I hate being stuck.
I have been in stuck in line.
No matter which line I choose at the grocery store, it often is the wrong one. Behind the person with an issue or the cash register that decides to quit working.
I have been stuck in traffic.
Where I live, there is really one main road out of the county into the surrounding metropolis. There are other back roads – but they involve long detours. And when the traffic is flowing over those 8 to 10 lanes, it is a glorious thing. But more often than not, when I travel that stretch of road, I am stuck. A fender bender. Sheer volume. Several traffic lights. People not knowing which lane they really need to in when the road splits ahead.
I have been stuck relationally.
Feeling like there is no good response, no good outcome, no matter what I do or say. Feeling like changes need to be made but seeing no way to make them. Wanting someone else to see the consequences of their choice but knowing I cannot make the choice for them.
I have been stuck spiritually.
Not sure what to do or say. Praying but not feeling heard. Or, knowing I have been heard, but seeing nothing happening from my limited view. Finding myself constantly waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Stuck.
I have been stuck physically.
On a train so packed with people I could not move. On a scale that would not budge, no matter what I eat or didn’t eat, did or didn’t do. With health issues I can’t fix. Or in a tight space trying to make a repair. In a house or building with a malfunctioning HVAC on a very hot day.
And I have been stuck in other circumstances beyond my control that I did not enjoy. Health issues. Financial issues. Work issues. People issues. Deadlines looming. Time flying. More bills than paycheck. More misunderstandings than cooperation. More loss than gain. More frustration than fellowship.
Unable to go forward.
Unable to go back.
Unable to make and execute an effective plan of action.
I hate being stuck. But more often than not, I find myself stuck in one form or another.
I bet you have, too.
Because that is part of the human condition.
We are caught “between the now and the not yet”. Having the hope of heaven but not being there yet. Knowing we serve a God who can do whatever it is we long for Him to do – but waiting on His will to align with His ability, if that is the plan. Stuck.
When something is stuck physically, I can apply a tool or a potion to make a difference. Like the jar wrench that I use to open misbehaving containers. Or the WD-40 I apply to grease a tight fitting.
When I am stuck in every other way, I can apply God’s Word to make a difference. It does not necessarily change my circumstances – but it sure gives me hope in the midst of my stuckness!
First, the WD-40 of my spiritual life, Psalm 119:143. I love how it is translated in the New Living Bible: “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands.” Other versions say that “When troubles find me” at the beginning of the verse. Not if troubles find me, when they do. And the second half is often translated, “Your commands are my delight”. But here’s the Kathy-version, putting all those ideas together: “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find delight in Your Word.”
In other words, when I am stuck, I turn to the Word of God. And I always, always find something there that helps in my stuckness.
Sometimes it is a solution. A reminder to forgive. An exhortation to give. A command to love or to consider others before myself.
Sometimes it is a reminder that I am never alone. That God is for me and not against me. That He is the God who works for those who wait for Him. That His timing and ways are perfect.
And sometimes it is simply an exhortation to hang on, to remember that the “not yet” is worth living for even when the “now” feels awful.
The next time you are stuck, I highly recommend the Psalms. They are the heartfelt prayers of God’s people – and they are awesome to take as your own prayers as well. Other super encouraging, un-sticking books include Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, as well as First and Second Peter. All of these are short books, all written to early churches who were dealing with their own “stuck” issues. Things like persecution, unjust treatment, divisions within the church, dealing with corrupt government and harsh bosses, marriage issues – all of it is covered in His Word and in these particular books. Taking the time to find God’s heart on an issue and remembering all of His promises are marvelous tools for dealing with stuck. Your circumstances may not change – but your heart most definitely will. His Word is WD-40 for the issues of the heart.
And then there is my other favorite passage when stuck – the jar wrench for my stuck soul. It is tucked away in a letter Paul sent to the church at Corinth and he is talking about how difficult life really is. He says, “We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4)
“Pressured in every way” and “perplexed” are both great synonyms for “stuck”. But Paul found that when he was stuck, he was “not crushed” and “not driven to despair.”
I love to think of it this way:
I am a lump of clay, being transformed by the Master Potter into a useful something for His glory.
Sometimes that requires spinning on His wheel in dizzying circles.
Sometimes that involves a sharp tool paring away chunks of the clay that are not needed.
And sometimes, that requires pressing the clay into a mold, squeezing it hard, so that it takes on the shape, the imprint, of what it is being pressed into.
As pressure and stress bear down on me, I delight in God’s Word.
As I am crushed between things I cannot control, as I stuck in this place, I am being pressed into the likeness, the form of whatever I am being pressed into.
I can press into the things of this world and become imprinted in that image.
The way things are solved in TV shows.
The message found in music about how I should view myself. Or you. Or this world.
Romance as defined by novels or movies.
Problem-solving as prescribed by Hollywood.
Life as defined by my favorite politician or my chosen label.
Or I can press into the things of God and have His image embossed on my soul. The pressure and stress will come – do come – are coming – but the Master Potter will use them to make me into something amazing in the end. If I will let Him. If I will allow my “stuckness” to drive me into His arms. When I am pressed into Him, I end up being more like Him. When I am squished beyond all measure, it is an opportunity for all the ick to be squeezed away, leaving behind an imprint of Him. I become like Him in my thoughts. My actions. My words. My giving. My time. My relationships. I am re-created yet again in His mold, His imprint, His image.
So in the end I say, “OK, stuck. Do your job. Press all you want. I will allow you to crush me against the Rock that is God. As the pressure bears down, I will lean in to Him. And then I may be “pressured in every way” but “not crushed”, because He is immovable. And His arms are around me. And I may be “perplexed” but I will “not driven to despair” because, when I am dwelling in His arms, I can hear His heartbeat that is for me and not against me. When I am dwelling in His arms, they become a safety net around me. When I am dwelling in His arms, they become a barrier against the pressure, allowing only what will keep me there – but never allowing me to be completely destroyed. Stuck, do what you will. Because all that you do simply makes me more like Him. Master Potter, have your way with this clay.”