I have never really liked waiting…I’m much more of an instant gratification type of girl. Which in reality is probably not a good thing…Lord help me to please learn and practice patience!!!
But, I have found in the last several years of my life that there is a special place that ALL of us enter at some point in our lives (or sometimes multiple times). Its been called many things by many people…a valley, a waiting room, a holding pattern, etc. I have started to call it the in-between. And if someone has already called it this, I apologize…not wanting to steal anyone’s ideas.
But to me personally, this place represents the place between receiving a promise/praying for something and then receiving the answer or fulfillment of that promise. Let me give you some examples…
the couple that is desperately believing and praying for a baby…
believing for a healing whether personally or someone they know and love…
waiting for an adoption to be finalized…
waiting for some type of provision…
praying for clarity for the next step or season in life…
and while not a specific promise…those of us with a desire for marriage that is unfulfilled
The list could go on and on… Before I go any farther, I want to take a minute and acknowledge the real feelings of pain and grief that can occur in this in-between place. It is real…it is hard…and it can be lonely at times. Please don’t ever think you understand EXACTLY what a person is going through just because you went through something similar. You can absolutely pray, empathize, and sympathize with them, but PLEASE don’t ASSUME you know the emotions they are processing.
I want to look at an example of the “in-between” from the Bible. One of my favorite examples is the story of Hannah, Samuel’s mother.
Hannah, up until this story in the Bible, had been unable to conceive because it says in 1 Samuel 1:5, “that the Lord had closed her womb” I won’t even try to understand that, because I’m not the Lord. However, this obviously bothered Hannah because she longed to give her husband a child. Year after year her husband’s other wife provoked her, and this probably caused Hannah great sorrow. However in looking at 2 commentaries on this story from Blue Letter Bible I have come to understand this story in a very different way. Chuck Smith’s commentary suggests that while Hannah was praying year after year for a child, she was praying a selfish prayer of her own wants and needs instead of praying with a God focus.
At this time historically, Israel was fraught with ungodliness and pagan practices even amongst the priests. Chuck Smith suggests something interesting, and I will let you read it as he wrote it, “Now with Hannah there was a reason why God delayed the answer, and with us. If God delays the answer of our prayers there’s a reason for His delay. Often times, with Hannah, the reason being that God is seeking to bring us around to His purposes. The Bible says, “The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are completely towards Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). So God was waiting, bringing Hannah around to where her heart was completely towards God, and the things of God, and that which God wanted.”
WOW…talk about something to process. Something to ponder for sure. For me personally I won’t sit here and judge other’s prayers and heartfelt cries to the Lord. However, I will say that there have been times, as I reflect back, where I have prayed prayers that were incredibly selfish…and selfish not because what I was believing for or asking for was bad, but I hadn’t sought the Lord about it or prayed that His will would be done…PERIOD…END OF STORY. I will speak for myself here. In my prayers for a husband they have largely been centered on making me happy or content. I am NOT SAYING that the reason I am unmarried is because I prayed “selfish” prayers. However, what I am saying is that the Lord has a plan and calling on my life that is specific to me…He knows the timing things need to happen in. He knows who needs to be in my life and when. Instead maybe my prayers should look or sound something like this.
“Lord, you know my desire for marriage and motherhood. I believe that it is a God given desire. Lord I choose to give thanks in everything because it says in 1 Thess. 5:18 that giving thanks always is God’s perfect plan for me in Christ Jesus. Lord I thank you I am your sheep and therefore I hear your voice clearly.”
Obviously, its hard to pray a prayer where the outcome may not happen the way you hope, but either I trust in the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord as Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “But this I call to mind, Therefore I have hope. It is because of the Lord’s loving-kindnesses that we are not consumed, Because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul; “Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait [confidently] for Him, To those who seek Him [on the authority of God’s word].” Or I choose to not trust in His love and faithfulness. Isaiah 55:8-9 speaks about the Lord’s thoughts and ways being higher and more than we could ever process or imagine. I AM NOT GOD…therefore I MUST TRUST that His plan is for my good and His glory.
Back to Hannah’s story…Later in 1 Samuel 1:19b it says, “…and the Lord remembered her.” Now, the word remembered does not mean that God forgot her, because He is incapable of forgetting His children as it says in Isaiah. I LOVE this part of the story. This is after Hannah had come before the Lord yet again in prayer, but this time her prayer was different. She prayed for a son and then took it a step farther. She said that if she had a son, she would give the baby back to the Lord in His service for all the days of His life…whoah…I don’t know about you, but that is a BOLD prayer. And STILL this answered prayer wasn’t instantaneous. Hannah had to return home and rest in and stand on the promise the Lord had given her. I’ve heard multiple times throughout the years that God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials and when it is a no…many times the no is given for protection or because we don’t see the greater plan.
So all this to say…it has really just been burning in my heart to meet people where they are. We are all in different stages of our walks with the Lord. We all may have different backgrounds and different upbringings. But ONE thing we ALL have in common is an in-between season. The best thing you can do for a friend walking through this season is…
- acknowledge that this season can be painful, sad, sorrowful, and lonely
- check in with this friend and let them talk WITHOUT correcting them or trying to give them a “Christian” answer
- encourage them with scripture (through text, phone calls, letters, cards, etc)
- pray for/with them when they are too weak to do it for themselves
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN
God shows Himself faithful in every season we walk through. I will say that this LONG (seemingly never ending) season of singleness has been both a joy and trial at different times. There have been many a time where I was frustrated with people’s lack of understanding. BUT, the Lord ever so gently reminds me that I am not to seek other’s understanding. God sent His son, His only son, to a world that rejected and ultimately killed Him. Thank God that Jesus rose from the grave and now sits on the right hand of the Father.
But have we ever stopped to think that Jesus feels the same as us about an in-between season?
Jesus is waiting for the word from His Father to gather His bride (the church) up to Heaven. Mark 13:32, ““Concerning that day and exact hour, no one knows when it will arrive, not the angels of heaven, not even the Son—only the Father knows.” He has been in an in-between season since the day He ascended into heaven over 2,000 years ago. Now, Jesus wants as many people to have the opportunity to know Him as possible, but still…that’s a long time of waiting. That is a long time in which those that He loves have died for His name, those that He loves have misinterpreted His precious words and committed grievous acts in the name of God, and those that He loves have denied His name. However, I must always remember my season of “waiting” pales in comparison to that Jesus’ in-between season.
So be encouraged today. Jesus understands an in-between season. He understands the emotions of this season. He isn’t asking you to walk through it alone. He has sent His Comforter, His Holy Spirit to walk through and guide us through every season of our lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean we won’t get angry or frustrated walking through this season. It just means that we have someone who sticks closer than a brother in the middle of this crazy, mixed up, fallen world. It means that Jesus still looks at with love and tears in His eyes. It means that even in the answer is different than prayed for we can still trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God.