10/15/2003 Series: How to Get What You Pray For Part 3 - SURVIVING THE MEANTIME
There is no more joyful message I can receive than the notes I sometimes get from St. Jude followers who prayed a novena, and shortly thereafter, came to experience exactly what they prayed for.
For many of us followers, unfortunately, it doesn't exactly work out that way.
We pray deeply, expecting an answer. But then, when we perceive that nothing has changed, we start entering into a strange, uncomfortable place.
Some have called it "the wilderness", "the valley", or other names that indicate a loneliness and helplessness caused by a perceived inaction on God's part.. I refer to it as the "meantime", that in-between period where you have placed your prayers at God's feet but you have not yet felt the reassurance of His answer.
I believe there are two key points to keep in mind when you face the meantime: understanding what it is, and having a plan to get through it.
When facing the meantime, it's important to understand what it isn't: it is not a penalty or punishment inflicted by a vindictive deity. It is also not an indication of your unworthiness in God's eyes--it is actually quite the opposite. It is a sign that God has chosen you to be one of His purified little ones, one who will know trials as our Lord Jesus did, only to have the victory of blessings later on.
What the meantime is is a necessary stage in our development as true children of God.
It is a time for us to strip away all traces of vanity and the feeling that you can handle things without God in your life. A time to break ourselves down to the point where our only way to go is up, and the realization that we simply can't do it correctly without God's help.
It is also God's opportunity to mold us, working our spirits, hearts, and minds into the vision of what He wants us to become. Indeed, it is a time to rebuild and reinforce our dependence on God, and a chance to prepare ourselves for the revelation of His special plan for us.
As for getting through the meantime, here are some things to keep in mind:
1.) Don't mistake God's silence for God's absence. Remember that God's wisdom surpasses our own. We can't see the whole picture, nor the way events, people and timing interact to shape our lives. Allow God the opportunity to work in the background, gently moving things into place to help you get through your difficulties and draw you to Him.
2.) Understand that the more difficult the need, the more difficult the resolution. For example, a prayer for healing of a broken relationship may require substantial change on the part of ourselves, others, and relationships. Allow time for all pieces of your puzzle to regenerate.
3.) Don't stop praying. Do not cut off your special communication with St. Jude and God. Keep on talking; keep letting them know that you're hanging in there and doing your best, and that you need their continued strength and comforts to keep up the fight against your adversities and to stay hopeful.
4.) Keep asking for insight and new ways to approach and deal with your difficulties. You just may find that the blessings God has in store for you will be revealed to you this way, and they may differ from what you originally prayed for. Allow for the possibility what you're asking for might actually not be best for you, and give yourself the benefit of reflection mixed with healthy realism.
5.) Stay productive! Our tendency is to see the meantime as a barren land where nothing else can grow, nothing else good in our lives can happen, until that thing we prayed for happens. Instead, use the meantime as a time to control, change, and improve those things that we do have power over. While waiting for an answer, focus on strengthening relationships around you, and improving yourself physically, mentally, spiritually.
6.) Don't let discouragement get to you. Keep moving forward, and keep progressing. Allow good news in other aspects of your life help you build momentum that can spill over into your problem areas.
So, as difficult as it may be, we must try to stop seeing the meantime as a bad thing. We must try to accept it, even embrace it as a vital part of our journey toward oneness with God.
Seize this time as one you can build your solid foundation upon. Let your meantime transform you into something stronger and better, something you couldn't have become without experiencing this time of trial and turmoil.
As we deal with our meantimes, we must also keep in mind the special words of St. Jude, who in his Epistle urged faithful believers to remain strong in their beliefs and practices, even when such faith was being severely tested. He said it best in chapter 1, verse 21 of his letter: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ."
So, to put it simply, when God puts you on hold, DON'T HANG UP. Stay active, keep focused, and remain ready. For when God decides to answer you, you must be prepared to grab that moment and accept the beautiful message He will have for you.
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