Many years ago we attended a pastor’s conference in a large Chicago church that hosted a speaker we wanted to hear, named Joseph Garlington.
His message to the group had to do with living in between the closed door and the open window. He talked about God taking us from ‘glory to glory’ and to illustrate he walked in a wandering path, (for at least 2 minutes) while saying,
The point? There is no straight line between glories, it’s all a wandering journey with lots of time in between.
He had us all in the palm of his hand at this point, but what sent us over the top was this statement,
“When God closes a door, he opens a window – but it’s hell in the hallways”
Bruce and I can relate to that! In fact, since that time we’ve often looked at each other and called out ‘HALLWAY’, indicating that we’re living in one of those hellish seasons that takes us between glories.
I think we’re in another one right now. Probably started during Covid, I have a hunch many are still in Covid hallways. The effects of the pandemic are varied, traumatic and long term, health wise, emotionally, behaviorally, and financially.
Our particular hallway is partly health related but mostly living related. Being in transition between homes is incredibly challenging. Some days I pack boxes and purge, others I price items for sale. On weekends things are hauled to the thrift stores. Bruce is working a side job to pay the bills and we’re holding our breath until we can list our suburban house on the market, praying it’s soon. But on top of all this,
Bruce got Covid again! Round 3 for him. Blessedly I escaped with a simple head cold. We just really, really didn’t need it.
There are times we simply have to veg and watch stupid TV…
But never have I doubted that we’re on the path we need to be on, that God is ultimately in charge of all the details and that he cares for us, has a purpose for us and will take us exactly where we need to go. He will provide the right RV/truck/house and will ultimately create a new life for us in a new location.
It’s something that Christians who place their entire lives in God’s hands have learned to do throughout the centuries. It’s called,
That word ‘suffering’ may seem extreme. We usually associate it with Christians under severe persecution in totalitarian regimes around the world. Sisters and Brothers who are tortured and eventually martyred for Jesus.
And all of that is true!
But it seems to me that there is another kind of suffering. A daily act of laying down my life for the one that God wants me to have vs the one that I planned. It asks me to set aside everything I hope and dream of and allow God to direct, provide and sustain me as he wills.
It’s a bit hard to swallow for us ‘rights oriented’ Americans! Our culture is all about ME, US, MY and OURS. So much life for us to pick and choose, and so many consequences if we get it wrong.
It’s a lot of responsibility if you ask me…
I had a mental wander about Jesus one day. About his life as a young boy, a teen and a young man before his ministry began. What was it like? How did he cope? Was he obedient to his parents? Or did he struggle over ‘being about ‘his father’s business’ vs waiting for permission from his parents.
And then it dawned on me. He came from heaven, where everything was his. He lived so near to his father that they could feel each other’s breath. He lived among the glories of God’s throne room, with the angels and heavenly beings. Where the colors of the river were like sapphires. The majesty and power of that existence is unimaginable to my mind. I have a feeling that the beauty of our natural world is merely a shadow of what he came from.
And he gave it up to come here…
Born in a stinky manger, near animals (maybe some religiously unclean). The very state of dependent infancy when you helped create the world. Growing up in a dusty land, in ancient times without the comforts of indoor toilets and running water. To labor with wood, making furniture, get along with siblings, see his mother as a ‘sister wife’ and live in a Roman world with political unrest and turmoil.
If that isn’t suffering compared to what he left, I’m not sure what is
Back to us Americans…
When my mind is captivated by the American way of life, the battle is real. I find myself at war with what I want against what I can actually have. A hiccup comes and I’m not ready for it. I can’t roll with it and take the hit as I need to. I rail against my circumstances. I look for places I may have made a mistake OR, I try to find someone to blame.
It has taken decades of hiccups for me to learn that everyone of them is an invitation to trust God in a way I hadn’t before. And that those hallways are actually a form of suffering that ultimately teach me more about my God than any sermon, devotional, friendship or blessing will.
If I think of the people I know, just in my own life, who’ve lost their hopes and dreams due to unplanned events…
Children lost to a major car accident
Spouses lost to cancer
Infertility, miscarriage, babies lost to chromosomal defects
Disabled children, ones lost to addictions
Loss of jobs, finances, homes and lifestyles
I’m sure we all know people, (maybe ourselves) who’ve lived with the unexpected, unplanned, unwanted events in life that ask something hard from us. Something we never imagined having to let go of. And it causes us pain in multiple ways. Physically, emotionally and often even spiritually. It leaves us asking the question,
‘Where are you God?’
The only thing I’ve found to respond to those times is
It’s something that I learned through hallway times. I didn’t learn it when life is going perfectly (it never does). In fact, when life goes well, I often become complacent. My need for God diminishes, I become absorbed in my earthly culture and I forget that I have a heavenly one.
What I’m learning more and more is that God knows me better than I can ever know myself. He wants me near him in every way, and he longs to show me how much he loves me, if I will trust him to do it. It’s hard, I don’t like it, it causes me anxiety and fear but ultimately, it’s the only path that leads me to a peaceful and victorious life. And more and more I’m coming to see my surrender and trust as an act of love for him.
Hallways always bring my guy Job to mind. His famous declaration,
“Though he slay me, yet will I put my trust in him” (Job 13:15 kjv)
Sets an astoundingly high bar to attain. Many have through the years and many more will. I never wanted to be one of them! But I am learning that daily life offers me multiple opportunities to let go of my life for the one God has set out for me.
It’s teaching me to suffer well