January 25, 2013
Waiting and Hoping
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,and my hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25:5, NIV)
Friend to Friend
My girlfriend is caught between faith and a hard place. Even as a committed Christ-follower she struggles to believe God’s promises and feels helpless. She prays, but wonders if God hears her. She looks for a light at the end of the trial-tunnel, yet sees nothing but shadows.
I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. I sure have. Are you, or is someone you love, there now? Without a doubt, God’s ways and timing are mysterious, at times even frustrating. And the things He allows into our lives can be painful. Our hurting hearts cry out, Are You even up there? Can You hear me? Do You care? Even in our darkest days, we know that God is still good, but waiting on Him can be such a difficult spiritual discipline.
The Bible features beautiful pictures of God’s faithfulness to those who wait on Him. For example, the snapshots of God’s might as displayed in the life of Elijah are simply fascinating. (Got a moment? Pause to read chapters 17 and 18 of 1 Kings now.) Elijah was the most dramatic and famous of all Israel’s prophets. God worked through him powerfully and miraculously, but Elijah sure did go through some serious seasons of waiting and wondering—just like my girlfriend. Just like each of us.
For years, Ahab (king of Israel) and his wife, Jezebel, had done evil in the eyes of the Lord. They worshiped Baal, an idol, instead of the one true God, which provoked the Lord to anger. God. Was. Mad! So He summoned Elijah to the scene. Elijah told Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). As you can imagine, Ahab wasn’t happy about the situation, and in his fury, he wanted Elijah dead. Yikes! But God had other plans. He spoke hope to Elijah’s heart as He directed, protected, and provided for him throughout the time of the drought.
Oh, yeah. Did I mention that the drought was three years long?
This was not a simple and short situation, y’all.
In the third year, the Lord sent Elijah back to king Ahab, and a showdown of showdowns began on Mount Carmel. A celestial boxing match took place, with Baal and his false prophets in one corner, God and Elijah in the other. The bell rang and the battle began. The prophets of Baal took the first swing. They made a sacrifice to their god and cried out to him for hours, begging him to consume their offering with fire. Baal was silent and unresponsive, because he was not real. Duh.
Elijah knew he served a powerful, living, and responsive God, so he advanced to the center of the ring and took his swings with confidence. He repaired the altar of God, prepared the sacrifice, and then prayed for God to reveal His power. God flexed His divine muscles and answered Elijah’s prayers instantly with an all-consuming fire. Knock out!
After the showdown was over, God told Elijah to deliver a new message to King Ahab. “And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain’” (1 Kings 18:41). So Ahab went to eat, and Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to look for evidence of God’s rain-miracle.
“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.
“There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” (1 Kings 18:43-44)
What struck me as I studied this passage is that Elijah did not get his miracle right away this time. He had to wait and hope on the Lord. Could God have opened up the sky and poured out a storm immediately? You bet. Did He? No. Elijah had to wait. His servant had to look for the miracle...and look...and look...and look..
No disrespect to Elijah, but doesn’t that perk your heart up?
Even God’s superstar prophet had to wait on God’s timing.
You and I are not the only ones who have to wait and hope, friend! God’s will is God’s will. It bends for no man. Yet ours can bend to His. When we submit to His perfect plan, we will find the hope we are looking for, even in the waiting—or perhaps especially in the waiting. “Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on...” (1 Kings 18:45a)
God moved. Once again, He was faithful. His character requires it.
Now consider this: God used Elijah in really big ways. Elijah spoke on God’s behalf, was God’s front-line man in raising a dead child back to life in order to bless a widowed mother, and he was the lead character in a miraculous God-show that brought fire from heaven, consuming an offering and connecting the hearts of wandering people back to the heart of God. We’re talking big God-stuff! Yet even Elijah experienced difficult situations and was forced to wait on God.
Looking back, I now realize that God has strengthened my hope muscles most in the seasons when I’ve had to wait on Him. God is the hope of all who trust Him, all who belong to Him.
Do you hope in Him? If you sometimes struggle to nurture hope, you are in good company. In his hard time, the author of Psalm 42 had to remind himself where to place his hope. He had to choose to praise.
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.(Psalm 42:5)
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that God is our hope. Like the psalmist, we might need to throw down some stubborn and choose to praise. I don’t like waiting. I imagine you don’t either. I take solace that Jesus gives us hope in the midst of it: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). His promises bring hope.
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.(Hebrews 6:18-20, NLT)
Jesus is our Hope.
When discouragement sets in and you feel unheard, when you are forced to wait on God, when you find yourself caught between faith and a hard place, when there is nothing there—no evidence of God’s miracle on the horizon—remember that God is faithful, powerful, and responsive. He has seen you through trials in the past, and He will see you through trials in the future. Even in the challenges you face now, you are seen, you are heard. Choose today to trust the God of your Hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.(Romans 15:13)
Dear Lord, my Hope, I worship You, the One, true God! You are mighty and powerful, full of never-ending compassion and love. Please help me to see You when I face trials and to trust Your heart when circumstances discourage me. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Girlfriend – God placed a burden on my heart to encourage you today. I know this was very personal and timely for some of you. Did you connect with this message? Swing by my Facebook pageand declare it publicly. Leave this comment, “God is my Hope.”
Write this verse out: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4) Keep it handy. Read it out loud. Memorize it.
More from the Girlfriends
If this devotion resonated with you and if you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be reworked into a picture of God’s beauty, don’t miss Gwen’s book Broken into Beautiful. Every step of transformation begins with the heart of God. Broken into Beautiful will take you there. To order the book, go to Amazonor, for a signed copy, visit Gwen’s website: www.gwensmith.net.
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