In the Meantime…

05/12/2008

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
Revelation 21:6 (NIV)

Our Lord is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…and where does that leave us in this life? Somewhere on that long stretch of time in between A and Z…deciding what to do with our lives in the meantime. In the meantime is where things can get confusingly hard and life chews us up and spits us out, or where blessings are abundant and life is full—usually we live somewhere in between the two extremes.

My husband, Jim, met a man the other day with the last name of Dunn. He joked with Jim saying, “The day I was born, I was done.” Jim laughed and said, “I’ve been sure all my life!” I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard the question, “Are you sure?” and quickly answer back, Jim Shore, or Diane Shore…names can be fun, life can be fun, but not always. We could have caused “psychological” harm to a child if we had had a girl…because we were seriously thinking of naming a daughter Sandy Shore. Well, she could have changed it one day when she married!! Just as I married into the name of Shore, and now have been asked for the last 32 years about my relation to Dinah Shore!

Our Lord is called by many names, including the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and that’s a whole long time considering the length of eternity. In comparison to God’s eternalness, our lifetime on this earth hardly registers, but to us, these years are very important and can seem very long or very short, depending on our circumstances. The days, weeks, months, and years we spend here seem to matter a lot, not only to us but also to our Father in Heaven. He placed us here for a reason, for just such a time as we are living in, and we are to use this in the meantime to its full potential as children of the living God! How do we do that? What does it look like? How are we to survive in the meantime of this life God has planned for each one of us?

The title of this message came out of my recent visit to Florida. The phrase came up in a conversation and it got me to thinking about this life we live and what we do with the days we are given here on planet earth. Some days can be so good, so relaxing, so blessed—as mine were while sitting on a beach with no schedule to meet, no responsibilities calling, no time like the present to just “be” in the moment. But that’s not “real life” is it? That’s not even “real vacation” most times because vacations can sometimes end up being more exhausting then just staying home and working our regular job.

I looked up the phrase “in the meantime” to see where it might be found in the Bible. It did show up in the Message Bible in Psalm 39. It says:

"What am I doing in the meantime, Lord? Hoping, that's what I'm doing—hoping…” Psalm 39:7 (The Message Bible)

The NIV translation says it this way:

"But now, Lord, what do I look for?
      My hope is in you.”

How do we live in the meantime without this Hope? Not well, thank you, not well. When Hope is lost, even if it’s only for a short time…it’s a desperate time, a dangerous time, a devastating time in our lives. In the meantime can seem to be forever when Hope is gone and the circumstances we are facing seem insurmountable.

In talking with my daughter-in-law just the other day, she was asking for something she might say to a young woman in her early 20’s who has been given six months to live. Not only was her life soon to be over, but in calling her mom to come and see her to calm her fears, her mom was involved in a car accident on the way to the hospital and she ended up in a coma for ten days. It seems the stuff of life was weighing far too heavy on the side of “unfair” to this young woman, and her hope in God was slipping away. Where was her Savior in her most difficult hours? She didn’t seem to know, and she was starting not to care.

How many of us have felt that same way when it seemed life was getting the best of us, and we were only left with the worst? And yet as horrible as this story is, I was to hear an even greater encounter with the “unfairness” of life the very same day. A mom, tending to four children, one of whom had a debilitating disease, had lost her husband a few years ago in a car accident while yet another one of her children was paralyzed because of that accident. And if that wasn’t “enough” to deal with, the child with the debilitating disease, having endured years of treatment and surgeries, had recently drowned in the backyard swimming pool… Please Lord! Help us understand these things! Where are You in this agony? Have You left these women to handle their lives between the beginning and the end alone? What are they to do in the meantime of this life!

