The In-between Place

I didn’t realize it until recently that that is exactly where I am, have been this past almost 14 years. The in-between place, the place where one is suspended between the past and the longed-for place somewhere in the future. The in-between place can be a hard place to be. It’s not really where you want to find yourself in, and yet, you are somehow powerless to leave, not until the time is ripe and good and it’s what God has planned. The in-between place is a place of waiting. Waiting for a breakthrough – in career, in finding the right life partner, in conceiving a child, in healing. It could be healing from a painful or traumatic past or healing from an illness.

This blog theme painting was rashly and haphazardly done... but I hope you get the message :) .

This blog theme painting was rushly and haphazardly done, but … you get the message :) .

The in-between place is the valley of life. It is low, often dark and lonely. It’s a place of longing. For most, a deep longing. And yet, the in-between place is a place of healing itself, a conveyance from the place of brokenness toward that bright hope where things will have shifted into one’s favor and everything will have been made whole. The mind has forgotten and the wounds in the heart and soul have healed. But that is only one particular case.

However much we want to reach that breakthrough, it doesn’t entirely depend on ourselves. But it mostly depends on Providence. In the meantime (yes, meantime is the in-between place), we can make ourselves flourish while we wait. The in-between place is not necessarily barren but more of preparatory. Of learning and growing. The in-between place is either a journey or a resting place or both. You journey in the dark, uncertain valley toward your dream and hoped-for destination and you also rest awhile. Either way, you learn the hardest and most important lessons. The in-between place is a classroom and the hardships and challenges if offers are the teachers.

Faith

Hope

Trust

Patience

Courage

Perseverance

Steadfastness

Faith and everything that comes with it are what will make us thrive in this place. And they are what will bring us to our breakthrough.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And while we gain hard-fought learning and wisdom in this place, it also offers the greatest opportunity to know God more intimately. Which, by the way, is the finest form of wisdom. We don’t come to know Him as the God who sits on His throne and barks orders to His angel armies while they scurry about. A God who keeps Himself aloof with the affairs of His people. No, but we will come to know a God who is very personal, who wants Himself to be known intimately, who wants to build a divinely passionate relationship with us. One which the gates of hell cannot prevail against. One which no one and nothing can pluck us out of. Or separate us from.

That was the kind of relationship God wanted to establish with His people, the Israelites of old. But for them, the in-between place, that place between the bondage of Egypt and the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, is just a wilderness, a harrowing journey they didn’t care much about. In fact, they complained and murmured continually. Some of us (even I on occasions) have been like the Israelites one time or another while waiting to arrive at our Promised Lands. And then, there are those who never arrive, just like many of the Israelites had not, their carcasses scattered in the desert. Just because they did not have faith.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Debut. 8:2-3)

Allowed you to hunger. I very well know that the Prophet Moses wasn’t only talking about hunger for food, but also for that longed-for something at the end of our in-between place. I believe even the ancient Israelites weren’t thinking only about food, but they were also hankering for a place they could call home, where they could at last settle down and take root.

But now we understand that God allows us this hunger. For only through knowing it that we turn to Him, realizing sooner or later that only Him could truly satisfy.

So, we surrender to this hunger and to the will of the Sustainer. And just like how He had provided for His people in the past, He will provide everything we need. For He has a plan for us. And His plan is perfect. He will bring us to our Promised Land.

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Steadfastness

I should be writing about joy. I was so excited to pursue the subject that I had begun researching and listing Bible verses. I wasn’t only inspired, my hope received a fresh brushing up also. For days and nights, the words formed themselves into sentences and the sentences arranged themselves into paragraphs in my mind. “Okay,” I told myself. “Joy it will be for Writing Monday.”

steadfastness

Then Sunday came and I found myself lying in a prone position (again!), waiting for my labored breathing to ease up. The suffering was long and wearying. It was the antithesis of my fervent prayers for wellness and strength I particularly prayed for that day. “I can’t write about joy. At least, not at this time,” I thought as I fought the negative emotions that were hovering at the doors of my mind. “Shall I be angry? Shall I be discouraged? Shall I give up already?” These emotions are old, as far as I’m concerned, and even they have lost their appeal to me. Before I completely gave up on those self-defeating thoughts, a pained question passed over my mind, “Are You walking with me, Lord?”

My thoughts shifted to: “I will write about a God-honoring life.” My mind toyed with the idea as I waited for good breathing. But after a while, I gave it up. That, too, seemed a Herculean task (as far as inspiration is concerned) when placed side by side with my suffering body. “I pray that my life will always honor God however hard I’m going through. But I can’t write about that now, either,” I thought with finality and a sigh.

Suddenly, the scene on the Prophet Elijah fleeing from Jezebel unfolded in my mind. I am no prophet but I wanted to compare my situation with his. He had been very zealous for God, and now, they sought to kill him. He sat under a broom tree and sulked and wished that he could just die. Elijah waited but God wasn’t in the strong wind; He wasn’t in the earthquake either; neither was He in the fire. Then, he heard His still, small voice. (See 1 Kings 19).

In the midst of my strong winds of suffering, I couldn’t write about joy; neither could I write about a subject as lofty as ‘a God-honoring life’ while fierce shaking continues to jolt me in my long, fiery trial. Then a still, small voice whispered, steadfastness. “Yes, maybe that I can write about,” my heart answered.

