As I live alone, I can choose a “get-up-and-dressed” morning routine that meets my needs. I like listening to on-line inspirational messages and, in particular, enjoy messages by Andy Stanley (North Point Community Church.) I have trouble trying to find time for a personal Bible Study so hearing an inspirational message that is linked to scripture is very important to me. I put my iPad in my bedroom and listen while I drink my coffee and get dressed.
Recently, Andy had a series that was so fabulous that I simply have to share his thoughts and words. This 6 part series is called “In the Meantime” and purpose of the series is to address the question…. “What do you do when there’s nothing you can do?” (And I acknowledge that some of the words below are from this series.)
He asks: What do you do when you have a problem that seems to have no solution? When you find that your circumstances are so challenging there’s no way forward and no way out. The future is not going to be what you thought it would be and there is nothing you can do about it.
It could be a problem with your marriage or a relationship with a family member or friend….or, perhaps you have a health issue .. a disease that will not kill you but it will be chronic and they cannot cure it …… or, perhaps your financial situation is not good nor will it improve … or you are in a job that you do not like but you see no other job opportunities for you now or in the near future.
You realize your dreams are not coming true nor will they ever come true…. this is your new reality… your new normal…. And it is not a good place to be. As Andy Stanley says, you are in an “In the Meantime” season or moment of your life.
During these kinds of times, we can be tempted to run or give up or give in to resentment and anger—including anger towards God.
And of course, that brings up the pesky God issue… does He care… does He exist… and how can we believe in a good God who allows bad things to happen. We also begin to think that we cannot be happy again or that nothing good can come from this.
I understand all those thoughts as I had two “In the Meantime” seasons that were back-to-back. The first began in May 2003 when I realized my marriage was in big trouble and it ended in March 2009 with my divorce. And I will have to say that I did not handle that season well.
I felt that God did not care; I prayed and struggled and tried to save a marriage I could not save and found myself dealing with a problem of which there was no good solution and there was nothing I could do about it. And I was filled with resentment and great sadness and anger.
I was thrown from that season of my life into the next “In the Meantime” season which began after my divorce in March of 2009 as I found myself coming to grips with my new life as a single woman. From March until November, I floundered.
My ex-husband and I would still go out to dinner and would have a very pleasant evening. He said he wanted for us to remain friends and all of that fueled in me the hopes that one day, given time, we would be back together.
I was in an “In the Meantime” season that had a somewhat different focus but the issue was the same—the solution I wanted was not happening and I could not move forward nor backward.
In November of 2009, I realized that my foolish hopes for reconciliation were merely that, foolish hopes. I will be honest enough to say that I had an emotionally brutal week as the reality came crashing down on me.
And now, as I approach the 5 year anniversary of what turned out to be the end of that “In the Meantime” season, a time of life where I was stuck and could not move forward or backward….I can see what has happened since that November.
I have the hindsight to understand clearly what happened and what was at stake. I have also been blessed to see a purpose for all that pain.
In a nutshell, what I now realize and see is that there are times that God does not deliver you from your troubles but He does help you get through them. He does allow bad things to happen.
But, He is always willing to comfort you. And the end result—when God helps you get through your suffering, He is at the same time doing something in you that you can in turn pass along to other people.
Bottom line—and it may not be a bottom line you like but the truth is: if you so allow it, God can and will comfort us in our troubles so that we can then comfort others.
Groan and double groan—that was not the kind of answer I wanted nor one I liked. I wanted God to fix my troubles—I wanted to be allowed to be angry at God—I did not want to hear that God was doing something in me so that I could do something for others.
Yet the truth is…. there is a level of strength and understanding that you will not get any other way other than by going through something and depending on God to comfort you.
And it is true that this strength can then be given to others.
I have friends who are going through a divorce and when I share my story with them and I tell them that they too can find a new life that is rich and full… when I tell them there is life on the other side… they listen… as I have personally experienced what they are going through. I have a level of credibility when I talk to them that a married-never-divorced woman does not have.
I have girlfriends who are going on a date for the first time in 10 or 20 years and I can share with them the nerves and jitters of being an older woman out on her “first” date….. I can laugh and when I say “I understand” they know I mean it.
There is something about being eyeball to eyeball with someone who has shared your pain …. has experienced your loss… has dealt with your issue and when they speak, you have to listen.
After November of 2009, I began the process of moving away from my “In the Meantime” season. Whereas I could not change that the divorce had happened, I could change my focus.
Instead of focusing on all the bad, I could focus on creating a new life. I began taking steps—some small and some large—including selling our home that I had lived in for over 20 years. I purchased and renovated a small ranch condo. Instead of letting anger and “poor me” be the driving force in my life, I began asking God to use me—to work through me.
I do not want to appear too saintly here—as I noted in the bluntly honest August post, From Ashes to Joy, this process took several years. I would take two steps forward and three back and then four forward and so forth. In retrospect, I was rather pitiful and whiny and very self-centered at times.
But I began to change my focus and that made all the difference.
Why was that so important? Why did that make a difference? Because when we focus on what is wrong, we lose sight of what God is making right. … we lose sight of what God is doing.
When we focus on what is wrong, we are also focusing on our idea of what needs to be made right and how it needs to be done and when. We are not able to see what God may be doing in the midst of this difficult time.
I want to stress this—I do not like giving pat answers or pie-in-the-sky happy-go-lucky life-is-all-good solutions. Changing my focus did not change the situation—there was no magic pill. I was still a divorced woman. My marriage had ended.
But changing my focus allowed me to handle the situation with a different perspective. My focus changed from thoughts centered around who’s to blame/what went wrong to how can God be on display—how can I demonstrate a faith that truly stands on Romans 8:28: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose.
I am still sorry that my marriage ended in divorce and I would never want to go through that again but yet at the same time, I would not take that experience away. I would not want to give up the level of knowledge and faith I now have. I would not want to give up the “adventures” of the last 5 years and my new life today as I truly love it.
And I also hope that my new life story is one that has allowed God to be on display.. so others can see that God has helped me make something good from something that was bad.
So, dear reader, with all that in mind…..I have a small request. If someone you care about is in an “In the Meantime” moment where life is simply not turning out right or if they are carrying pain that seems overwhelming, I would ask that you send them the link to the “In the Meantime” series website (http://meantimeseries.org/). There are 6 messages and each is different. These are not all serious messages—they all contain humor and you will find yourself laughing at some of the comments.
Message 4 a bit different as it is given by Andy Jones (not Andy Stanley) but his story is equally inspiring as, due to a medical diagnosis, he will be dealing most of his life with an “In the Meantime” season. His story alone will humble you as you think about your “problems”.
In short, these videos are powerful and thought provoking and I can promise you this…..they will stir you and challenge you to reevaluate how you face the difficulties of life.
And on a closing note, I am not foolish enough to think I have seen my last “In the Meantime” season. I realize that the future can bring for me or for someone I care about another period of life where we are stuck in a place… a situation… where we have a problem for which there is no “Cinderella-Fairy-Tale” answer.
But it is my hope that the knowledge and faith that I have gained from my “In the Meantime” season will enable me to face the next one with a deeper faith … and will allow me to see purpose in the pain and to do something positive with it.
I wish the same for you—the same strength and inner peace—if and when you face an “In the Meantime” moment.