Life feels predictable at times. My calendar teems with plans bound to happen. Our checkbook is balanced with enough to cover anticipated costs and then some. Jobs seem secure and promised. Everyone in the family is healthy enough for me to take it for granted. The living room is vacuumed, the dishes are clean and stacked in the cabinets and my “to-do” list seems attainable. It is well with my soul when I can check off the boxes and feel a sense of control.
At other times life throws curve balls – hard ones.
I remember when we were selling our first home. I was six months pregnant with our first son and my mother-in-law sent us an email with a link to some new houses being built in her area where mortgages were going to be way more affordable than our current home in Los Angeles. My (up to this point) very stable and predictable husband decided overnight that we ought to move to the Central Valley. So we sold. But it didn’t happen quite that easily. Our house was on the market for weeks with people parading through at all sorts of hours while we kept things immaculate and took the dog on an infinite number of walks to clear out for would-be buyers. We did finally sell, but that inbetween waiting period was excruciating – exacerbated by the nesting instinct I was going through. I longed to nest and I was being uprooted instead.
You know how that is.
We want roots. We want predictability. We want a plan. Or at least we want a clue as to which way the wind is going to blow so we can properly set the sails.
If we are honest we’ll admit that in the midst of these “hallway” experiences – where we are neither “here” nor “there” but just in the middle ground that seems like no man’s land – we can get a bit upset with God. I mean, shouldn’t He give us a hint as to what is going on? Wouldn’t it help for Him to give us a heads up? He sees us wrestling and yet sometimes we wait and wait and nothing seems to change and there isn’t even a sign as to when this indefinite period of ambiguity will come to a close.
Years before that house sold, I lost my job. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to keep the apartment where we then lived. What would become of me? Would I ever work again? It seems like a lifetime ago when this happened, but in the midst of that trial, I felt like a looming mountain was over my head and every direction I turned I hit wall after wall. Ultimately I got a much better job and was able to finish my graduate degree while working, but in the middle of the storm I had no idea which way things would land.
I endured way worse trials when my father died, when my marriage hit unthinkably hard times, when dear friends ripped the rug out of relationship, when chronic health problems would not relent, when we left a church which had been our spiritual home for years, when people sinned against me or when sins I had committed caught up with me. Each of those experiences brought with it some sense that life had hit a dead end and I had seen the last of the “good ol’ days.”
Sometimes we wait for someone to respond to an outstretched apology. Other times the doctor needs to call us with the results of our test. We can be waiting for a bomb to drop – just knowing that our boss or our spouse has news that will turn our life upside down. Waiting can even be for something wonderful like a new job, a proposal or a move. When it isn’t coming as expected we feel unearthed and uneasy. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’d rather have bad news than no news.
Why does God not just forklift us out of these hallway experiences? Why isn’t He like the great prince on a stallion, riding through and scooping us up, preventing our tears and grief? I will tell you what I have come to believe is at least part of the answer.
While we long for something concrete – a sense of control and direction – God longs for us.
He knows that giving us what we are asking for – earthly security and one more chance to grab at the steering wheel of our own life – will keep us from true dependence upon Him. As I look back over the many “hallways” of uncertain times and the trials where my heart broke in two, I see clearly that I drew nearer to God in those times than in most others.
God is the lover of our soul, the Good Shepherd. His name is Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, My Provider. Abraham spoke this name when God provided a ram in place of Isaac after Abraham had bound Isaac and was prepared (knife poised) to sacrifice his son. Talk about an excruciating waiting period! God did come through, but as He did, He brought Abraham to a place of deeper faith through the process of waiting.
I am not of the mind that God brings calamity as an enemy bombs a shelter. God is lavish in His provision and He longs for us as a mother for her children or a lover for His beloved. If we will not give our children stones when they ask for bread, it doesn’t make sense that God would bring illness, calamity and hardship on those He loves. As Dallas Willard said often, “Don’t ever believe a bad thing you hear about God – God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever.” Amen, Dallas. God doesn’t bring these hardships, but He allows them and makes good use of them – for our good and the deepening of our connection to Him.
God uses these trials – and even the foggy times of waiting – to give us an invitation and an opportunity. He is with us in the waiting. He asks us to wait on Him. Not only that, He promises His presence and support as we do:
Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up on wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary (Is 40:31).
We wait and He waits with us. Let’s not waste these precious times of waiting by wishing them away. We can grieve and cry out to Him (a great way of connecting authentically which is modeled throughout scripture, especially in the Psalms). We can be filled with a range of emotions. Simultaneously we can choose to receive the gift He has for us in each of these seasons – the gift of greater intimacy with Him.
The hallway can be uncomfortable with all its unfinished business. We long for a place to settle and we want answers. I’m not saying you should set up camp in the hallway, but maybe you can pause and see the goodness of His presence with you – as you wait.
Where you are, He is with you – Jehovah Jireh, Your God and Provider.
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