Our lack of trust is revealed in our lack of investment in the Lord’s dearly beloved body — the church. When we view God as a generous master (for that is the truth), we will embrace what He’s given us and will look forward to giving Him an account of what we’ve done with His gift. We’ll tell Him of the many ways we invested it in the church and got a return. We’ll tell Him about the lessons we taught in children’s ministry. We’ll tell Him about the tithes and offerings we gave. We’ll tell Him about our prayers for the sick. We’ll tell Him about all the people in our small groups that we helped. We’ll tell Him about the plans we administrated and the meetings we attended that were for outreaches that impacted our communities. None of this will be news to Him, of course, but what a joyous account that will be  — if we trust Him.

The parable of the talents reveals to us the sad consequences of not trusting God when He’s been generous to us. Precisely because the Lord is not a “harsh taskmaster,” He fully understands that there is suffering in living with deferred hopes. We can read His compassion in Proverbs 13:12 — “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” God’s Word recognizes how difficult it is to live with unfulfilled expectations. But this proverb simply notes the obvious. We can find the remedy for our sick hearts in what I call the “chain of hope” in Romans 5:3-6: “[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Emphasis added.)  

As we persevere in doing good, we find the endurance to continue by the grace of God. This perseverance produces that noble character in us, and noble character produces hope. Hope doesn’t put us to shame because we are hoping in a God who has shed His blood for us and poured His love into our hearts!

What we find here in Romans is that years of waiting on God should produce more hope, not less. Is that an upside-down thought to you? It’s certainly not the way we would rationally think about hope. Waiting on God often shifts the content of our hope. As we wait, we see the many ways He proves His faithfulness to us — starting with the Cross and ending with the bright promise of heaven — and all the big and little mercies in between.  That vista of grace can’t help but dwarf the outstanding request we have before God!

Praise Him in Uncertainty

Let me get personal here. Now that I’m 41 and still single, I see that I haven’t died of deferred hopes. Actually, life is pretty good. I would still like to be married, but this hope doesn’t consume me the way it used to. I am trusting that when I get to see the big picture from heaven’s viewpoint, I will agree that God’s plan for my life was the best, that the years I spent single were worth it for the ways God used me. If being single means that God is using me to reach many unbelievers, I know I’m not going to stand in heaven and resent His decision! There was a point in my early thirties, however, when you couldn’t have convinced me this would be the way I would feel now. I remember talking then to a single woman in her forties who told me it really wasn’t that bad to still be single. I just stared at her as she said those words. She might as well have been speaking a foreign language!

One thing I’ve learned to do is praise God in the middle of my dashed hopes. Years ago, when a hoped-for relationship wouldn’t happen or a friendship wouldn’t kindle into a romance, I would crash and burn emotionally. Sometimes it would take weeks to recover. But now I’ve learned something from the prophet Habakkuk and his closing psalm. He acknowledged the reality of suffering, but still aimed his emotions and will toward the One who is his salvation and strength. In recent years, I’ve trained myself to respond similarly. When I receive the disappointing news, I will retreat with a worship CD and sing with tears coursing down my cheeks — willing myself to praise the Lord in the midst of crushed hopes. I’ve learned to paraphrase Habakkuk 3:17-18 this way: