Waiting rooms suck. I found myself in one two months ago after my youngest son, Micah, slashed his ear on a bookshelf. Cartilage, blood, and other stuff I was supposed to learn in Human A&P dangled from the top of his ear. If you’re grossed out, I’m sorry.
I walked into the ER at our local hospital around 10 a.m. Micah was in pain, but handling the situation well. “If I can keep him calm for an hour or so,” I thought, “we’ll have his ear stitched and head back to the house.”
Five hours later, the cartilage was still staring at me.
My frustration quickly turned to anger and anxiety. Micah was hurting and exhausted. I wanted to do something, anything, to help him. But I was at the mercy of the painfully slow doctors and nurses. At 6 p.m., after sedation and stitches, we checked out.
But I didn’t leave the waiting room. For the past five months, I’ve been in life’s waiting room. You might call this place the meantime, the wilderness, a season of transition or smelly arm pit.
Regardless, this waiting room is hard. Many of our “friends” are there. And by “friends” I mean people you break your neck to avoid at Wal-Mart. Pain. Anxiety. Confusion. Anger. Life’s waiting room leads you to doubt. You pray, but nothing happens. You feel helpless. You wonder if God has left. The world’s not crashing down, but your world is.
It’s a diagnosis. It’s being fired or losing your business. It’s the death of someone you love. It’s a spouse leaving or severe depression that drowns the soul.
In my meantime, I’ve battled anxiety. I’ve questioned myself and God. I’ve taken a step forward only to take two steps back.
But I’ve learned a few things. Whether you’re in the meantime right now or not, this post is for you. The waiting room is inevitable. Here are 6 important truths about the meantime.
1.) God lives in the unknown.
We’re a highlight-driven culture. That’s why we love shows like SportsCenter. It’s all about highlights. Only the most explosive dunks, longest home runs, and jaw-dropping goals make the cut. SportsCenter doesn’t show Steph Curry’s morning routine. Frankly, if it did, I wouldn’t watch. Neither would you. Who cares what he eats for breakfast? Just show him “making it rain” from the 3-point line.
Unfortunately, we buy the SportsCenter hype when it comes to life. The best moments are on the mountaintop. And we often equate God’s blessings with our current circumstances. If things are trending up, we feel blessed. But what about when life sucks? Not so blessed anymore.
The past five months, I’ve questioned God’s presence. Has He left me? Is He finished with me? Does He understand my confusion? Where’s the “blessed” life?
I need more highlights.
The truth is, God works in the meantime. Your life might appear more confusing than a junior high girl’s brain. But never equate confusion or chaos with absence. God restores order from chaos. He speaks when the world is silent. And he strengthens through pain.
Throughout Scripture, God reveals himself in the meantime. Abraham leaves his family and land, but God talks directly to him more than once. Jacob is forced to leave his family, but God meets him in the wilderness while he sleeps on a rock. A power-hungry king throws Daniel in a lions’ den. God sends an angel to shut the lions’ mouths.
God not only reveals himself in the meantime. He does so intimately. Rather than sending signs, miracles or prophets, God appears in more direct ways. He isn’t absent in your struggle. He wants to reveal himself intimately.
Don’t get high on Instagram filters and SportsCenter highlights. God dwells in the unknown. Look for Him.
2.) Living in the past is a death sentence.
In the meantime, the past tempts you. Like a fat, junior high bully, it screams, “You don’t know what you left behind. You made a huge mistake. God can’t be trusted. Come back here.”
Living in the past is a death sentence. Why? God, the only source of life, isn’t there. When God’s presence leaves, regret, bitterness, shame, and comparison fill the void.
God leads you towards the future. Always.
In Genesis 19, God spares Lot and his wife from Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. Before escaping, however, an angel gives them one command, “Do not look look back or stop anywhere” (verse 17). Easy enough, right? Of course it is…until God says this to you.
On the outskirts of their former home, Lot’s wife looks back. Immediately, she becomes a pillar of salt.
The angel’s message is a timeless warning that applies today. If you look back, you will die. You won’t turn into a pillar of salt, but regret, shame, and comparison will plague your life.
You must keep your eyes focused forward if you desire joy, peace, and hope. The past might be comfortable, familiar, and easy. That’s why its screams are tempting. But the past is also void of God’s presence.
Your best days aren’t behind you. They’re ahead because God is ahead. Where you’re going is better than where you were.
And, here’s the thing. If you believe this, it will be true.
3.) You might feel lonely. But you should never be alone.
