For the past several weeks our Sunday School class has been viewing and discussing a video series from Andy Stanley entitled, "In the Meantime". It has been an eye-opener and faith builder for Christians who continue to have various issues or situations that are tough to endure.
To further illustrate how to endure burdens that appear on the landscape of our lives, our all knowing, ever present Lord has outlined in scripture followers who also struggled with difficult issues. Let's take a look at Paul, the Christian hater turned Christian advocate. Once Paul experienced his blinding light on the road to Damascus conversion to Christianity, he was given, as recorded in scripture, a thorn in the flesh. Doesn't that strike you as odd that a thorn in the flesh was given to Paul by God? Although we are never told the specifics of that thorn, we know that Paul pleaded with God to take it away.
Now, if you are anything like me, I understand the pleading process. The staying up at night, tears rolling down my face, begging God to remove or bring a resolution to my situation. To be perfectly clear, I usually pray for a resolution of my choosing; you know, one I could live with and is acceptable to me. Of course, like every good Christian has been taught, I always end my prayer with "thy will be done", but do I honestly mean it? What transpires in the meantime while I'm waiting for direction? Or better yet, what happens when the result of thy will be done isn't quite what I asked for or expected?
I do believe Paul found himself in the same situation. His thorn was inhibiting what he believed would be an optimal ministry effort. Paul had a vision of his ministry and needed this thorn removed to pursue it. However, God had a different plan for Paul. Maybe it was to keep Paul from being conceited claiming the age old "look what I am doing or have done for Jesus." I have no answer nor do I need to have the answer as to why Paul endured a continuous thorn in his flesh. It stacks up against all those questions I have encountered and will continue to bump up against until I see the Lord face-to-face. (At that point I will be so overwhelmed with being in the Lord's presence all questions will dissipate as quickly as fog on a mountain when the sun breaks through.)
I do believe, as pointed out in this video series, our reaction to how we handle our "in the meantime" moments, days, years, etc., is important. It's imperative that we realize God is God and we are not. He has the entire picture of our all our days laid out before one breath is taken by each of us. Although we believe we are entitled to view that blueprint, I honestly think if we did see it we'd stop living. We would begin the bargaining process and try to deal with God to skip a portion of that journey because it's not quite how we envisioned our lives. How about adding in a few more beach moments of quiet, peaceful ocean sounds and gentle breezes, Lord? Wouldn't I be a bit more effective if I could reflect on Your beauty and holiness? But this life is not solely for our benefit. Our life is to be a reflection of God and shine the best possible witness for those viewing our troubles, burdens, and in the meantime situations. They often need to see a follower of Jesus Christ standing firm on the Rock of our salvation.
Haven't I prayed for more sunny warm reflective days of problem free living for me and those I love? Absolutely. But I can testify when the waters are rough, when the skies are dark, when it seems all hope is lost, it's there God meets me in the midst of the journey to pick me up, strengthen my resolve, build my faith, and give me another day to be the example I need to be for His glory. And that alone is a total blessing in my life.
My in the meantime moments are not easy, they are challenging and seemingly at times long, but this I know, God never lets me walk this journey alone. He hears every prayer, knows every heartache, sees every tear gathering them in His hand not to be forgotten or forsaken. I am His child and He loves me and each of you more than you can possibly imagine.
So keep on, keepin' on, my friends, for one day this journey will end and we will meet Him face-to-face!
Thank you, Lord, that you are in control of my life. Although I have no idea what will unfold in the moments or days ahead, I rest in the hope that you will never leave me or forsake me....and you will cover me under your wings in the meantime. In Jesus' name, Amen.
(In case you are interested, the video series "In the Meantime" can be found on RightNow Media, or possibly you can youtube Andy Stanley and give the video title. It would be a blessing!)