The Chinese bamboo is one of the most remarkable plants on the planet. In the first five years of being planted in the ground, it does not experience noticeable growth. Despite farmers tending, watering, and fertilizing it, the plant barely grows a couple centimeters at best. However, after five years, a small sprout emerges from the ground. Six months later, the bamboo exponentially grows to over 100 feet high.

Would you have the patience and faith to wait five years to realize the fruits of your labor? Would you become impatient and quit after a year if there were no results? Personally speaking, I would be inclined to quit after one or two years. I want things to happen instantly; I dislike the waiting stage especially in the current age of quick and instant gratification.

Our lives are similar to bamboo. God plants in us a seed of vision or dream but we will not see the fruits of our labor immediately. There’s often a long delay process of tending, watering, and fertilizing when it comes to fulfilling God’s dream for your life. You try your best to rebuild your marriage but the situation doesn’t seem to get better. You are waiting on a fulfilling career that leverages your gifts and passions, but doors are closing on you.

What do we do when reality doesn’t meet our expectations of the future?

Every person in the Bible that God used mightily for His purposes was tested through trials and tribulations. David, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus to name a few. James 1:2 states “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”

Everyone wants to be used by God for great purposes and to make a positive difference in the world. We all want our lives to have significant impacts on those around us for the glory of God. However, nobody wants to go through the fire to become a light in the world.

Can you imagine if Kobe Bryant or Roger Federer never put in the work in the gym or on their respective courts? Kobe and Roger had visions to become all-star athletes but the vision didn’t come true overnight. It involved years of preparation, completing workouts and enduring the painful process of growth as professional athletes. There are moments in the athletes’ lives where they start to doubt their abilities, their career trajectory, and their dreams.

If you desire to be used by God for His purposes, then you will need to be broken and molded. Similar to glow sticks, we need to be broken in order to be used.

David’s Reality vs. Expectations

In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel is looking for the next king of Israel and goes to Bethlehem as the Lord instructed. He meets Jesse who has eight sons and examines the sons to see who would be fit to be the next king. The Lord told Samuel to pass on all of them except one, David. During this time, David was tending his father’s sheep so he wasn’t even in the presence of Samuel and his brothers to be selected. Jesse didn’t even give a thought of inviting David in this process due to his appearance and height. However, the Lord informs Samuel that David will be king, so he anoints David. And David goes back to tending sheep.

After David’s anointing, he is tested when the giant Goliath challenged his people to battle. David steps up despite not having any professional training and defeats Goliath with a sling and stones.

In a span of years to come, Saul becomes jealous of David’s success and intentionally pursues him to kill him. David continually runs away from Saul and endures some of the harshest times in his life before becoming king.

David was anointed to be king (expectation) but he was tested with Goliath and a man intent on killing him (reality). This doesn’t exactly sound like the promise he was given when he was anointed to be king.

When reality doesn’t meet expectations, what can we do?

1) Tend your sheep and invite God in the process.

When David was anointed, he could have become entitled and wanted to become king right away, but he wasn’t. He went back into the fields and tended his father’s sheep. David was faithful in what was presented in front of him and did it onto the Lord.

Perhaps you were given a vision and have high hopes for your career or marriage to look a certain way, but the reality involves disengaging jobs or a mundane relationship with your significant other.

In those times, we praise God, thank Him in where we are, and do our best with what we’ve been given.

God doesn’t look at what the world sees (intelligence, fame, money, talent) but He looks at the heart.

In everything you do, in every season, consider your season as preparation for greater things.

God is shaping you into the man or woman He wants you to become in order to be used for His purposes.

“Lord, thank you for this job you’ve given me. Thank you for a wife who cares about me. Although things don’t look great right now, help me to honor you in this season. Give me the strength and motivation to be faithful where I am as I’m doing my best with what you’ve graciously given me. Amen.”

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2) Rejoice in the trials.

There’s always a test after every promise. Goliath was David’s next test after being anointed by Samuel. Shortly after, Saul goes on a long pursuit to assassinate David.

How will you overcome temptation on your way to breakthrough in your marriage? How will you handle that difficult boss who drives you crazy every day? Will you succumb to lust and anger?

On your way to your dream and promise, God will allow certain trials to test how you handle situations and to develop your character to become more like Jesus (sanctification). Romans 5:3 states “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

In a sense, when we experience tests and trials, we are developing our character and ultimately hope. Without tests, hope cannot be produced.

Lord, I don’t like what I’m going through. It’s difficult and I want to give up. But, I thank you for the trials you’ve placed in my life. I know you are molding me into the man or woman you called me to be. I hold onto your promises, and I trust in your good and perfect plans. Give me the strength to go through the tests and to overcome any temptation. I rejoice in the trials before me. Amen.”

When we tend our sheep and rejoice in the trials, with patience and faith, our bamboo season will come in the right time. It may look like little or no progress, but God is always true to His word. Remain patient and thankful in the process. The Lord can do more in three months than we can in three years. Sooner or later, your small bamboo will exponentially grow to hundreds of feet high.