Posted by: Philip Rushton | June 3, 2010

Where is God When Life is on Hold?

It’s 7:30 am on Thursday morning. I just saw Julie off to work. Spent a bit of time reading the psalms and the current biblical book that I’m working through. I’ve already checked my e-mail, facebook, blog stats, and read the latest news headlines online. (Secretly, I wasted a half hour playing this ridiculous internet game called ‘Crush the Castle.’)

Now what? It’s 7:30 am and my schedule is empty.

Those of you who are facing a hectic time of life right now are probably saying, “that sounds blissful.” As a recent graduate student who juggled work on the side, I can remember the joy of having a day with nothing to do. To be honest, I was enjoying this relaxing schedule at the beginning of the year. But as the months have dragged on without any coherent rhythm to my life, I have started to get frustrated. I haven’t had any work at my ‘on-call’ job in Abbotsford for a couple weeks and I am not legally allowed to start my job down in Longview until I get my visa. My life feels like it is on hold.

I know that a number of you are wrestling with similar challenges this year. Whether it is due to unemployment or health complications, life feels like it has been put on hold. For me, this experience has raised a lot of questions about where God is in the midst of all of this. I find myself wondering why God is letting life continue in this holding pattern for so long, and I’m confused as to what he is calling me to do in the meantime.

My mother-in-law bought Julie and I a devotional this past Christmas titled Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. While I tend to approach popular Christian literature from the “inspirational” genre with the skepticism typical of theology student , I must say I have found a few gems in this book.

Sarah Young wrote this devotional during a year when her life was on hold. Like Julie and I, Sarah and her husband were waiting endlessly for a visa to come so they could start their missionary work Australia. During this year Sarah also went through four surgical operations as she battled with cancer.

Sarah’s devotional takes on the form of listening prayer. She spends time listening to what God is saying as she reflects on scripture, and then creatively presents these thoughts as though they are written from God. One quote that has stuck out to me reads:

“Thank Me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells.”

It is true to scripture that God’s kingdom work is often done in unexpected places like sick beds and prison cells. It is surprising how often God’s accomplishes his goals by leading his people through set-backs and seasons of waiting in the Bible. Abraham waits for years to have his promised son, the Israelites wander through the desert for 40 years, David spends 10 years in the wilderness fleeing the wrath of Saul, and Paul spends much of his ministry in prison. What we discover in scripture is that these times of waiting are very formative in the lives of God’s people. As God’s people endure set-backs they confront their idolatry and learn to put their trust in God.

The psalmist reflects on God’s purpose in letting his people endure set-backs in Psalm 66. He writes, “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; and we went through fire and water, BUT you brought us to a place of abundance.”

The psalmist recognizes that God had a purpose in leading his people through seasons of waiting and hardship. He says that God led his people through hardship in order to bring them to a place of abundance. Paul came to a similar conclusion in Romans 5:3-4 where he says, “we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Throughout this year I have had glimpses of what God might be up to in my life. I have prayed a lot in recent years for God to shape me into a person with a stronger faith. One of the things I wrestle with is anxiety when I face set-backs and unknowns. This experience of waiting has definitely forced me to confront that anxiety and to wrestle with my faith. Perhaps the ‘place of abundance’ God is leading me to is a place where I can deeply trust him even when things are uncertain. I can also see that God has been equipping me to better empathize and come along side others who are going through difficult situations.

Where do you see God in the midst of the set-backs or holding patterns that you have been facing? What is the place of abundance he is leading you to?

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the post, Phil. It’s a good reminder for me as well. I tend to thrive when I’m busy, but when time is heavy on my hands, I’m immobilized. Here’s to “holding on” indefinitely!

  2. Hey Andrea, thanks for the post! The irony of my post today is that I forgot I had a shift scheduled this afternoon. When my scheduler went off I had to quickly cut my usual 45 minute bike ride down to 35 minutes to get to work on time. Oh the joys of being on call eh? Things go from leisure to chaos within hours.


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