Photo by Antonio Ron on Unsplash
There are lots of ways to ask the question.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do Christians suffer?
Why does God not seem to answer prayer?
Why am I going through this?
Is God still with me?
The answer, which is never going to be complete in this life, boils down to one phrase: life in the in-between.
The unique thing about Christians is that we live in the in-between.
The Bible addresses this in many places, but one of the more unexpected is one of the most important.
Revelation presents a panoramic view of history from the resurrection until the Lord’s return. It paints the picture through the use of more allusions to the Old Testament than exist in all other books of the New Testament combined.
Revelation is the story of the second Exodus. The children of Israel came out of Egypt, were delivered into the wilderness, a place of both protection and temptation, and eventually reached the promised land.
Christians are delivered from Satan, the beast who stands in the spiritual Red Sea, and attempts, like Pharaoh, to engulf them alive. They are delivered when the earth swallows its waters. They enter the wilderness for a period of 42 months, the same as the number of Israel’s encampments in the desert. And they eventually enter the promised land when the seventh trumpet sounds, an earthquake occurs and the ark is revealed, just as it was when the children of Israel entered the promised land at Jericho.
During this period, the inner court of the temple (representing our relationship with the Lord) is protected, while the outer court (representing our interaction with the world in which we live) is exposed to attack.
Read Revelation with this in mind, and you’ll understand it, perhaps for the first time!
Put another way, the kingdom of God has broken into this world with the coming of Christ, but its final triumph awaits his return.
And this is in the in-between in which we live.
When the Allied forces landed in Normandy in June 1944, the event known as D-day, their ultimate victory was assured. Yet that triumph took another year before it was finally accomplished, the event known as V-day. Many lives were lost and many battles fought during that in-between time. Yet the ultimate outcome was never in dispute.
My friend Phil Logan, whose story was recorded in last week’s post, is still fighting his battle against cancer, living in the in-between.
Elaine and I have fought more battles in the last six months than in the last ten years - or so it seems. Yet God is still using us, and we are seeing some victories.
As we live in the in-between, there are only two fundamental answers we need to hear, and both can be delivered with unwavering certainty. First, everything will be resolved when the Lord returns. Second, until then it is always worth serving him, no matter what the cost, because the reward (the first answer) is always worth far more than the suffering.
Two responses must be rejected. First, the thought that because we are Christians, God will protect us from all adversity. Second, the thought that being Christians makes no difference and we must suffer just as the world does.
The truth on the in-between is in the in-between! It’s the place where we fight with God, weep before God and (hopefully) submit to God. It’s the place where we find his peace, if not all his answers.
Life in the in-between is still worth living. What he has done for us is always far more than anything we have suffered.
And the best is yet to come.
Hang in there, help is on the way.
In Paul’s words, Marana tha. Come Lord Jesus!