There is an awkward space that we all find ourselves living in. It’s annoying and frustrating and can be exhausting. Unfortunately for us we spend the majority of our lives living in this space. Let me see if I can explain it in terms of goal setting. There are three elements of goal setting. Two of these moments are good moments, maybe even great moments.
Setting the goal is a great moment. After setting a goal you are full of hope. You are setting a new course for your life. It’s exciting. This is what setting a goal looks like.
Brainstorming a new plan of attack.
Writing out goals in a new iPad.
Sharing the dream with a friend.
Buying a new calendar to hang on your wall.
Buying a new set of workout clothes.
Setting a goal smells like dry erase markers and a new pair of sneakers.
If you set a relationship goal or work goal or fitness goal it might end in failure, but at least you’ll have some comfortable clothes to watch television in.
Let’s say you succeed. You lose that weight, you get that promotion, that new direction you sent the company thrives and everyone applauds you. That is another great moment. This is what I think of when reaching a goal.
Dinner out with co-workers to celebrate the achievement.
A year end bonus.
The slide show that highlights your victory.
Retiring your fat pants.
For guys it’s finding a reason to walk around with your shirt off.
A celebration lap around Nordstrom.
The victory celebration smells like Ruth’s Chris, or depending on your budget, the steak sandwich at Subway.
Those are both great moments in the goal setting process. Unfortunately, most of life is spent in a third place. Living in the unresolved. It’s the space between the goal setting and the goal celebrating. This third area is not nearly as fun. This is what it feels like in the unresolved.
Long hours of hard work.
The temptation as you drive past Krispy Kreme.
Mistakes and failures and set backs.
Injuries that put you on the couch so instead of running a marathon you’re watching a Star Trek marathon.
Waiting and waiting and more waiting.
Self doubt and second guessing.
Worries that wake you up and won’t let you go back to sleep.
Lewis Smedes put it like this. “We wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write. We wait for a not yet that feels like a not ever.”
It’s very possible you haven’t heard of Lewis Smedes, so let me give you another theologian that you have probably probably know, rock star Tom Petty. “You take in on faith. You take it to the heart but the waiting is the hardest part.”
The hardest part of life is not the goal setting or the goal achieving. The hardest part is the ability to persevere in the middle. To set the goal and not shrink back.
Hang in there in the marriage.
Don’t give up on your kid who’s pushing his limits.
Do not quit on the friendship even when you get hurt.
Keep pursuing the goal in your job even though no one seems to notice.
My go to verses when it comes to waiting are found in Hebrews 11. This chapter details some of the people in the Bible who have become renown for their faith. This is how their faith is defined.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
This really is the key to living in the unresolved. It’s the belief in what you do not see. You haven’t reached it yet, but you are hoping for it. The apostle Paul defined faith like this
Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:24
Did any of you have a mom that made the following statement to you? You were frantically looking for your wallet or your keys and your mom said this “It’s always the last place you look.” Think about that for a moment. It’s always the last place you look. Why would you keep looking for what you’ve lost once you’ve already found it?
The same is true of faith. If you already have something you don’t hope for it. You have it. Based on these two verses we know this about faith.
Faith only exists in the absence of what you hope for.
Faith is only alive when you are living in the unresolved. That’s the proving ground for faith. That’s when you’re faith matures. If you already have something, there is no need for hope. You don’t need to leverage your faith. You have it.
C.S. Lewis once said this. “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” God puts us through these extended periods of waiting and hoping and running and hiding in caves because…
the period of waiting and hoping is where growth happens.
Life happens in the unresolved. Growth happens in the unresolved. Faith happens in the unresolved. Faith doesn’t even exist unless it’s unresolved.
Let me show you two more verses in Hebrews 11. They say almost exactly the same thing. The idea is so important the author says it twice.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39
All the goals and hopes and dreams that these people were called to and spent years trying to achieve weren’t resolved in their lifetime. They were part of a bigger story. It’s the story of God on earth. That story won’t be resolved until Jesus comes back to earth and makes everything right. In the meantime it’s up to you and me to do our jobs and grow in the unresolved.
Let me end with a challenge, and I’ll tell you right now you’re not going to like it.
Learning to live in the unresolved means that you and I have to get good at something we hate. Waiting.
Culturally, this is not our strong suit.
Anne Fisher in in Fortune Magazine spoke about our reluctance to wait. The symptoms of our pace sound like this. “Eating lunch at your desk while also checking emails and talking on the phone is one symptom. So is doing something else while on conference calls, or even while brushing your teeth. We all find ourselves multitasking now and then, but what about habitually interrupting someone who is talking, or always getting frustrated in a checkout line or in traffic, even when it’s moving along smoothly? When microwaving something for 30 seconds, do you feel the urge to find something else to do while you wait? If one or more of these sounds all too familiar, you probably have a bad case of a malady that psychologists have dubbed ‘hurry sickness.’ A sure sign is repeatedly pushing the door-close button on an elevator.”
God has a different plan for us than this frantic hurry we find ourselves in so often. He says over and over and over that we need to be willing to wait.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land. Psalm 37:34
Those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31
While most of us are willing to admit we hate to wait, we are probably a little reluctant to point the finger at the one who is making us wait. I have a feeling that there are some people reading this that your issue goes beyond slow drivers and bad waitresses. You’re tired of waiting and there is one person you hold specifically responsible. It’s God. You want answers. I found the following quote from F.B. Meyer that spoke to me.
“God has his set times. It is not for us to know them. Indeed, we cannot know them. We must wait for them. If God had told Abraham that he must wait all those years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden. And only as they were nearly spent and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him, according to the time of life, “Sarah shall have a son.” If God told you on the front end how long you would wait to find the fulfillment of your desire or pleasure or dream, you’d lose heart. You’d grow weary in well doing. So would I. But he doesn’t. He just says, “Wait. I keep my word. I’m in no hurry. In the process of time I’m developing you to be ready for the promise.”
My guess is that in this moment you are living in the unresolved. Because of it there’s is an issue that is bothering you as you drive home and pursues you when you have a quiet moment and wakes you up in the middle of the night. Where do you want to be when your situation is resolved? God challenges us to wait on Him. He wants us to trust that he has our best interests at heart. He knows that if we pray to him and run to him with our problems and stay the course that we will grow and mature. To those people he promises peace and purpose. He knows that life is lived in the unresolved.