How many times in the last six or seven months have you thought or said out loud, I am just over all of this! This could be quarantine, the COVID virus, racial unrest, politics, working from home, homeschooling, or a dozen other things. Some have simply tossed their hands up in the air, a sure sign of giving up. Others of us have struggled to connect because of restrictions. Some are achingly lonely. We have missed birthday celebrations, milestones and graduations. A few have had to endure the sickness and death of a loved one who was alone. It would be easy to just give up. But challenges in this life are inevitable. Jesus warned us “In this life you will have trouble.” We are not alone in our struggles. Nor are we the only ones who would have liked to have given up.
As I have written over the last few months it occurs to me that some of the people I reference for various struggles and challenges are the same time and time again. That seems to be a common thread in fact. God uses our challenges to stretch us, mold us and help us grow in our faith. Picture Abraham and Sarah leaving all they are familiar with when they are old. They move to a new place with new surroundings and new people. The food is different, and the rules change. That sounds like what happens to our loved ones who can no longer care for themselves and they move to assisted living or a group home. It would have been easy for them to say no. It would have been easier to ignore God. Instead they choose to follow God's plan.
It would have been easy for Joseph to give up after his brothers sold him into slavery. He could have been sullen, angry or hateful. Instead he trusted God to see him through one struggle after another. Perhaps waving a white flag was not an option but walking away from the Lord was. Joseph too choose to let the Lord lead and guide him. Midway through their wandering in the wilderness we find Moses talking with God, saying hey these are your people not mine. Do something with them. But even though the Israelites were stiff necked and stubborn, Moses continued to go to the Lord in his struggles.
In serving the Lord Ezekiel was instructed to lie on his left side for 390 days...one day for each year of Israel's sins. He cooked his food over cow manure and ate small portions as a sign and warning about the upcoming siege and exile. Then he was instructed to lay on his right side for 40 days...one day for each year of Judah's sins. The prophet Jeremiah was instructed to go to Gods people and proclaim a warning to them. And after those instructions God told Jeremiah no one would listen to him but go anyway. This was all about giving God's people a chance to repent. Hosea was instructed to marry a prostitute and Jonah was called to go to a people who were cruel and vicious. For all of them, it would have been way easier to simply give up and walk away. But none did.
Perhaps these words from 2 Peter 3:8-9 sum it up. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” When it feels like it is time to wave the white flag, toss up our hands and give up...that is the time to lean into the Lord. This is about His timing, not ours. In every situation there are things to be learned, even if it is simply to trust in what the Lord is doing. Our timing is often off, but God's is always perfect.
Sometimes our desire to give up comes from waiting. But this is what Paul has to say about giving up because we are tired of waiting. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Isaiah reminds us that ”Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” It is not fun to wait. It can be boring, tiring...painful. During that time, we can complain, whine, grumble or give up. Waiting is not intended to be unproductive time. Joseph used it to build relationships with Egyptians who might help him later. And Joseph, Mary's husband used the waiting to prepare for the birth of Mary's first child.
We are waiting too. Waiting to get back to a life we may never have again. Waiting for the virus to go away. Waiting for the election and whatever the aftermath might be. We are waiting to be able to go places without a mask on. The question is, are we waiting on the Lord or IN the Lord?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W