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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL STUCK IN THE IN-BETWEEN

Last October, Laura and I replaced the flooring in our house. Not a project for the faint of heart.

For about three weeks, we found ourselves caught in the middle of chaos . . . ripped up floors; furniture crammed into nooks and crannies; boxes of new flooring stacked in our garage, along with rolls of old carpeting we’d torn out. Late nights pulling out carpet staples, vacuuming, etc.

In the middle of the project, I remember thinking, “what have we gotten ourselves into?” “Why did I sign up for this disruption?” “I can’t wait until this is over!”

The outcome of most home improvement projects is a great sense of satisfaction (relief?). It’s the days in-between getting started and finishing that often prove distressing. You’re excited about the new flooring, but you’re still living in upheaval until the project is completed. You’re ready to move on to what’s next, but your feet are still planted in what is. You sometimes feel stuck in-between.

“When our circumstances and our own weary hearts beg us to believe God has forgotten us, let’s remember He is still very much at work. Even in the silence. Even in the unknown. Even when we can’t see anything on the horizon” ~ Lysa TerKeust

In-between can be one of the most uncomfortable places on earth:

  • In-between your current job and a possible new assignment on the horizon.
  • In-between the person you are now and the person you hope to become.
  • In-between the shelter-in-place restrictions due to COVID-19 and the hope of getting back to some new form of normalcy.

What happens inside of us during those in-between times is all-important. In-between moments are usually character-shaping points in time. Patience is developed (hopefully). We learn to be thankful for what’s good in our life right now (hopefully). We discover (hopefully) that God wants to use the in-between moments to prepare us for what’s next. And we realize God’s timetable for the next season often conflicts with ours (guaranteed).

It’s the tension between our sense of timing and God’s timing that often makes us feel stuck. The tension between what is and what could be can make it seem like we’re in neutral.

So, what can you do when it seems like you’re stuck? Here are three ideas to consider:

Assess

When you’re unsure of how to get unstuck, take a step back and discover (or re-discover) your gifts. Get freshly in touch with the way God has wired you. My friend Jeff Harlow says: “Before God leads you to what’s next, He first leads you back to yourself.”

Get in touch with your God-given talent and passion. These were given to you by Him for a purpose larger than yourself. Ask people who know you well what they think you do best. Take advantage of the many assessment tools available on the web. (Again, lots of options). I like the Enneagram and Strengths Finders assessments. The Enneagram speaks to wiring, and Strengths Finders speaks to gifting.

Analyze

What energizes you? (Volleyball on the beach doesn’t count.) What gets your creative juices flowing? What work is it that when you do it, you feel, “I was born to do this.” Can you make enough money doing what you’re gifted at and passionate about? Is it an honest way to make a living? Write the answers to those questions in a journal. I encourage you to journal throughout the entire decision-making process. The intersection of gifting, passion, and pain will bring clarity to your calling.

Act

After you have assessed and analyzed, at some point you have to act. You’ve done your homework. The data assembled stares you in the face, waiting for you to make the call. Decision points are the place we often find ourselves really stuck. The F-word—failure—terrifies us. Our fear of making a mistake can keep us frozen in place, unwilling to take even the most reasonable risk.

Deciding gets easier when you understand failure is not a curse word. No career choice is 100% guaranteed to be successful. If the road you choose doesn’t work out, all is not lost. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn what you can, and move on. Eventually you’ll discover your next assignment if you keep working at it.

When you find yourself in the middle of considering a new season of life, and a boatload of options has you feeling confused and stuck—figure out what you’re best at—what you gets you pumped up—what pains you (sometimes what angers you), and if you can make a livable wage doing that kind of work—then jump in with both feet.

The way we respond during the in-between times of life often determines how far we’ll go when the new stage finally arrives. So, when you’re in-between: be patient; be thankful; be teachable; be diligent; and be hopeful. Your current in-between is not the final chapter of your story.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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