My friend Wayne Hastings is a pastor, author, speaker and business consultant. You can contact Wayne, and read his Blog, by visiting his website, waynehastings.com. He and his wife Pam live in Franklin, TN. His latest book “The Way Back From Loss” released this week. It’s a 60-day devotional focused on how, when we suffer loss of any kind. As a minister, we need this book. Here’s a sample of Wayne’s work.
Stuck in the Middle
“Christian living demands that we keep our feet on the ground; it also asks us to make a leap of faith. A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue.” —Eugene H. Peterson
Today’s Verse: “The Israelites grumbled and deplored their situation, accusing Moses and Aaron, to whom the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! . . . Is it not better to return to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:2–3 AMP)
Stealers Wheel recorded a hit song called Stuck in the Middle with You. It’s upbeat, but lines like “Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see that it makes no sense at all” reveal that it’s an anthem to many lost hopes, ideas, goals, and beginnings.
We begin many things in life with fanfare and celebration. New things start happening. The “change” word is bandied about. Plans and dreams are set in place. It all looks so good.
Then, in the middle, something happens. We get stuck. Whether it’s because of our feelings, circumstances, or the voice of the Deceiver, we slow down. We find ourselves flailing in the quicksand of the middle. The emotional high is lost, we can’t see the end for trying, and the energy for it all just slowly disappears.
The Israelites suffered in the middle. Initially, the former slaves were heading to the Promised Land and everything looked great. Seas parted, food rained down from heaven, and God’s light led their way. But, for some reason, they got stuck in the middle. An eleven-day journey took forty years and the original “team” never made it.
If any group “had it all,” it was this group. If any group should have never felt loss, it was this group.
So what happened? And how do we free ourselves from being stuck?
The Israelites lacked vision. When the twelve came back from spying out the Promised Land (Numbers 13 and 14), the people chose to be negative. While Joshua and Caleb saw riches, the other ten saw disaster. They lost vision of all the good that could lie before them. Instead of seeing positive possibilities for the future, they wanted to return to the bondage of the past.
They had unbelief. It’s a progression. Lack of vision leads to doubt, which leads to more unbelief: “This is too hard!” “Why did we ever start this?”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
They were disobedient. God set a clear path before them and yet they strayed from it. They let their own pride, desire, and plans get in the way of a perfect plan engineered by God.
Letting the middle get in the way will stop any progress or growth. People think they are doing fine just by getting near to a new beginning. But then excellence gets reduced to acceptable and mediocrity is just a breath away.
We need to battle through the fatigue of the middle.
INSIGHT: When we are in the middle of loss, it’s tempting to quit and just stay stuck in the middle. When you feel that temptation, look up, not back. Look up, not at your circumstances, feelings, or regrets. Look up and let God renew your vision and belief, and prompt you to obey Him.
PRAYER: Ask God to lead and guide you out of the middle. Seek His direction and vision. Ask Him to increase your patience and your courage to move forward instead of looking back.
• Study Numbers 13 and 14. Take note of the responses of three different groups of people: Joshua and Caleb, the other ten spies, and the people. Choose to follow the response that will help you out of the middle.
• Understand that in a season of loss, there will always be times when you feel stuck. Learn to recognize how it happens and choose to respond out of vision, faith, and obedience rather than your feelings, thoughts, or circumstances.
• Discover the courage to look at your situation. When you’re in the middle—discouraged and frustrated—ask yourself, “What do I want to be doing ten years from now? How do I want to have grown by that time?” Looking this far ahead can release you from today’s angst and remaining stuck in it.
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1980 and 2000), 171