Steadfastness is the state of being “firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc.” To be steadfast is to be unwavering. Yet, not all Christians are steadily strong and immovable, especially during season of hard testing. I myself have encountered all sorts of challenges against my steadfastness, but though these have tried to topple me (at times, the struggle is so great to the point of a temporary spiritual crisis), the Lord has always held me fast.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. (Ps. 94:18-19 NIV)

He is faithful to His promise:

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Heb. 13:5)

But though His promises stand, we need to do our part. In fact, much work needs to be done: unceasing prayers (sometimes with fasting), being rooted in the Word, closely walking in the Spirit, and never losing sight of God’s perfect will. But sometimes we grow faint even with prayer, especially when there is only barren land as far as our eyes can see. In trials, patience tends to thin out into a fragile film that it is just hard to take hold of it without it breaking in our hands.

The Lord knows it, that’s why it was necessary for Him to tell a story about being persistent in prayer (see Luke 18:1-8). Also, St. James teaches that the development of patience is the very purpose of trials and reminds us that there is a blessing at the end of our faithful endurance.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5: 10-12)

Below is a simple diagram we can remember in cultivating steadfastness in our lives with the Holy Spirit and Word of God acting as catalysts:

Perseverance + patience = steadfastness

Steadfastness is a combination of these but what does it really look like? I wish that, for me, it always looked like a young maiden in the peak of health who sings praises to God like there’s no tomorrow, who worships without any reservation, and who humbly bends the knees in fervent prayer, steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that [her] labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58); she walks with a spring in her step! But truth be told, my steadfastness sometimes takes on the form of a middle-aged woman, stooped due to gnawing worries and anxieties that are never completely banished, and who trudges through life as if walking on sodden sand.

That’s why we should always desire to seek revival for our souls. We need not wait for a Churchwide revival. On our own, in our private worship, we can be revived. That is the desire and will of God for us.

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Rom. 14:17)

The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Making this as our guidepost, we will not lose sight of the kingdom of God, and in fact, we will learn to live at the center of it.

One Sunday service, I was gifted with an epiphany. When the preacher said that God had made everything perfect in paradise where Adam and Eve were supposed to have lived all their lives, a vision of a kingdom-centered life opened up in the scenery of my mind like Eden herself flinging her shining, gilded doors wide open:

What if we lived like we were already in the kingdom of God where everything is perfect? Then we would live in His perfect will, His perfect love, peace, and joy.

In God’s kingdom, fear can’t exist. There, the devil wouldn’t have a foothold in our lives. What if, unlike Eve, we would not listen to the devil’s temptings and lies but live on the side of God’s perfectness? Life in the kingdom, here and now, would be filled with joy.

In God’s paradise, fights and hurts do not exist. If we live as kingdom people, these things would no longer matter to us. We can easily forgive and forget and go to sleep in peace with a smile gracing our lips.

We can live as kingdom people through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.. These scenarios are all possible for our citizenship is in heaven (see Phil. 3:20) and God raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 2:6).

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Journey with Jesus,

Rejoice in Hope

We are queuing up with other guests, most of them foreigners. We are at the lobby of Shangri-la Hotel and the marvellous Christmas decor just takes my breath away. I still can’t believe that my husband and I are finally here, taking time off alone after a long, long season of sickness and not being able to travel. But now, we’re checking in at the hotel where we had our honeymoon more than 13 years ago. The room is grand and glows golden: the silk fluffy  bed cover, taffeta drapes that adorn tall windows, and the light from the bedside lamps. Next, we ride a rented RV. We are going to have a road trip. I sit quietly in the passenger’s seat drinking in my surroundings as we pass. I glance at my husband and gush, “I am so happy. I can’t believe that I’m finally traveling with you. I am really, really happy.”

Then I woke up and shivered uncontrollably as painful reality set in. It was all a dream.

At once depression enveloped me. The endless desiring and hungering were just too much to bear. To realize that, indeed, dreams, just futile dreams, are my reality, was just too painful.

I couldn’t shake off the cloud of sadness that was covering me. Sometimes, the old ailing, suffering life becomes just too tiresome and loathsome. Even the enduring hope that I always attach to it – sometimes it becomes threadbare, shabby.

I thought of my countrymen who had lost loved ones, many of them lost whole families, everything of the life they had known. I couldn’t imagine the grief they are going through and for a while, I saw my own sorrow as wrong or petty.

Even though I become discouraged at times and seem to not have the strength to persevere, the hope of glory that is promised me never loses its power, which is Christ in me. However ragged this hope becomes sometimes, it never leaves me. Just like the enduring power of the old, rugged cross, it holds me securely. Whatever happens, I have hope and glory awaits me. This is the reason I can still rejoice.

But how about those who had perished in sudden destructions like killer typhoon Haiyan? If they had not known Christ, their hope is forever lost. Just as this hope (of eternal life) is real, hell is as much as real.

So, onward, Christian soldier. Continue to run the race that is set before us. Our hope does not disappoint.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:1-5, emphasis added)

(Beautiful photo courtesy of a sister in Christ; edited by me).

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