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Four years . . . FOUR YEARS!!! It would seem as if the employment gods have conspired against me–well, against the nation since there are millions of us who are considered “long-term unemployed” in this country. Actually, it’s been three and a half years for me (since April 21, 2009, to be precise); however, it was just over four years ago that I moved to Houston and started that job that has left me in this condition for so very long. And with each passing year, there are some days where the frustration seems almost too much to handle. I managed to make it all the way to 56 years of age (actually a month shy of 57) before I got fired from a job in a profession that I had been successful in for the previous TWENTY YEARS . . . and the ghost of that place still haunts me to this day as I’m still unemployed and now 60. Gee, you’d think they put a curse on my work life or something . . . .
The reality is that I don’t often think about them anymore but every now and then when the reality hits hard and I can’t get any employer to even look at me after all this time I get totally ticked off. TOTALLY!!! It feels like I’m stuck in a game where I am constantly on the losing end . . .
. . . and then I remember that I have always believed (and always will believe) that God is sovereign and that He knows every single detail of what is going on in my life right down to this very moment in time. And God has a way of bringing encouragement at precisely the moment we need it, which He did for me this morning by way of two devotions that I regularly read. The first one is by Dr. Charles Swindoll and is titled “Releasing Impossibilities”–and my current situation seems pretty impossible to me at this point in time:
When you face an impossibility, leave it in the hands of the Specialist! Refuse to calculate. Refuse to doubt. Refuse to work it out by yourself. Refuse to worry or encourage others to worry. Stand against that.
Instead, say, “Lord, I’m carrying around something I cannot handle. Because You are not only able but also willing, take this off my hands. It’s impossible to me, but is as nothing with You.” Persevering through the pressures of impossibilities calls for that kind of confidence.
Now, our problem is that we hold on to our problems. If your Swiss watch stops working, you don’t sit down at home with a screwdriver and start working on it yourself. You take it to a specialist. [Actually, I’d most likely take a screwdriver and start working on it myself to save money during this long time of unemployment, but I digress.]
The problem is that the Lord gets all the leftovers after we try to fix things ourselves. [Yep, I’ve just handed Him a totally mangled watch–again–this morning.] We make all the mistakes and get things tied into granny knots, then dump it in His lap and say, “Here, Lord.”
No! Right at first, say, “It’s impossible; I can’t handle it, Lord. Before I foul it up, it’s Yours.” He is able to handle it. But we don’t usually give God those chances to “fix” it. We are so totally (and sinfully) confident in ourselves that we don’t give God the chance to do what He is a real Specialist at doing.
If something is humanly impossible,
then what in the world are we doing trying to pull it off?
“Right at first” was four years ago for me. And I did give the entire situation to God back then because I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own and I have continued to give it back to Him so many times during this whole ordeal that I’ve lost count. But I must confess that I can tell from my own experience with long-term unemployment that if I had been an Israelite during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness that I would have grumbled about the manna, too. It’s not very pretty when one gets such a clear picture about oneself as I got this morning.
Right after reading Dr. Swindoll’s devotion I read the devotion for today in Our Daily Bread:
Watching and Waiting
In Isaiah 18, it appears that the whole world is set to battle God’s people. Yet what is the response of the Almighty One? “I will take My rest, and I will look from My dwelling place” (v.4). His stillness may appear to have been an acceptance of the conspiracy against them. But it wasn’t. God’s response was His reminder that He acts in His timing—at just the right time according to His will.
I think of Jesus waiting 4 days while Lazarus lay in the grave (John 11:39). Was He unaware? Did He not care? Of course He cared! He was waiting for the right time to act and to teach the lessons He wanted to teach.
The Bible records God’s “delays,” many of which seem at the time to be inexplicable from our point of view. Yet every delay flows from the depths of His wisdom and love. If nothing else, delay, if we accept it, can produce the quieter virtues—humility, patience, endurance, and persistence—qualities that are often the last to be learned.
Are you in distress? Does the Lord seem distant and detached? He is not indifferent to your plight, nor is He unmoved by your pleas. He is waiting while His purposes are achieved. Then, at the right moment, He will intercede. God is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. ~David Roper
Turn not aside, discouraged one;
Stir up your gift, pursue your goal;
In God’s own time you’ll see Him work;
He’ll give you hope and lift your soul.
