The Beauty of God at Work When Life is Betwixt and Between
I was reading an article from a national publication in which the author summarized his take on the year 2021. He called it "the year of limbo." A year that started with hope but, instead of ending with a bang, fizzled with a pop.
The author's observations were accurate, but my first thought was, "I'm not sure he's seeing things for how they really are." Things like what Isaiah reminded us of so many years ago.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19
The portion of scripture that grabbed my attention was "do you not perceive it?" How many times do I not see what God's mighty hand is up to? Come to think of it, I'm no different than the author of that article.
The truth is that limbo can feel more real than God's unseen and always active hand.
When limbo (defined as a state of postponement or delay) drones on and on, it's easy to doubt that something new is happening. And yet, there's another definition of limbo to consider:
Betwixt and between.
Things happen in-between. It's just harder to notice.
God spoke the words of encouragement from Isaiah forty-three to the Israelites when they were very much "betwixt and between." They had lost their home and wondered if they would ever return.
I don't know about anyone else, but this pandemic has left me homesick on more than one occasion. I have longed for life to return to the way it was.
Many of us long for the home that our world was before COVID. Clearly, Isaiah forty-three wasn't just for the Israelites. It is for you and me.
God began His pep-talk to His people with the most critical thing they needed to know. It wasn't an observation about their circumstances. It wasn't an evaluation of how they ended up in the situation they were in.
No, God reminded His people of who He was and who they were.
God made sure they knew that He was their Creator and that He formed them. He also reminded them that He was their Redeemer and that He alone was the One to save them. Then, as if that weren't assurance enough, He reminded them that He called them by name. God wanted His people to know, and He wants us to know, that His relationship with us is personal and intimate.
"Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1 NLT
When life is in a state of flux, God knows how badly we need to hear that we are seen and known.
Our circumstances have not gone unnoticed.
God wants us to know that His care for us is personal. But he also wants us to know that He promises to do even greater things for us. More remarkable than what He has done in the past.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." Isaiah 43:18
I love the way Matthew Henry explains this in his commentary. His observation is that the Israelites may have been tempted to "put God in a box." As they recalled what God had done in the past, it would be easy to expect that is how He would intervene in the future.
Matthew Henry says it this way: "Though former mercies must not be forgotten, fresh mercies must in a special manner be improved."
As God spoke these words of encouragement to the Israelites, He was fully aware that a new covenant was on the horizon. The once-and-for-all sacrifice of His son was something the Israelites couldn't have comprehended. But God knew. Every word He uttered to encourage His people was shared with the cross as a backdrop. The cross–– talk about "a fresh mercy in a special manner improved."
God reminds us to forget the former things so that we don't get stuck and end up denying the even more remarkable things He has in mind for us. One of those great miracles is His offer to make us new daily.
"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Romans 6:4
That is our daily journey. A walk. A walk with the One who knows us by name. Who tells us to expect more of the future than what He's already done in the past. As we walk… we listen.
I love the way The Message version explains this new life in Christ.
"But now that you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master." Romans 6:22-23
The miracle in the betwixt and between is that God offers us a "put-together life right now."
But that's not all.
Lest we think that this business of living in "expansive holiness" is our burden to carry, we get to park in another amazing truth. God will be the one to carry out and complete the "something new" in our lives. He, not us, is the faithful One. He will finish that which He begins in us.
When God encouraged the Israelites all those years ago, He hinted at the "fresh mercy" that would be theirs through the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Today, you and I have the vantage point of hindsight. We can look back and say, "God wasn't kidding. He really was making something new!"
I wonder, what will others imagine it was like for us, as we live in our current times. Do we lack an awareness of the glory that awaits? Scripture says, "it springs up…". All around us is evidence of God at work.
Springs bubble up in unsuspecting places. We don't expect a stream in the desert, yet that is precisely what God promises. He will be at work in the areas we least expect Him. That tells me that I want to be on the lookout for God's hand in my life. When the lens through which we see life is that of anticipation, dare I say hope––
Betwixt and between no longer feels like postponement. It feels like an adventure.
I'm ready for an adventure. I'm eager to be on the lookout for what God chooses to "bubble up" in my life. Maybe 2021 was the year of limbo. It doesn't matter. We're not called to dwell on the past. Our Creator is busy creating––something new, extraordinary, intimate, and personal for each of us. And He's doing it this very moment.
Would you pray with me?
"Father, thank you that You are in the business of creating. Limbo is not a part of Your vocabulary. You are doing something new right now!
Politics, economics, sickness, strained relationships, financial burdens––we could make a long list of all the things that make it easy to take our eyes off of You. Grant us the fresh mercy of perceiving Your tender, personal presence in our lives.
Touch us with your Holy Spirit so that we can see the many ways that You care for us in the betwixt and "between.
In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen."