Hope in Disappointment
I had to give my girls some tough news this week. Something we had been so looking forward to and praying hard about came to an abrupt end. My middle girl promptly went to her room and bawled her eyes out. When I went to check on her she said, “I don’t understand how this can happen when we prayed and prayed. And instead of getting better, it got worse!” Her spirit was in turmoil. She clearly trusted in God and believed he would do what we asked. After all, it was a good thing we were praying for. I told Emma that I didn’t understand why this had happened, but I did know that God heard our prayers and they were not wasted. I told her that the Bible talks about God bottling our tears. They are precious to him.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8)
And I told her that the prayers of those who love him are like incense – a sweet-smelling sacrifice – also quite precious to him.
And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8)
Even when God does not do what we ask, our prayers to him are not wasted breath. They are saved as incense that will serve a purpose in heaven.
I have struggled many times with disappointment like this. As Christians, I think we often presume to know the will of God and then are disappointed when he doesn’t do what we expect. How can he not see that what we are asking for is right and best? Well, perhaps it’s because he sees much more than we ever can…..
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
No doubt God is working in the situations we are praying about, but we can often hinder what he is doing if we stay stuck on things only going the way we want, pushing our own agenda. If we cannot trust God – even when it does not make sense, we forfeit our peace and perhaps the answer that is truly right and best. As in a large mosaic, we only see a small part of the design, not the whole picture.
Sometimes what we are asking is indeed God’s will and he is happy to make a way. But perhaps someone else throws up a roadblock by their own choosing that prevents the answer. Perhaps because they are against the things of God or perhaps they simply do not want to be inconvenienced by what God’s will may bring into their lives. Have you ever felt God asking you to do something that seemed a little strange or maybe would put you out of your comfort zone? If you followed God’s leading, no doubt you found unexpected blessing! But if you did not, perhaps the answer to someone else’s prayer was left undone until another way was made.
Then there are the times when God is waiting, working out a purpose and plan that is beyond our wildest imaginations:
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
In fact, one of my daughters said last night, “Remember how the Israelites cried out to God in their slavery but it took a long time before they were free? They probably thought no one would help them – that God didn’t hear them or care. But he did something bigger than they thought!” Yes, what we talk about in Bible Quizzing is sinking in!
There is no way to know the outcome of any given situation. But we serve a God who does. He knows, and he cares. He knows our frailties and he has compassion. He understands because he made us and chose to become like us so that we could have the hope of becoming like him.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. (Psalm 103:13 &14)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
I am hopeful that my girls are learning early on that just because we believe in God doesn’t mean everything will go well for us. Many Christians in the Middle East can attest to that today. There are times when things can indeed go VERY wrong and our lives are filled with immense pain and suffering. But also in spite of that, God never leaves us. He is with us as we weep. He is still in control and the pain will not last forever. And above all, he is still in the business of working miracles. He can take unimaginable pain and bring something so sweet out of it – something that unless the pain had come, would not have happened. That is the lesson I hope they glean during this difficult time.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Difficult times come and go in the life of everyone who walks this planet, but if we know God, we do have hope!