God is worth waiting for; His time is always best.
“. . . delay, if we accept it, can produce the quieter virtues—humility, patience, endurance, and persistence—qualities that are often the last to be learned.” As Americans we live in the midst of an “instant” society. We want everything “now” and with every passing generation this insistence of ours gets worse. Nobody has time to wait for anything anymore. In fact, we have no idea what real “waiting” is all about. And because we can’t wait we aren’t very patient, our endurance doesn’t last long, and our persistence is mostly shown in our insistence to “have it our way.” And humility? Most of the time we haven’t a clue about humility and it’s not high on the list of attributes we go running after, either.
Instead of apple pie we need humble pie. I’ve had a piece of it this morning and it’s doesn’t go down very easy–in fact, on the way down it gets stuck in the throat. I am so tired of this “waiting game” that I could scream, but instead, I find myself in silence this morning.
He is God and I am not . . . .
As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:25, 33-34
And I’m reminded again this morning that I need to seek His kingdom and stop trying to build my own.
YouTube Video: “(I’ve Been) Searching So Long” (1975) by Chicago:
Photo credit here
“As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said
“Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care
If so I can’t imagine why
We’ve all got time enough to cry/die
“And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said [Chorus]
“And I was walking down the street one day
Being pushed and shoved by people trying to beat the clock, oh no, I just don’t know
I don’t know, I don’t know
And I said, yes I said [Chorus]
“I don’t care about time . . . oh no . . .”
1969–43 years ago, yet when I listen to that song it seems almost like yesterday during my time in high school when Chicago recorded it on their debut album. However, the question in the title is just as relevant today, 43 years later. Of course, those of us who were alive back then are all much older now. However, as Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) says in the movie, “RED,” (2010) “Time passes . . . . Blink of an eye.” How true.
So . . . does anybody really know what time it is? That question finds an answer in Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 (NIV):
1 “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”
I think all of us can find ourselves at the present time somewhere in that list. For the past three years I have found myself living in the midst of verses 6-7: “a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” The Message Bible states those same two verses like this: “A right time to search and another to count your losses, a right time to hold on and another to let go, a right time to rip out and another to mend, a right time to shut up and another to speak up.”
Since losing my job in Houston in April 2009, I have searched through my life and counted my losses, I have held on to Jesus while letting go of the past, I have ripped out the frustration and anger that came from all of it and I’m in the process of mending relationships, even with my enemies, and I’ve left behind the silence and found my voice–“a time to speak up.”
Where do you fit in that list? It’s a good list to review periodically. But I also want to point out what King Solomon (the writer of Ecclesiastes) had to say right below the list: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; [emphasis mine] yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. . . . God does it so that men will revere him” (vv. 11, 14).
Eternity . . . a time will come for all of us when time will end, and eternity will begin (see my previous post, “Eternity–It’s Only A Breath Away”). In light of eternity, the Bible points to another answer about the issue of time–time in the present sense as in “now.” The writer of Hebrews admonished his listeners whom he addressed as “brothers” (hence, fellow Christians) to consider the following very carefully:
12 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion” (Heb. 3:12-15).
The rebellion referred to can be found in the preceding verses (Heb. 3:8-11) when the Israelites rebelled in the wilderness during their 40-year journey to the Promised Land back in Exodus (the “I” in the verses refers to God):
8 “Do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
And as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:
“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the accepted time;
behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
We live in a day and time where much that has been given to us as a nation–prosperity, material possessions, the highest standard of living in the entire world–has eaten away at the things we, as Christians, hold dear–the love of Jesus Christ and the peace of God that “passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). We’ve replaced His peace with worry and anxiety. We’ve grown lukewarm in our love for Jesus because of the excesses of our society which have replaced Jesus at the center of our lives and all that we do (Rev. 3:14-21).
We also live in an age of great deception where–because we have let down our guard–our adversary can pick us off very easily without us even realizing it. We live in a wilderness just like that Israelites did for 40 years because we have drown out God’s voice and mixed it with all of the others “voices” in our society. Many times we don’t really look or act any differently then the rest of the culture, except we’ve become very proficient in “God talk” but not in God action.
And we need to stop doing that–NOW.
And . . . we need to listen to the admonishing words of the writer of Hebrews before our time runs out:
“Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
You Tube Video: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago (1969):
Photo credit here