God’s Word says:

The Day is coming when you'll have it all—life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put
up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in
the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this
suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up,
it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as
evidence of his victory.
1 Peter 1:5-6 (The Message Bible)

The NIV says “in the meantime” this way:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to
suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

In the meantime can be written as “now for a little while,” but it doesn’t seem like “a little while” when it is happening to us or to those we love and care about, does it? Not at all! It seems like forever and ever when our children are sick, when our friends are hurting, when a couple we care so much about is getting a divorce. None of these things are a day “at the beach,” but rather days and days, and weeks and months and sometimes years of seeing the suffering that can come to all of us in this life. And in the meantime, what are we to do? I think the answer was found in one word in a book I picked up in Florida while I was out shopping with my best friend. You may be thinking, “No way.” “It’s not that simple.” “These things in life are hard.” “They are complicated.” “They seem to be without answers.” I agree with you. I would say “Yes” to all of the above arguments, but let me share what I found in that book with you, and then we’ll go from there…

My friend and I started out doing the “clothes shopping thing,” which is not my thing, but I could see a bookstore off in the distance, which is my thing! When we got to the bookstore I made my way to the section I love most, books that talk about God, about Heaven, about the way through this life when things go beyond what we think we can bear. I picked up many books, and finally settled on a book called, “A Glimpse of Heaven,” through the eyes of many different authors. The book included writings by, C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, Dr. Tony Evans, and so on. As I leafed through it on my way to the front counter to pay for it, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good friend included in this book! There on page 45, I found Dr. David Haney! Dave was the very man, our pastor, who walked with us through the darkest days of our son’s illness, and who joined us in Phil’s bedroom on the night he died. Dave is a dedicated man of God, who has since moved to a new church in Austin, Texas! We miss you Dave!!

Dave had not one, but two stories about Heaven included in this book, and the one I want to share with you was one I remember him telling us while we enjoyed him as the pastor of our church. I remember it well; because I knew the very emotions the father in this story was working through as he came to grips with the loss of his daughter, Rebecca. She had died in a tragic automobile accident. Here is how Dave tells part of this father’s story:

As family and friends gathered in that all-too-familiar context of sorrow, Rebecca’s father and I went into a side room to talk and make arrangements for the days ahead. We spoke to people from all over the country—some who knew this beautiful young woman and some who simply knew of her. Her father’s resolve in the face of this tragedy was overwhelming. The depth of his pain and the significance of his loss were as great as any we can know.
After one of the phone calls, he quietly hung up, turned to me, and said, “I guess that’s the point, Dave.”
“Excuse me?” I imagined I had missed the first part of his statement.
“The point of this kind of thing. The point of heaven,” he said.
My puzzled look urged him to continue. “Heaven. That’s the point—heaven. More than ever, that is where I want to be—where I can see her again and talk to her again and…hold her again.”
He paused as if momentarily transported to that place and that day. Then he finished, “Now the rest of my life will just be waiting.”
As his lip trembled and his eyes pressed closed, I got the point.

Do we get the point?
Did you see the word I am talking about?
The word is, “Waiting.”
In other words, “In the meantime” or “Now for a little while.”

Our lives are one long “wait” for Heaven. As it says in 1 Peter, lives filled with aggravation, but the Day is coming when we’ll have it all—life healed and whole! Sometimes the waiting in life is easy, but many times it is very, very hard—and with lips trembling and with eyes pressed closed, we are called to wait… Between the Alpha and the Omega, we must be “Sure,” we must be “Done,” we must “Be” whoever God made us to be, in whatever circumstances God has placed us in, and wait in the Hope we have been given. It’s not a defeatist attitude to have, it’s the only attitude to have—it’s an attitude of Hope through whatever happens in our lives. It’s an attitude we can “Be” in, and rest in, each day of our lives.

Brother Lawrence puts it this way:

I do not say we must put ourselves to a great deal of trouble. No, we must serve God in a holy freedom; we must do our business faithfully, without stress or tension; reminding ourselves of God mildly and with tranquility, as often as we find our minds wandering from Him.

There’s nothing fair or unfair about this life, it has nothing to do at all with fairness—it has everything to do with our Hope in the promises of Jesus! As I’ve heard it said, Grace is Jesus giving us what we don’t deserve, and Mercy is Jesus not giving us what we do deserve. What’s divvied up in this life is not figured out on the Lord’s “fair” scale, because if that was the case, we’d all be doomed for our sins. Instead, it’s calculated on His “love” scale, an immeasurable amount of it, as in, “He loved us so much, He gave us His only Son.” The Lord started us out in this life, and the Lord will finish this life with us—and in the meantime we are to wait with our eyes focused on all that Jesus has done for us, and on the Heaven that’s promised to us—because when we do, we’ll be looking at what’s good, very good, and not what’s unbelievably hard, very hard in this world.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to
live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while
we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God
and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all
wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own,
eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

I started out the year 2008 ready to go! Eager to do “what is good,” but my get up and go, got up and went, as I fell flat on my face. I have never been so far down physically, needing those around me to drive me to the doctor, or just to even convince me to go to the doctor in the first place, as in the case of my sister!! Thanks Karen! The month of January was spent laying low, waiting for surgery; the months of February and March were spent recovering from that surgery. Then the month of April started with a trip to Florida to top off the tank of recovery, and now I am back home…looking at the new year with a renewed strength and eagerness! It only took four and a half months to get the New Year started!! Life, it can slam us down hard emotionally, physically, spiritually when we least expect it! Life is not a game, it’s a war, and we’re in the midst of it.

