Our pastor recently delivered a sermon series talking about what we do when life puts us “on hold.” He used an old-fashioned phone as a prop. Well, it was actually a push-button, corded phone, so really not that old-fashioned (after all, it could have been a rotary dial), but it served it’s purpose for reminding us of those dreaded moments when we are put “on hold.”
Like me, I’m sure many of you have experienced situations in your life where you felt like you were being put “on hold” … much to your dismay. I have a friend right now who feels like her life is on “on hold” while she finishes chemotherapy for an unexpected cancer diagnosis. I have a friend right now who feels like his life is “on hold” while he searches for a new job after being laid off. And, as I can relate to, I have a friend right now who feels like her life is “on hold” while she waits for her divorce to be finalized.
The sermon series talked about how we handle being in these “on hold” moments. The gist of it was that when we are stuck and “on hold,” then focusing on the “when” and the “what” can lead to fear, disappointment and disillusionment. But, if we shift our focus to “who,” and place our hope and our fears with God, then we can find strength and peace, even when we find ourselves in the middle of that awkward spot of being “on hold.”
I see this playing out perfectly with my friend who has cancer. Her life has most certainly been put “on hold,” but she is courageous and bold. She has made it clear that while she doesn’t have the answer to “when” she will be cured, and “what” that will look like for her, she is abundantly clear about the “who” in this equation. She has put her faith in God, and doesn’t question His timing.
I can say the same for my friend who lost his job. He doesn’t know why his life has been put “on hold.” For obvious reasons, he is holding off on making big financial decisions. He is not sure how long he will be unemployed, or how long his savings will last. It’s stressful. He’s not sure “when” he will begin to receive a paycheck again, or “what” that amount will be, but he knows “who” is in control. While he is actively looking for his next position, he is also trusting God to reveal His plan when the timing is right.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. Her “on hold” moment is driving her crazy. She is trying to control the “when” this will be over, and the “what” her life will look like in the future. She theoretically and academically knows that she needs to surrender to “who” is really in control, but she can’t seem to do it. It’s a frustrating cycle to watch as an observer on the outside looking in.
The reality is that life happens. Life doesn’t go according to our plans – ever! None of us is exempt from having “on hold” moments happen to us. They just show up – normally when we least expect them. We can’t control them. What we can control, however, is how we allow these “on hold” moments to impact us and our attitudes. We do have the ability to leverage this time “on hold” in order to learn and to grow.
Our pastor referred to these pauses as our opportunity to have a season of preparation for what is to come. It is in these times that we have to strike a careful balance between wanting to be in control, and demonstrating patience … and then between demonstrating patience, and appearing passive … and then between appearing passive, and moving into being proactive (and taking control) again!
His bottom line was that we do this through a cycle of expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence, and surrendering to God. Over, and over, and over again. I’ve seen my friend with cancer to this. In site of her diagnosis, she is demonstrating gratitude for the blessings in her life, then she’s persistently and adamantly fighting this cancer, all the while recognizing that God is in control and surrendering to His ultimate will. The same with my friend who lost his job. He is grateful that he has savings to rely upon; he is persistently and rigorously attacking his job search, and he’s surrendering to God that He has it under control and that the right opportunity will come along when it’s supposed to.
I wish I could say the same for my friend who is going through a divorce. By her own admission, she is finding it incredibly difficult to express gratitude, demonstrate persistence, or surrender to God. I wish my friend could take that first step and find even one or two things about which to be grateful. It’s life-changing when we take the time to demonstrate and reflect on our gratitude each day.
My friend is also struggling with persistence. It’s a hard road to get divorced. Usually our timing isn’t the court’s timing. Things take so much longer than we want them to or expect them to. It’s frustrating. It requires a level of steady persistence to take each day at a time, and not get overwhelmed. I encourage her to focus on her ultimate goal, which is to be divorced, and not to get distracted by all the little bombs going off around her, which are typical of a divorce proceeding.
Lastly, my friend is struggling with this concept of surrendering to God. She tries. She really does. She gives her worries, her fears and her doubts to God. But then she snatches them right back again and tries to regain ownership. Surrendering is a hard thing to do. We like to be in control. And, as I’ve said to my friend, when we finally feel the peace that comes with truly surrendering, you wonder why you held on for so long!
Remember, when life puts us on hold, as it inevitably will, we need to focus less on the “when” and the “what” and more on the “who.” It behooves us to take advantage of that time “on hold” to practice expressing gratitude, demonstrating persistence and surrendering to God. Our “on hold” moments pass much more peacefully when we are able to do this.
What about you? Are you “on hold?” Are you expressing gratitude, demonstrating patience, and surrendering to God?