On Waiting for God's Timing as an Ambitious Woman
What do you think of when you hear the word ambitious? A CEO? A professional athlete? An acquaintance from high school or university who is now smashing the glass ceiling in [insert city / industry of your choice]? That’s how I used to think of ambition anyway, sort of.
When I graduated from university in 2011, it was the start of the whole #girlboss movement (note: many now consider the term inappropriate). Career websites targeted at the millennial woman (e.g. The Muse, Levo League) were all the rage and Sheryl Sandberg would soon publish Lean In. And I drank up all this advice thirstily looking for guidance on how to succeed. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I wanted to succeed in. I just wanted to be successful. To establish a career, to be seen as an expert, to be known for something specific. Anything would do.
In our twenties, for some reason many women see a ‘by 30’ timeline. That pressure to know who you are and make all the right decisions in order to lay the right foundation for success in life. Meg Jay’s TED talk Why 30 is not the new 20 also came out around this time and further fed my anxious drive to succeed.
Now it’s not that these websites, TED talks and books are bad. They do have a lot of good, practical advice. But as a Christian young woman, my biggest mistake was not reading them alongside my Bible.
Because what’s the point in working so hard in planning your dream life if it’s not your God designed life?
There’s no point because it’ll never bring the success and satisfaction we crave.
I think God still allows us to achieve and experience goals even if we’re doing it selfishly. As a child growing up in suburbia, I had starry eyed dreams and achieved many of them from building a career in not one but two big cities, promotions and and international transfers at work, co-authoring a book with my professor at 23, earning a Master’s degree from the 3rd best Faculty of Education in the world, attending fancy media and food blogging events … but when I achieved each one, I was still searching for satisfaction.
Recently I read John Bevere’s Driven by Eternity which was sobering but in the best way. Take this passage:
Everyone has a divine calling on his or her life. Each of us is an important part of the master plan of God’s house. So it is good for us to know this truth: In regard to your calling, you’ll not be judged according to what you did but rather according to what you were called to do! Let me give you an example.
At the Judgment Seat, Jesus may say something like, ‘Evangelist Anderson, please step forward and give an account of all the souls I called you to impact for Me.” That man may come before Jesus a bit confused and trembling saying, “Sir, You mean Accountant Anderson, right? I was an accountant with my own firm. This was my occupation. In fact, I set up many churches and non-profit organizations. Those ministries influenced many souls into Your kingdom. Do you have me mistaken for someone else? The Master may reply, “No. I called you before you were born to influence and win multitudes in Asia to Me. Give an account of where they are. If you had obeyed Me, you would have been rewarded greatly for all the fruit you harvested for My kingdom. Now as a result, your works will be burned up, for they were not in obedience to Me.
Then we may see this scenario. Jesus may say, “Accountant Jones, please step forward and give an account of what I called you to do. That man may step forward also very confused and trembling saying, “Sir, You mean Pastor Jones, right? I was a pastor of a church that had nine hundred members. I built that church from the ground up.” To which the Master may reply, “No, I called you to work in the marketplace as an accountant and build a strong firm that would help many of My churches and ministries effectively fulfill what I ordained them to accomplish. If you would have sought me earnestly, I would have shown you this. Then all the multitudes of people those ministries eternally impacted would have been credited to you: you would have been rewarded for each soul. But now you will receive nothing for what you did, for it was not in obedience to me.” (p. 214 and 215).
Sobering, right? At least it was so sobering for me because, when I read that passage, I think I was only two months or so into living in total surrender to God and finally discovering my God-given calling. Before that, I don’t think I’d ever really asked God what his will was for my life or been humble hearted enough to say a big YES to whatever his reply was. My mind was always slightly distracted with ‘making it’ from my / the world’s point of view.
If you’re relating to this and feeling a bit nervous, don’t worry … it’s not too late. When we repent and ask God for his help, he’ll give it and redirect us into his perfect plan. And if you’re worried that living for God will mean reducing your ambition, fret not! There might be some waiting but we can trust God to deliver the best thing for us in his perfect timing. After all, he made us as we are.
So what are some ways we can wait for God’s timing as an ambitious woman?
1. Take your relationship with God seriously
It all goes back to the first commandment.
