I began first grade in 1975 in Doraville, GA. My family lived in an apartment complex called Plymouth Colony and, though we had next to nothing, I remember that year as a really happy time. In those days, a six-year-old could walk out of his family’s apartment on a Saturday at 9 AM and stay gone for hours, playing with his friends, roaming the complex and seeking out some innocent mischief. I was befriended that year by two brothers, Allen and Matt, and we decided to head off into the surrounding woods one day for an afternoon of searching out trails by ourselves. Later, when we heard the loud whistles of their dad and the booming voice of my dad calling for us, we knew we had been gone a little too long. Running back towards the apartment, we had to jump a creek before we could get to our fathers. I came up short in my leap and landed hard into a boggy patch of sand. Immediately sinking up to my thighs, and having nothing to grasp onto in order to pull myself out, I came to the realization that I was 100% stuck. Panic quickly set in as I was unable to move at all. The whole ordeal likely lasted less than five minutes but, in my young mind, I was surely going to sink to the bottom of the creek while my father was calling for me, unable to locate me, unable to rescue me. Fortunately, Allen and Matt ran ahead and brought our two dads to where I was. There were no rebukes from my father for my wandering in the woods. He just reached down, grabbed both my hands, and effortlessly pulled me out and brought me up. The memory is so vivid to me today, while the event was more than forty years ago. In the end, I lost a shoe in the mud that day, but I gained a lesson:
I do not respond well when I am convinced that I am stuck in the mud.
Yesterday’s post talked about how seasons of change are ordained by God in order to, in part, foster faith and humility in us. Today I want to submit to you that God also works in seasons where He chooses not to change anything for us. He leaves us “stuck in the mud” for a season. We cannot move. We cannot extract ourselves. Nobody in our lives can pull us out of our current freeze-frame. We are not imagining things during these seasons – we are truly stuck because God is not offering us a present solution to change our circumstances which can sometimes feel like a prison. During seasons like this (I call them seasons of sameness), our Father is intentionally building us in faith and patience.
I want to talk about the elephant in the room: God seems slow to most of us. He doesn’t own a watch because He is not bound by time. He is never worried about being late because He knows the end from the beginning. God never worries, hurries or scurries. At the risk of sounding irreverent, I wish He would move more quickly. He does not seem concerned at all that His ways do not align themselves with my calendar. Interestingly, God has never asked me advice on how to schedule my life. My assumption is that He is supremely confident that He does a better job of that than I would do. Because I often perceive God as being slow, I am susceptible to feeling stuck during regular seasons of life. You have dealt with this feeling too.
Stuck in a job
Stuck in a church
Stuck in a trial or testing
Stuck in a floundering relationship
Most of us are still in the process of learning this, but we are growing more aware that, during seasons of sameness, our wise Father is strengthening our faith and building our patience. Whereas I have already written on how seasons of change test our trust in Him, these monotonous seasons of being inextricably stuck in something undesirable also challenge our trust. Are we able to stay put, looking primarily at God for security, peace and comfort? Are we getting panicky with each week, month or year that passes without our rescue coming? Most of us tend to experience a dwindling of hope when an immovable situation continues to block our escape, deny our breakthrough or bring us our relief. We can begin a season of sameness fairly well but, when it elongates, we can be tempted to doubt the One who determines the times and the seasons. If you feel like a first-grader thigh-deep in the mud, and have been there longer than you anticipated, I can promise you that your compassionate Father is working to cultivate in you a new level of trust in your heart.
And then there is the issue of your patience. This is not the same thing as your faith, or your trust. Patience is the outflow of your trust in God. When we are exercising faith in the character of our Father, patience during seasons of sameness is produced. Remember with me that patience is fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we really discern that we are in the midst of a prolonged sense of being stuck, we can be tempted to panic. We might fight. We can become experts in self-deliverance. Rather than remaining in an uncomfortable, disheartening situation, and rather than waiting on God to bring about a victory, we grasp at anything to pull ourselves up and out of the immobilizing bog. We do not give much thought of where our next step take might take us…we just want out of where we currently are. So we exercise any and all options to rise up, move away, go forth and experience that addictive, immediate sense of relief. We tell ourselves that we will work on our need for deepening patience later on, when things aren’t so…. well…stuck. In these moments, the sensation of relief outweighs the substance of patience, and we self-deliver.
We quit our job
We leave our church
We compromise our values to bring about a quick solution
We terminate a relationship with the hollow hope that someone else will better supply what the person we are leaving once supplied.
Yet, if we can rely on the Holy Spirit for just one more month, one more week, maybe only one more day, the patience He supplies serves as an eventual gateway into what God is working. In seasons of sameness, He is working for you. You may not see it right way, but He is working for you. He is also working around you. God utilizes natural means and human processes to accomplish His divine plans. He is not bound in time – but He uses it to facilitate His will for your life. Sometimes He speeds things up but, more often than not, He will slow things down in order to build your character. Not only is God working for you and around you, most importantly, He is working on you. You and I need to get still and, since most of us do not love to be still, you and I occasionally need to get stuck. When He leaves us where we do not desire to be, it is not because He is a mean and heartless Father. God leaves us in seasons of sameness because we are not yet inwardly ready for the next season that He has prepared for us. When He desires to work in us some lasting good, He moves very precisely. It seems to me that, when He desires to work precisely, He prefers not to have to hit a moving target. He wants us still. He leaves us stuck for a bit.
Fight your inner impulse to flee, self-deliver or make something happen. Consider that it may just require another month, another day or another hour. Be more concerned about short-circuiting God’s intended work than you are concerned about spending another motionless moment in a season of sameness. Without saying too much more, just let me offer this: once God has determined to work into you something which you need, He will be very patient as He waits on your cooperation with His plan. You can temporarily change your scenery if you choose, but you cannot change His mind. He will simply meet you a little farther down the road, cause you to get still (maybe even stuck again), and ask you,
“Are you ready for Me to work on this again in your life? Will you trust Me? You will feel stuck, child, but I promise you that I will be right by your side. I am your strong, loving Father and, when the prepared moment comes, I will pull you out of this mud. And then we will walk out of these woods together, closer than we have ever been to one another.”
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