Loneliness and isolation aren’t the same. The first is inevitable in the meantime. The second isn’t. The past five months, Tiffani and I have asked others to pray for us several times. Just last week, we asked leaders at a local church to pray over us. We’ve reached out to friends, asking them to pray for our situation.
I believe in prayer. I also believe in community. If you don’t have one, the meantime will feel longer and more difficult. Christian community holds you up when you can’t stand. It pours new life into your soul when the meantime leaves it parched. Christian community restores perspective when pain and chaos tempt you to throw in the towel.
It will require vulnerability on your part. But maybe vulnerability is the very thing God wants to refine. Regardless, don’t travel through the meantime alone.
4.) You can’t manufacture your way out of the meantime.
I’m a fixer. I blame my engineering background. I’m convinced the impossible math equations and countless hours of homework had one purpose: teach me the art of problem-solving.
If you’re not an engineer, just blame America for your desire to fix things. We’re fixers, and in this country the best fixers have a corner office and a fat bank account. But the skills that make Americans successful make the meantime crappier. There are no magic formulas in life’s waiting room. Brainstorming sessions and hard work usually lead to more problems.
Look, I’m not naive. I know there are “get out of the meantime faster” cheat codes. But, to be honest, if you use one, I hope God presses reset before you have a chance to apply it. You see, my friends, in the meantime, God works. In you, yes. But he’s also ahead of you, cultivating the ground, preparing it for your next season. By-passing or minimizing your time in the waiting room only hurts you.
This is what happens to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1. Moses sends spies into the Promised Land. After salivating over the choice fruits, they stumble upon the natives. And they’re large. So large, in fact, they forget about God’s miracles and provision in the wilderness, and pee in their pants. With wet pants, they run back to Moses and fabricate their report, hoping they won’t have to return to the Promised Land where they would most assuredly pee in their pants again.
The story goes on. Moses relays the spies’ false story to God, and God gets “fightin’ mad.” Moses delivers this story to the Israelites. The Israelites realize they made a mistake and decide to go ahead into the Promised Land. The problem? God’s not there. And they get slaughtered.
Here’s the point. The Israelites tried to manufacture their way into the Promised Land. And you can’t manufacture God’s blessings or promises. God isn’t a dog. He won’t sit on your command, and He won’t cover your back just because you impatiently run ahead of his promises.
The meantime isn’t a place where God expects you to “do.” It’s a place he expects you to “be.” God does the work. Forcing your way out likely involves hurting yourself or someone else. It will always involve instant gratification. And it will never involve the presence of God.
5.) Your emotions are real, but they’re not reality.
In the meantime, you will experience a spectrum of emotions, many of them dark. When they come, express them. If you need to cry, cry. If you have doubts, verbalize them. But don’t suppress your emotions, especially the hard ones. I know you want people to think you have it together, but you can’t selective suppress emotions. So, burying bad emotions (anger, frustration, despair, etc.) means you also bury good ones (joy, peace, love, etc.)
The path to bitterness is paved with buried emotions.
At the same time, your emotions can deceive you. Pain, despair, and anxiety have a way of blinding your perspective and drowning your hope. You’re lost right now. But God knows exactly where you are and what you feel.
6.) The meantime is TEMPORARY.
You can’t imagine another day in the wilderness. “Will this ever end?” circulates through your mind like a 24-hour Ferris wheel.
The past five months, I’ve studied the Bible’s accounts of men and women in life’s waiting room. Some wait for years. Others wait for days or weeks. Regardless of the time frame, every person who encounters the meantime and lives to tell about it shares a common trait.
They refuse to give up.
I know. You want something more profound, something easier. Unfortunately, the “EASY” button won’t help you here. This really is the secret ingredient. Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t lose faith. Trust God. Yes, even in the meantime (especially in the meantime). He can be trusted.
You see, the meantime is temporary. No one stays there forever. Life might call you in the waiting room for a few days or a few years. But you can take this to the bank. It won’t last forever.
The meantime says you will never find stability, joy or meaning. It says God abandoned you. It says you made a mistake, your life’s a mess, and throwing in the towel is your best option.
God says he has a purpose for the meantime. It won’t terminate on itself. You will reach the other side stronger and closer to Him.
If you’re in the meantime right now, I’m praying for you. It’s not easy. Change sucks. Unknown is uncomfortable. But don’t give up. This season is temporary. God is preparing the way for something great. And he’s making you more like Him.
If your life is going well right now, praise God! But the meantime is coming. Remember these truths.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!