Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 24, 2016

Finding God In The In-Between Spaces Of Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife is full of in-between spaces.  We always seem to be transitioning from one thing to another.   We wait for children to be born, for a new job to open up, for college to start, and for retirement to arrive.  As a church we are about to enter an in-between space as we begin a pastoral search process.

These in-between spaces can be hard to navigate.  Transitions can cause anxiety, impatience, and uncertainty.  I remember the season in my life when I was in the in-between space between graduating from seminary and waiting for my first call to a church.  There were a couple of months where nothing seemed to be coming together and I spent some of my days watching my sisters kids while she worked.  It was frustrating and confusing.  I started to question why I had just spent 3 years doing a masters program so I could be a babysitter!

Where is God during these times?  What is God up to when we haven’t fully arrived at our next destination?

Jeremiah 29 offers some helpful perspective here.   Many of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11.  Here the prophet says, “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” These are comforting words as we look out at the horizon of life.  God speaks a word of hope and encouragement for those of us who are looking ahead.  We can face the future with hope because he has plans to prosper us.

What we often overlook, however, is that this passage was written to a group of people who have just been told that they will be in exile for the next 70 years (Jer. 29:10). This reminds us that the journey toward this preferred future involves navigating long disorienting in-between spaces.

 I wonder if the recipients of this letter from the prophet Jeremiah thought that it was sent to the wrong address!  How could Jeremiah be so positive when the foreseeable future was going to be difficult and uncertain?

When we look more closely at the passage, however, we begin to discover that part of God’s promises are going to be worked out in this frustrating in-between space.   In vs. 12 Jeremiah tells Israel that as a result of coming through 70 years of exile, “you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you.”

 The prosperity that Jeremiah speaks of is not so much a material prosperity as it is a spiritual prosperity.   As they face the hardship of exile they will turn back to God and begin to seek to him with all their heart.  God is doing important work in this in-between space.  The uncertainty of the present exile is providing an opportunity for the Israelites to confront the idols of their heart and to grow in their trust and love for God.

This reminds us that the in-between spaces of life are not wasted on us.  On the contrary, God often uses the seasons of uncertainty and transition to do some important work in our hearts.  These are seasons where we have the opportunity to grow deeper in character and faith.  The in-between spaces of life are part of the way in which God is working out his preferred future for our lives.

 My hope is that as we navigate the challenges of the in-between spaces of life we will find ourselves growing in our faith and awareness of God.    These seasons are not meant to be viewed as a holding pattern.  Sometimes God’s greatest kingdom work is being done in times of transition.  Let’s be on the lookout, then, for the way God is at work in the in-between spaces of life.

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