“But they are all dead!” I wailed as yet another friend pointed me to Hebrews 11 in an attempt to encourage me during a season of great frustration of singleness.
“Of course, they are all dead they lived during Bible times.” She said looking rather befuddled.
“No, I mean they all died before anything God promised them happened – even Moses died right before he got to step foot in the Promise Land.” I whined. “You know what that’s like? That’s like sitting in the parking lot while your friends spend the day in Disney World. Way to go, God, what an awesome way to treat your chosen hero. Guess that’s as good as it gets when you are serving God.”
It was at this point my friend decided to abandon any attempts at consoling and backed away slowly. She later confessed that she was pretty certain that it was going to lightening the next time I opened my mouth, and she didn’t have any intentions of being anywhere near the strike zone. (I hear that quite frequently believe it or not.)
Now for those of you who have lived a beautifully blessed life, I am sure that my laments sound a little melodramatic and bordering on blasphemous, but follow me on this one. You really need to understand, maybe not for yourself, but at some point in your life you are going to have a friend who feels this way. And if you have ever felt like this towards God, we have group meetings at my house on the second Tuesday of the fifth week next month.
Nothing hurts more than waiting on a dream. Solomon even said so, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but the fulfillment of a desire is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). I prefer Stephen King’s paraphrase from the Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man (or woman) insane.”
The only thing worse than hope is hope that is rooted in a God given desire. Whether it is the dream of marriage, a thriving ministry, publishing that next book, or having a home to call your own, all of it hurts when it seems like it is happening for everyone but you. And it isn’t just the not having that kills you, it is the way you begin to feel like everyone else is looking at you, that subtle shift in how they treat you, and the unspoken accusation of why aren’t you good enough to receive God’s blessings.
So you work the steps. You go over your life with a fine tooth comb and you begin looking for some sin that would explain why God is withholding his love. You pray, you fast, you confess even the most minor infractions, and you cry in frustrated pain and in anger. You volunteer more at church, you start tithing 11% instead of 10, and you begin wondering if you should sponsor a child in Africa to show just how good you really are. And every morning you wake up expecting a miracle, you decree God’s provision and blessing over your life while you brush teeth, and all you have to show for it are toothpaste splatters on the mirror.
That is when the bitterness creeps in. It starts out as disillusionment and frustration, but you know deep down in your heart that anger is starting to take over. Oh, you fight it down, push it away, and do your best to deny that you are capable of such an unholy emotion, but you are beginning to feel like ticking time bomb. Soon all your prayers are boiled down to one word, “Why?”
“Why, God, why me?”
Now this is the part where I am supposed to offer you some holy answer and sacred words of wisdom. They will magically appear on your screen after you close your eyes, chant the Lord’s Prayer, and commit to sending me ten bucks.
Didn’t work? Yeah, I will have to work on that. Really, what did you expect?
The truth is I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows why some prayers get answered and others don’t. I can’t understand why God has allowed so many charlatans to achieve levels of great success and experience such blessing and leaves the rest of us out in the cold. I don’t know why he healed your friend who uses drugs and let my dad die, or why didn’t give my ex a holy zap and save our marriage when I prayed for that while warded off his blows. None it makes sense to me, and if I told you I did I would be lying.
But here is what I do know: God is sovereign, and that means he gets to call all the shots, even the ones I don’t understand. God loves me and he loves you, even when we don’t deserve it. Love will do what is best for us, even when it means disappointment and hurt. Hurt and disappointment does not mean our story is over. It just might mean that we have to be willing to let him write a new one, one we never imagined being the story of our lives.
No one in Hebrews 11 saw the fulfillment of the promise that God gave to them. They all died long before it happened, but they had enough faith to believe that in pursuing the promise they were exactly where God called them to be. They pressed onward even when it all seemed pointless, believing that God was faithful, and even though they didn’t see it happen their kids, their grandkids, and everyone who came after did.
You see, they changed the world by chasing the dreams God had given them and doing so transcended their finite existence. They ceased to be individuals and became a part of the fabric of history. Each of them is remembered not for what they received, but for what they gave – to you, to me, and to everyone who dares to receive the promise of salvation to this day.
And isn’t that what we were called to? To give it all away, including our lives, so that the world might witness his glory and not our own? Sometimes the only thing we have to lay on that altar is our hopes the ones he gave to us. Maybe he will provide a ram caught in the thorns of life, or maybe he will resurrect in a new and unexpected way. I don’t know, but I do know that he is the God of redemption and that includes disappointed hopes and dreams.