I had the opportunity to talk with a Christian counselor on my visit to Florida, gleaning any insight he might have as to how Satan works in this world and how Jesus makes a way through the worst that life can deal us. I was a bit perplexed at one point in our discussion because I was being taught, in an even greater way, how Jesus protects us in this life, how He never leaves us. I had to ask the counselor, “Then why doesn’t Jesus just rescue us out of what hurts the most?” The answer came, not as a surprise, but as a confirmation that took me once again to this Scripture in John 17:15 (NIV), “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” We can know in the midst of our worst nightmares that the Lord is there, but as this counselor said, “We still live in a fallen world until Jesus comes back.” The challenge comes while living “in” this world, to not be “of” this world. While we wait with Jesus through the aggravations of life, we must do so with our eyes focused on Heaven!

Keeping our eyes focused on Heaven is not easy! It takes practice, and perseverance through the many things that must be endured along the way. When the things of life hit us, we can be plunged into a darkness that seems to have no way of escape—we can be taken so low it feels like we’ll never get up again. Through it all, Jesus is still there, but it can be such a temptation to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on this world and the troubles that surround us. That’s when Hope can go M.I.A.—during the spiritual warfare that we cannot see, but we can certainly feel, our enemy, Satan, is trying his very best to demolish any Hope we have. He’s good at it too! As I’ve heard it said, “Satan’s been at this a lot longer than we have.”

In talking with a friend the other day, she was telling me about a woman whose cancer is very serious and about the hope she has in the face of what may come to her. She’s in a huge battle, dealing with her own fears, and her own questions, as we all would—but in the meantime, she’s doing her best to hang onto the Hope of Jesus. It’s not easy, it’s one of the hardest things of life, but my friend said while watching this woman go through such fiery trials, it helps prepare her for her own trials which may come. Sometimes God can seem so invisible in our everyday, so out of reach—but if we take a glimpse into the furnace of another’s life when it’s been turned up seven times hotter than normal, there are times when Jesus is clearly visible as we watch them making their way through what is impossible with mere human strength. Sometimes we can see Jesus’ strength in them, but sometimes they need the strength He fills us with to help remind them that they are not alone. That’s why we’re called into fellowship with one another. Through it all, whether we’re the one sinking or the one swimming, we’re all in this pond of life together.

George MacDonald writes:

let us think to ourselves, or say to our friend, “God is; Jesus is not dead; nothing can be going wrong, however it may look so to hearts unfinished in childness.”…Then perhaps the Father will say, “Comfort them, My Son Jesus, with the memory of Your patience when you were missing Me. Comfort them that You were sure of Me when everything about You seemed so unlike Me, so unlike the place You had left.”

Jesus has not left any of us in the meantime to do this life without Him. It’s important to dig deep, right down to the core of our being, and know the love of our Lord is there. When we’re living this life firmly planted deep in the love of Jesus, that’s where the devil doesn’t want us to dwell—because if we can truly know we are loved, if we can truly know we are cared for, we can find a peace in the waiting. Knowing an eternal peace belongs to us as God’s children is vital to living fully in the meantime of this life we’ve been given.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (NIV)

We don’t like trouble, but it comes to all of us in one way or another. There can be such beauty and calm in this world—relaxing days on sandy beaches under the warmth of the sun…but there are also days spent sitting beside a hospital bed, or standing at the graveside of a loved-one’s coffin, wanting so badly to touch them just once more before they go... If we can’t believe in anything or anyone else in those moments of life, we have to believe that Jesus has overcome this world so that we can take heart in the meantime. One day, the wait will be over and Jesus will return. On that day, we’ll SEE that the wait was well worth it!

Until we meet again,

Diane