I typed in my question, hesitated, and then pressed, “Send.”
Nobody likes to be a Debbie-downer, but honestly, I had had enough of all this “hope” business.
I was tired. And weary. I could no longer handle hearing how God does wonderful things for others, while I remain stuck where I am, waiting for Him to answer.
See, I have a friend who operates a ministry based on this phrase: “There is great hope.” This is what she always says, and she truly believes it.
So a couple of days ago, in a moment of frustration and discouragement, I asked her this question:
At what point does hope become denial?
I wasn’t trying to be ugly – truly. She is dear, and she is good, and she has been where I am. But in that moment, I simply needed real answers.
Because it seems like this is all I have done: Years of hope. Years of trust. Years of hoping and praying for a miracle – a change, not only wanted, but so desperately needed. And yet – no change.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and my hope had indeed been deferred, with no change in sight. My heart was heavy, my hope nearly gone.
And this was not the first time I have been there. Many times over the years, I have given up hope. While I know that in Christ, we do indeed have great hope, oftentimes I have grown discouraged watching a situation spiral out of control, begging God to make changes, and never seeing the change I have been hoping for.
I have asked myself, and others, “What am I doing wrong? Is there something I need to change?” At what point do I say, “God is not going to change this thing until I make a wise move,” and proceed to make positive changes on my own behalf, walking in whatever wisdom He provides?
These are good questions to ask. There is indeed a difference between hoping for God to do something versus a fear of moving forward in a direction that seems scary. We very often sit and wait for God to do something, when He has made the way for our own actions clear and said, “Step out in faith and trust Me.”
When we allow fear to immobilize us, we get frustrated and discouraged being stuck in the same place, and we allow ourselves to think it is God holding out on us. We want Him to physically move us, or drop down a sign in front of our eyes that says, “Do this,” when often common sense should be a clear indicator of what is best.
But what about those times when we just aren’t sure? After all, it can be difficult to discern between our own wisdom and God’s, between the voice in our head that says, “I can’t take this anymore, “ and God’s voice that says, “Wait on Me just a little longer.” Is it fear holding me back, or is it truly Him telling me to wait? In those moments, I continue to wait, until I am sure. And that is when, often, my heart becomes sick with the waiting. It is truly hope deferred.
Then yesterday, during a conversation with a dear friend, I was reminded of a very important truth:
My hope is not in God changing my circumstance. He may never choose to do so – or He may. His ways are His ways, and not mine to govern. After all, didn’t I offer my life to Him, knowing that He is good, with the request to do whatever He deems best? Am I then to turn around and tell Him what that is?
It is not in the changing of circumstances or the receiving of what I have been asking for that my hope lies – it is in the fact that God is good, and that He has good things for me.
Years ago, I was counseling with a minister regarding difficult things that I wasn’t sure how to handle. One of His responses to me was to quote Psalm 121:1-3.
I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and earth. He will not allow my foot to stumble; He who keeps me will not sleep.
And as my friend and I were talking yesterday, I remembered this Scripture; and I could almost see my help coming – the One who comes from on high and meets a need and answers a prayer. But here’s the catch: He answers in His own way, in His own time. We need only be assured that He will answer, that His answer will be at just the right moment, and that it will be perfect.
So at what point does hope become denial?
Hope becomes denial when our hope is in what we want, rather than the Giver of all good things.
We have not been promised an easy life, nor have we been promised that He will do everything we want Him to do, no matter how much we may believe it is best.
We have been promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
We have been promised that He has good plans for us – His definition of good, in light of eternity.
We have been promised that He will give us abundantly more than we ask for, or could even think.
We have not been promised that He will walk this road for us – only that He will walk it with us. And often, this means making decisions and trusting that we will hear a voice behind us saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
So then perhaps we should ask ourselves:
Do we want what we have asked for? Or do we want abundantly more?
Do we want our own way, or do we want Him near?
Do we want what we deem as good, or do we want what an all-knowing, all-loving God says is good?
And do we want to walk this road alone, following our own path, or do we want to hold to the hand of God and let Him lead?
It is wise (and comforting) for us to remember that the here-and-now, though it seems urgent, is a small thing in comparison to what lies ahead in eternity.
These things are easy to remember and dwell on when we are pondering, sitting quietly, and allowing our hearts to be filled with His presence and His assurances. Often, though, in the moments of our frustrations, we forget these solid truths.
When we get lost in those moments of hopelessness, of not being able to foresee what is going to happen, how a circumstance can possibly work itself out, it is helpful to sit in the quiet and reflect on what He has done, what He has promised to do – to remind ourselves that, although we may not see what He is doing, He is always at work. And it is for our good.
Don’t lose hope, my friend – truly, there is great hope.
But be sure that what you are hoping in is what is promised – His nearness, His goodness, His divine guidance, and His ultimate best.
Rest in His assurance that He works all things for our good.
Hold fast to His hand – for the journey ahead truly is beautiful.
And hope will not be deferred any longer than He deems necessary.
For He makes all things beautiful, in His time.