There are certain times in life when it’s easier to get into trouble. Growing up, some us struggled with summertime. Adding a lot of freedom, and subtracting any structure and supervision was a formula for disaster for certain kids.
Some of us have problems with lunchtime, especially if we don’t prepare in advance and actually pack something healthy. Having to go out and run the gauntlet of fast food franchises or peruse the options at the food court never seems to end up putting anything wholesome on our plates. And so we stay stuck in the unhealthy place we really don’t want to be, but can’t seem to get out of.
But one of the most challenging and problematic times for all of us is the meantime.
That’s the time between hearing the promise of God and actually receiving it. It’s the time between being brought out of a place you needed to be delivered from, and being brought into the place that God was taking you.
For Abraham, that time lasted 25 years! He was 75 when God told him that he and his wife Sarah would have a son, and that through this son, God would make Abraham a great nation and also bless all the nations of the world. He was 100 when the child of that promise, Isaac, was finally born.
But in the meantime, Abraham and Sarah made a bit of a mess.
See, about 10 or 15 years into that “meantime,” they began to get impatient. Their desperation grew with each childless year that passed. So eventually they decided to help God out by having Sarah’s handmaid Hagar sleep with Abraham and have a son for her.
You don’t even have to know the story to know that didn’t end well.
For Israel, the meantime was a season of wandering in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt by the mighty hand of their God. They were out of their bondage, but they weren’t fully in possession of their blessing. In their meantime, they started thinking about how “good” they had it in Egypt. They started griping and grumbling about how terrible it was in the desert. They started rebelling against God’s purpose for them as His chosen people. That’s why a lot of them lost their lives under the sudden wrath of God, and that whole generation died out there for their faithlessness.
If you haven’t already, sooner or later you’re going to have to go through your own wilderness. It’s that place in life where your problem is behind you (thank God!), but your promise is still ahead of you. The meantime is the in-between time.
God gave you a glimpse of glory…but now nothing seems to be happening. The excitement of the initial calling is beginning to fade and wither under the scorching sun. It’s starting to seem like the Lord has forgotten all about what He said to you, and you start to wonder if it was really even Him who was talking to you in the first place. You pray and you wait and you wait and you pray, but your patience doesn’t seem to be paying off. At all.
Don’t mess up in the meantime. If you’re patient between your problem and your promise, you’ll find your purpose!
There are some lessons to be learned while you’re “wandering.”
This isn’t about you…and it never was! In the desert of life, you’re made to confront the bigger picture of what it’s all about — you realize that you’re completely at the mercy of your Maker, and you always were! Israel got so caught up in their needs and desires that they lost track of the larger agenda that was unfolding. It became more about them than about Him.
The wilderness is going to be tough to endure, but your perseverance depends on your perspective. If you keep the right focus, you can’t really murmur and complain. You remember that you’re simply clay in the Potter’s hands. So you humble yourself before a mighty and merciful God, and you thank Him for letting you be a part of His plan.
You’re not as ready as you thought you were! Just because you’re out of Egypt doesn’t mean you’re ready for Canaan. Israel had been slaves for generations in Pharaoh’s land. They weren’t a nation. They weren’t warriors. They weren’t organized. The Promised Land was going to be a great blessing, but it was also going to be a huge responsibility. So God had to get them ready.
We like to think we’re prepared for the promotions and the progress that we’re asking for. But thank God for the mercy of making us wait. It didn’t feel much like mercy at the time, but looking back, you can see now that you needed more wisdom than you had when He first called you. You needed to build up your strength to withstand the enemy’s challenge to your claim. You needed time to outgrow some friendships and attachments that would have been a liability on the next level.
Through it all, your’e still being taken care of! In the wilderness, you learn all about the faithfulness of God. It may seem like you’re dying of hunger or thirst, but every day you wake up…and somehow you’re still here! You don’t have everything you want (far from it!), but you still have everything you need. You learn to rely on God completely, to lean on Him absolutely.
Even in the driest seasons of life, you’ll still see the wonderful, sustaining providence of the Lord at work if you look for it. They didn’t plant a single crop or dig a single well, but God gave Israel manna every morning and water from a rock! The desert teaches you to trust Him more deeply, to walk with Him more closely so that you don’t forget all about the Giver once you get the gift.
If God has brought you out, He’s going to bring you in. There may be a desert between your departure and your destination, but you will get where He’s taking you…
…as long as you don’t mess up in the meantime.