Do you ever laugh at the promises of God? Not a joyful “ha ha” laugh. It’s that somewhat cynical, raised-brow, “yeah right” laugh that clearly communicates: “I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you.”
I was recently remembering a guy who laughed like this. God had spoken to him years before, promised to do something specific in his life. And then the days passed…and the months…and the years…until every logical circumstance was screaming at him: “It’s not going to happen!”
And then, after an agonizingly long period of waiting, God reminded him, “This is what I’m going to do for you.”
Did the guy dance and jump and sing with joy? Did he run and tell his friends and family the good news? Did he find that his faith was instantly restored and he was pumped full of energy and strength to keep moving toward this promise of God?
Nope. He laughed. Not a carefree, happy laugh with God. He laughed at the promise of God. In a moment brimming with hope and potential and excitement, he grunted and raised an eyebrow and maybe thought, “Yeah, right. I’ve heard that before.”
When the promises don’t feel true.
I’ve laughed like this, too. Even in recent years, I’ve looked at my life, at God’s promises that feel so unfulfilled at times, and I’ve laughed. I’m talking now about the more general promises we see in God’s Word. Things like:
All things work together for good to those who love God…
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength…
You’ll keep him in perfect peace whose mind is focused on You…
When I wake up in the morning with a dark cloud of depression over me, these promises don’t feel true. When yet another problem or challenge arises in my family or in our ministry, they don’t feel true. When each health problem seems to get progressively more serious, they don’t feel true.
And I laugh. Sometimes I get that cynical attitude: “God, You must not have meant those things. Or I’m just no good at this Christian life thing.”
Am I the only one? Or can you relate?
We take matters into our own hands.
I shared in a previous post that the last couple years in our family have been full of challenges and that those challenges have, in some ways, brought us to the end of ourselves. They’ve left us feeling without strength, sometimes without hope. And for me, they’ve cast a shadow of fear at times.
Fear that things could get worse. Fear that something could happen to our kids. Fear that those things we always think “could never happen to us” will indeed happen. Fear that we’ll fail in some way.
Fear that God won’t come through on His promises.
When life gets hard, it’s easy to see only the obstacles, isn’t it? Easy to get caught up in how long we’ve been waiting for God. We think about His promises (All things work together for good…), and we see only reality (Man, life doesn’t seem very good these days…and it feels like it’s getting worse).
We get tired of waiting. Well, I can’t speak for you – but I get tired. I take things into my own hands at times. I decide, “Well, then I’ll work this out for good myself…and here’s how.” Or “This is my five step plan to give myself strength in these situations.”
Problem is…that doesn’t work. In fact, I usually end up spinning my wheels to the point that I add exhaustion to the waiting and the challenges. I find that when I take matters into my own hands with an attitude that I can’t wait any more for God, it still doesn’t bring peace. Doesn’t work out for good. Doesn’t strengthen me. Can you relate?
Why do we wait on God?
And then I think about Abraham, who waited for years and was ready to finally give up when the fulfillment was just around the corner. And I wonder, how often do I throw all my effort into making something happen myself until I finally just give up? How often do I say, “God, this is good enough for me” when God’s best is just around the corner? How often is my God waiting for just the right moment to do just the right thing, but I decide I’m tired of waiting and willing to settle?
Why does God ask us to wait? The waiting can be so painful, so hopeless feeling. I’m not going to say that I have one magic answer, but I will share something I’ve been learning these past years:
The waiting compels me to either cling to God or give up eventually.
In all honesty, some days, I choose to give up, turn to whatever I think will give me peace and strength that day, instead of drinking deeply of Christ. I stay in bed a little longer, turn on restful music, work out, throw myself into some task. Don’t get me wrong – none of these things are bad, and they do help on some level. But, on their own, they can never be the ultimate source of peace or strength.
I’m learning that reading my Bible, praying, praising God – they don’t always ensure that I will have perfect peace, that I will be strong enough to have victory in every challenge on a given day. I still have my human weakness to deal with. I may still fear, may still struggle. BUT – beyond a shadow of a doubt – on the days when I choose not to do those things, not to cling to God in my place of struggling, I’m much worse off.
I believe that sometimes, God allows us to wait, not because He wants to torment us, but because He knows that we need Him. That we are best off when we are walking closely with Him. That only in fellowship with Him will we find perfect peace and strength – not perfect circumstances, mind you. But peace and strength to deal with the circumstances in this world.
God wants us to wait, not just for Him to do something, to fulfill some promise, but to wait on Him. To cling to Him. All circumstances aside.
I’m not perfect at this. But, it’s true. In clinging to God, we do find peace and strength. Because even though sometimes we wait, and we wonder, and we worry…God never, never fails us.