As I thought the other night about the thing I am seeking from God it occurred to me that I really don’t know if I can picture it happening anymore. Or fully believe that it will happen. Is that a requirement of faith? To believe in and depend on something occurring which is really altogether unlikely? Or is INSISTING on the possible reality of something enough? I confess with my lips that I believe in it. But I do not know if my heart believes in it any more. It's like the TV show that says, "I like the IDEA of it more than the actual event." Well, I believe in the idea of it, more than I actually expect it to happen. You know, it really hurts too much to keep that hope…that anticipation alive…and to see it smashed daily on the front steps of my heart. Is it necessary that I anticipate it with joy and longing? God, can you really be so cruel as to keep that carrot dangling and my apparently futile pursuit of it a requirement? Can’t I just know in my heart that, with you, anything is possible? Does my heart really have to FEEL it and to PICTURE it?
When Abram waited all those years for the promised son to come, did he fantasize about where he would take the boy, how they would do things together? Did his ears ring with the sound of his imagined laughter? Or did he just, as I do, spread his hands out and say with a shrug, “God, only you know. And only you can do.” And leave it all there, un-pictured; unimagined; un-longed for…because the hope was too great for such an old heart to carry; for such a wounded and disappointed heart to bear.
Maybe I don’t know how to believe. And maybe I don’t know how to hope. I am afraid that my belief is only a dry and dusty word; that my hope is a shriveled up old woman. Sarah was a shriveled up woman, who cackled to herself at the absurdity of the idea of bearing a son.. I know that hers was a caustic laugh because she denied it to the Lord. She was ashamed of laughing….because she knew that it was the laugh of a realist, faced with the idea of the impossible. When people affirm to me that God will heal me or answer my other long-term request, I have to stifle just such an urge. And when God looks at me with a quizzical raised eyebrow, I quickly say, “No, that wasn’t ME laughing.” But He knows. He knows it was me.
God knows why I need to guard my heart from hope. Is He waiting for me to open my heart? To bare it to that pain, before He answers my prayers? Is He waiting for me to be vulnerable to the agony of hope? To pray the anguished prayer of anticipation that flies in the face of continual disappointment?
I don’t know.
I really don’t know.
Hebrew 11:1 says, as the NIV puts it: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In the Amplified Bible it says this: “NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” In other words, faith is taking as fact something that has not yet happened.
Today I read a blog where the writer expressed some of her thoughts about Hope in the context of a brother who was just diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She said the following:
“But as I ponder the scriptural sense of Hope, the one that we are commanded to
have along with Faith and Charity, I wonder what it is that God is asking us to do. Surely He is not talking about just clinging to wishful thinking. Because, since life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, where’s the virtue and courage in that?
“I finally read an article that clarified this for me. There is a scripture about how experience brings about hope (Romans 5:4). Why is that? Our past experience with God as a just and loving Being informs our ability to Hope that He will continue to be so. That no matter how things turn out, He will fulfill his promises and take care of us in the eternal sense. Hope, then, is a courageous determination to look to the future. A belief that no matter what the present, the future will hold what God has promised. And that is as joyous a thought as my mind can comprehend.”
So, from all of this I must conclude that, based on how I understand the character o God to be because of His Word and the way He’s dealt with me in the past, I am to, when I hope and pray for something, KNOW and BELIEVE that He will respond to my request in a manner consistent with His character and take this as fact. That means that sometimes He does miracles. And sometimes He will not. But He is always, always loving and good. And I have the promise of Romans 8 :28 which assures me that in ALL THINGS, God will work for the good, every experience and aspect of my life. I am to count on this; rely on it and cling to it.
Therefore, it is not so much a presumption or an assumption that God will do the miracle I ask for, but instead a clinging to the fact of WHO HE IS and to the knowledge that He will continue to be that person and will act in a manner consistent with that. It is also a grasping of the promises of Eternity. This makes me feel a lot better. Because I have no trouble believing that God is who and what He says He is; or that in Heaven it will all be worked out. I just have trouble with
tantalizing myself with a possibility that may or may not ever happen.
I think that people are often mistaken about what Faith is. They think that they
can present a request to God…(for healing let’s say) and think that if they grab
it with the obstinacy of a bull terrier and insist to God that He will and must grant this request, that somehow He is bound to do so by the very strength of their determined resolve. But this is not what Scripture shows us. We must cling to GOD with all our might. Throw ourselves upon His omniscient wisdom and upon the goodness and love of His character and believe in THIS with all our hearts…and then let Him do and respond as He will to our requests.
Can I believe that?