Points to Ponder: When Nothing Seems to be Happening

Points to Ponder
When Nothing Seems to be Happening
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

Over the years, I have corresponded with men in prison. Have you ever thought about what it must be like to live a sizable portion of your life in there?
People in prison live out their days, months, and often years, with a sense of futility; "What is the point and purpose of my day?" Today looks and sounds like yesterday. And it ends just as all the prior days did; sun sets, a mediocre evening meal is consumed, then lights out. Didn't do much, or go anywhere, or achieve anything worthy of note.
One doesn't have to be locked up in a correctional institution to have these experiences, of course. Some people occupy prisons of their own making. The cell door is unlocked, but they have no motivation to push it open and step out.
When I look at prisons, I see a huge warehouse full of people with unlimited potential - for both the bad and the good. You have to wonder about the creative ways by which some guys have bypassed the rules or acquired contraband; that if they had used their talents toward good things, where would they be now? Even in prison, you have options. There is an untapped reservoir of talent.
But is it any different for some who are not behind bars?
Have you ever experienced endless days of endlessness? Some speak of the dark night of the soul. Many would simply describe a sense of futility. Health issues, job loss, a lingering cloud of doubt hanging over a relationship; situations arise that bring your life into a long, futile existence from day to day.
I have visited with residents of nursing facilities, and spent time with folks confined to their homes. A sense of futility can be overwhelming for them.
It's equally difficult for young people, college students, and retirees when they find themselves living on a treadmill.
Who determines the boundaries of futility? How do you know whether it's just a feeling or that you really have arrived at that place? Where did you see the sign that says, "You have now entered Futility"? Who decides that your life has become a futile existence?
It feels that way; but is it so?
An incarcerated man wrote me, describing how very hard it is for him "to exist here and to run at a slow speed. I may live longer at this pace, but it's foreign to me..." I told him that there must be a "sense of futility that a normally busy guy...has to deal with day to day." What I shared with him could apply to anyone who has arrived in Futility:
"If we can't spend time doing what we want to do, we have to invest that time into becoming who we are supposed to be. Psalm 37:4 guides me at times like those:
"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
God is the Creator. He is at work everywhere and in every situation in some way; even if it's only that He is allowing it to be. To "delight yourself in the Lord" is to purposely look for His hand in the moment. Find His presence, dwell with Him there. Ask Him what you can learn from the situation. "What do you want me to see here, Lord?"
The incarcerated, former "Type A" person with whom I correspond, has discovered that he has a talent for art. In his past life he was busy and working, and always on the go. Now, the slower pace has lowered his blood pressure and given him time to discover a God-given talent.
In the one sense, prison life is a daily journey through futility. Yet in futility, he discovered gifts, and purpose, and a side of himself he had never known.
It shouldn't take time in prison to compel us to slow down and see what God is doing. What seems like futility today could be the valley you need to explore on your way to the next mountain-top experience.
Just stop and ponder that for a while.

Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring. Listen to Rev. Whitmore on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs at 10:45 a.m. & p.m. & Wed at 10:45 a.m. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.