And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:1-3)
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)
If we truly believe that God is our God, then we must treat him as such. Live to love, serve, worship, honour him in all we do. To have a real, daily walk with him where we pray to and listen for what he wants to say. The more I realized this, the more I realized that my life really is not my own. Seeking and doing God’s will is the most valuable and effective way to spend my time. As ambitious women, we have lots of dreams and drive to make it happen. Remember that God made us this way and wants to see us thrive … he’s got Kingdom work for us to do. We no longer live for ourselves, but for God and to serve others. As we keep God at the centre and achieve as directed by the Holy Spirit, I believe we’ll feel deeper accomplishment and satisfaction than ever before. Because there’s nothing like knowing you’re walking in God’s will and serving him with all your heart.
2. Always keep learning
Even if we’re sure we’re walking in God’s will, we’ll never have ‘arrived’. There will always be areas where we can grow deeper. But that’s part of the fun isn’t it? Since when do ambitious women want to coast anyway? Never! ;) But all jokes aside, this all has to do with a humble heart posture.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The good plans God has are not for us alone. After all, we’re not God … it’s not about us. It’s our privilege to partner with him and carry out a part of his great plan. And I for one want to be as sharp and prepared as possible! As we seek God, he will give us more insight into his plan for our lives and direction on how to move.
For example, for the past two years or so I’ve felt God telling me I would become bold about sharing my faith. Pretty radical to me at the time … I was nervous even being fully vulnerable with close friends at small group! Then in a valley season, God met me so vividly and I fell in love with him so deeply that all I wanted was to follow his voice one step at a time. You want me to read this book? OK God. Hmm I feel like you want me to study the Bible in this way? OK God. Attend that conference? Accept that prophecy? Serve on that team at church? OK God! In living this ‘OK God’ life, after prayer and sometimes asking for lots of confirmation haha, I’ve seen more and more of his plan fall into place. All this big city living, opportunities to write, even all my past mistakes … God can use it all to glorify him.
While I feel like God’s given me a clear vision for my purpose, even so I’m seeking God on the timing, how to prepare and in what order, and also just getting so excited about carrying out his plan.
for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. (Hebrews 13:21)
And it’s also preventing me from succumbing to impostor syndrome or being lazy. If I believe God has given me a task … I do not want to squander the opportunity!
I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! (Matthew 25: 25-26)
We never get the full picture of what God is doing but I think that’s fine. We get to live a life of faith, of seeing God’s character and his plan for our growth one step at a time.
3. Let God lead
An Instagram post from January 6, 2020:
It’s been such a joy seeing so many women sharing their goals with God, themes and prophetic words for the year, etc. Amen to having big, bold faith for what God will do, to being on fire to do for his kingdom.
As we work hard for the Lord, I pray that we make time to just be with him too. This morning, I went to early morning prayer (EMP) at my church which includes soaking time, mini sermon and communal prayer, and then personal prayer time. Before EMP I’d been working on my new blog layout since 3am (jetlagged!) and was pray talking with God about how excited I was to grow more, write more, draw more, whether it was OK to reintroduce coffee into my diet after my 21 day fast, etc. And I felt him nudge me that “Coffee or no coffee doesn’t really matter. It’s about your heart.” Oof. Yes.
Staying plugged into God daily will help us avoid pride, selfishness, veering off His Plan A for our lives. When my ambition is flowing, it can be hard to take a step back and just rest or listen. But finding rest through, and listening to, Jesus is the secret source for our success in life anyway right? He will lead us into his perfect will and timing if we ask him and obey. And his will and timing will always be best.
Lord, your timeline over my timeline. Your kingdom over my goals. Thank you that we even have the privilege of being children that get to walk in relationship with you, our King, and play even a small part in bringing your plans to fruition. ❤️ #theyayproject
Daily check-ins with God are so important. We need our daily bread, our living water! Let’s not spend time chasing a direction or goal that isn’t in line with God’s will. And the only way to know is by asking. I think it’s good to talk with God, present our requests, see if the things on our hearts have been placed there by God.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:8)
But once we hear from God, let’s make sure we accept his will over our wants, always.
4. Trust God, girl!
After many years of searching and trying to achieve success my own way, I’ve finally realized that surrendering to God is what matters. While we might not always see his hand in our situations, we can trust he is always, always working for our good.
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. (Exodus 14:14)
Because he is good!
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. (Matthew 7:11)
And he loves us!
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)
The more we understand God’s character, the easier it will be to surrender. And when we do, we’ll realize the most satisfyingly ambitious thing we could ever do is seek first God’s kingdom. It is all about him. In doing this, we’ll realize that the plans he has for us to do are so, so satisfying because they’re what he made us for in the first place.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33)