Living "In the Meantime"
One of my pastor heroes is Dr. Jerold McBride. He pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for many years, and he championed missions and evangelism efforts all over the world. I had the privilege of officiating his funeral a few years ago. Dr. McBride and I visited rather frequently, and he passed along rich wisdom on how to deal with the rigors of daily life and ministry. Just prior to his passing, he sent a copy of a little booklet to Shannon and me called “In The Meantime.” The booklet had come out of one of his sermon series. It was based primarily upon Dr. McBride’s struggle in caring for and subsequently losing a spouse to ALS. I would like to share some insights from Dr. McBride’s booklet in this article that be quite helpful for you.
Living “in the meantime” refers to the time we spend in between dreams and reality, or between a beginning and ending. Would you agree that the entire year of 2020 thus far essentially has been one big “meantime” for us? We anticipate being able to meet again without masks, to take a vaccine to the coronavirus, to share in a churchwide fellowship meal, or even to hug each other and shake hands. But we are just not there yet. We’re living in the meantime.
You may have a number of meantimes in your life at present. For instance, my family is living through a time of being in-between houses. We fortunately see some light at the end of the tunnel! Some of you however may be dealing with some rather serious meantimes. You live in between treatments for a painful illness. You may be waiting to get back to normal after a surgery or a painful time of grieving. So, how do we live in the meantime?
The Bible is full of stories about people who lived in the meantime. Jeremiah’s is one of the more recognizable stories. Jeremiah and his countrymen went through the horrors that came with the overthrow of their nation and subsequent exile. Yet, Jeremiah carried with him an encouraging and graceful message from God:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’” (Jeremiah 29:4-7, NASB).
Notice from this passage how God suggests we get through the meantimes of life.
1. Do the next thing. This means that, as much as possible, we do whatever it is we have done had there been no meantime. God encouraged the exiles to build houses, grow produce, continue to get married and have kids, and to do their very best to be peaceful and productive people in a foreign land. In other words, let’s keep paying our bills, going to work, cleaning the house, and doing our best to please the Lord regardless of what life throws at us. A sense of normalcy and routine always helps us in the meantime.
2. Take time to celebrate the small things. What is there to celebrate in your life today? Remember the old hymn “Count Your Blessings?” Take a few minutes today to count the blessings in your life, and lift up prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord. You don’t have to wait until November to be thankful. For example, I am immensely thankful to God today for being able to chat on Zoom and FaceTime with Shannon and my kids, and I can actually see their faces. Even though I can’t see them in person right now, I can see them through the wonder of modern technology. Just seeing their faces makes my heart happy.
3. Remember that God hears us when we pray. Shannon and I have been reading the Psalms together for some months. It has been amazing the lessons we have learned and re-learned by noting the examples of prayer by the Psalmists. They cried out to God with the whole heart and were confident that God heard them. Time after time, they rested in faith that God intimately knows and is concerned about our fears and hopes. Even though it may be difficult to pray during the “meantimes,” do your best to cry out to the Lord. Sometimes it may seem that you don’t even have the words to pray, but God understands (Romans 8:26).
As we continue to live through the meantime of 2020, let’s recommit ourselves today to doing the next thing, celebrating our blessings, and staying on our knees before a graceful and holy God.