beyond slowing our walk to remind us that only he is omnipotent, and we’re not; only he is omnicompetent, and we’re not; only he exists without need for rest, and we don’t (p. 74).

So many times our dreams and ambitions are frustrated, and we are tempted to see that as a sign that God is perhaps not as good as he makes himself out to be, or at least not as good as we’ve been told he is. But if we could see our lives from God’s perspective, we would see how many times God delivered us from a dream or ambition that would have made us incurably miserable, or one that would have destroyed more precious things in our lives. This means that every job lost, unhappy marriage, condition of infertility, frustrating boss, and dead end in life is actually a blessing from God.

We find no peace in life until we’re convinced our path is his way and our place is his choice. That’s so important it’s worth repeating: your place is his choice. Fences and all. When God is fencing our ambition, it can sure seem to constrain our freedom. But fences don’t simply contain, they protect. A good fence keeps us on the right path and prevents us from hurtling over cliffs, even if it seems we’re chasing something good (p. 79).

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