Thoughts on a Season of Floundering

This is and has been a weird and floundering season for our family. By floundering, I mean metaphorically flopping about in everything we’re doing, trying to gain sure footing and stability. These seasons, so I’m told, come and go. I have been blessed to see evidence of this abound recently as many of the voices to whom I give ear in the podcasting world have expressed similar experiences.

Between my husband looking for employment in his field of ministry, seeking out civil service opportunities, and somehow, defying all odds, it seems that he is overqualified for many opportunities, and overlooked for others merely because of his age (He’s only 31, most senior pastors are desired to be within the 45-55 year old age range.)

My tendency is to remedy discomfort of any kind. As a woman, I find that it is in my nature to nurture in this capacity. You’re hurting? Let me make you an herbal tea and give you a hot compress. You’re wounded? Let me bind it and apply a healing salve. You’re sad? Let me make you cookies and a strong cup of tea. You’re lonely? Let me snuggle you on the couch and read good books to you. You’re tired? Let me offer you a quiet place and a warm blanket so you can rest. I’m a fixer. I don’t like discomfort, and I don’t like when my people are uncomfortable.

But what if God wants us to just dwell here? What if the circumstances I’m constantly trying to fix or escape are the very ones in which He wants me to just rest in? And furthermore, how do I do that when it seems like all of our friends are making progress in life?

I think it’s human nature to want to avoid discomfort; the awkward, the difficult, the strenuous, the taxing. No one likes to look around them and think, “You know what, I’m feeling stagnant, lonely, and unfruitful in where I am– I think I’ll pitch a tent and stay here forever!” If you do, I need to learn from you because I’m just not to that degree of contentment yet.

So my habit of late (and I mean within the last week) has been simply to stop and ask, “Okay, God, what do You have for me right here in this moment? How do I glorify you when my entire household, myself included, has the flu? What can I do to lighten the hearts of my people? How can I infuse joy and beauty into this season between contentments? How do I learn to trust you even if nothing changes and we feel “stuck” forever?

I’ve heard a lot of advice from a lot of people. Some of it trite, and unhelpful, and even a little bit hurtful to already tender feelings that are struck all the more harshly by words that lack understanding. There have been also some words of wisdom offered, though. Mostly to pray. But pray what? Ah, that’s the key.

I was praying, “Lord God, my Abba, please change my circumstances! I don’t like this- it’s uncomfortable, it’s difficult, and it’s straining everyone in the household because my husband and I are at our limits! Please fix it- bring us into the ideal job, give our kids the ideal behavior, grant me the ability to craft the ideal home, take away all the ickiness of feeling stagnant, and restless, and discontent, and just give us what we’ve been praying for and seeking after, that’d be great! Thanks, God! In Jesus’ Name!”

That wasn’t getting me anywhere. In fact, it resulted in radio silence from God.

I heard a sermon a couple weeks ago that stressed our utter dependence on God to cry out to Him, each and every breath is a gift from Him! let that sink in. He allows me to breathe now…now…now…then… because He isn’t finished with His work in me. And to take those breaths with a sense of outraged entitlement, thinking, “God, is this really how You treat the ones who commit their lives to following You??” it struck me as incredibly offensive in His sight. …And that’s not how I want to live my life for Jesus- like a complaining, tantruming toddler that can’t understand that eating rocks out of the driveway is bad for you… not speaking from experience or anything…

So I opened to the Psalms. Psalm 37 hit me with particular force.

Do not be agitated by evildoers;
do not evny those who do wrong.
For they wither quickly like grass
and wilt like tender green plants.

Trust in the LORD and do what is good:
dwell in the land and live securely.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in Him, and He will act,
making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like the noonday.

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the man who carries out evil plans.

Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated– it can only bring harm.
For evildoers will be destroyed,
but those who put their hope in the LORD
will inherit the land…

The little that the righteous man has is better
than the abundance of many wicked people.
For the arms of the wicked will be broken
but the LORD supports the righteous.

The LORD watches over the blameless all their days,
and their inheritance will last forever.
They will not be disgraced in times of adversity;
they will be satisfied in days of hunger…

A man’s steps are established by the LORD,
and He takes pleasure in his way.
Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed,
because the LORD holds his hand…

Turn away from evil and do what is good,
and dwell there forever.
For the LORD loves justice
and will not abandon His faithful ones.
They are kept safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.
The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell there permanently…

The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD,
their refuge in a time of distress.
The LORD helps and delivers them;
He will deliver them from the wicked and will save them
because they take refuge in Him.

Psalm 37: 1-9, 16-20, 23-24, 27-29, 39-40 HCSB, emphasis added.

Wow. That was a lot. And that wasn’t even the Psalm in its entirety, merely the most potent verses that hit me in the heart. Not to mention verse 26 that says, “He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing.” I don’t know about all you other moms of toddlers, but there are days/weeks/months when they don’t feel or act like blessings. But what really pierced my heart was the last pair of verses in 39-40 that really drove home the fact that it is not because of anything I can do– No help with my husband’s job applications, no resume polishing, no dinner, no candles, no clean-swept floors, no freshly folded laundry, no amount of child training, no amount of morning devotions, no anything I can do in my own power that will ultimately deliver me from feeling trapped in a cycle of trying and failing, of striving and disappointment. Only the Lord can help and deliver me, and not necessarily to any of the things I’ve prayed for– none of which are guaranteed to bring joy anyway!

He doesn’t deliver because I pray really hard for my husband to be sanctified and learn whatever lesson God needs him to learn before he will be given another opportunity for vocational ministry; He doesn’t deliver me out of feeling run down by the monotony and meaninglessness of my every-day tasks. He will deliver and save the righteous person because they take refuge in Him; they wait for Him to move, and trust that He is working, even when we can’t see or understand it; because they dwell with Him in the in-betweens, and trust that He is Good! I know this lesson has been preached to me before in earlier seasons of my life, but for whatever reason, it seems more powerfully important that I understand it now, while being simultaneously more difficult to grasp in this season where I just want things to be different than they are.

And even though nothing has changed- I still have a shoestring budget, messy house, rambunctious and disobedient kids, and one son in particular that is just different and more challenging than the others, with another baby on the way– Somehow I was able to look at all of the mess, and disappointment, and longing with a better attitude and an eternal perspective that God is not surprised by any of this, and that His compassion and gentleness reach down into my life all the more in seasons like this one. It’s hard. I have no guarantee that it will get any easier, and more likely than not, things will become more difficult after the arrival of the new baby. But God is good. He sees me, He knows me, and He just wants me to be satisfied with Him, even if nothing else I’d like to achieve or see happen ever does.

That’s a hard place to be. But I know He’s right here with me, and He carries my burden of doubt without a single wavering step. He’s got this, so I can just take one day at a time. One moment at a time. One God-given breath at a time, and do the next right thing, all to His glory. Amen, and amen.

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