Hope Deferred, not Denied

God calls us to face our places of disbelief and to trust Him with our hearts again.

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10 [The Lord] said, I will surely return to you when the season comes round, and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son. And Sarah was listening and heard it at the tent door which was behind Him.  11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in years; it had ceased to be with Sarah as with [young] women. [She was past the age of childbearing].  12 Therefore Sarah laughed to herself, saying, After I have become aged shall I have pleasure and delight, my lord (husband), being old also?  13 And the Lord asked Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I really bear a child when I am so old?  14 Is anything too hard or too wonderful for the Lord? At the appointed time, when the season [for her delivery] comes around, I will return to you and Sarah shall have borne a son.  15 Then Sarah denied it, saying, I did not laugh; for she was afraid. And He said, No, but you did laugh.   Genesis 18: 10-14 AMPC

Go on, admit it.  We’ve all kind of judged Sarah and thought we’d have way more faith than she did if we got a promise from God about our future.  If we received a promise as amazing as she did.  This was what Sarah had been wanting her entire life.  And now, in her old age, finally, God was promising her a child.  A son!

Sarah laughed when she heard the promise.  Because everything about her physical situation made her the least likely candidate for such a blessing.  Her womb wasn’t the only thing that was barren.  Her faith had withered too.  The Bible says hope deferred can make the heart sick.  But many times we mistake hope deferred for hope denied.  We put an expiration date on our dreams and decide after a while that ‘maybe it just isn’t in the cards for someone like me’.  Sarah laughed because she really didn’t believe that what God said could actually happen.  It was easier to self protect and remain behind a wall of disbelief than to trust the Creator of the Universe to make good on His promise.

And guess what?  Many of us have done that.  We’re willing to join hands in prayer with others.  Add our faith to theirs in believing God for a miracle.  Oh, but as for ourselves?  We play it safe when it comes to faith.  How much faith does it take to ask God for something we can conceive of having?  Does it require any faith to ask God for that which is within our reach?  It feels safer to ask God for what we think He may give us because we don’t risk disappointment if it doesn’t happen.  Or so we tell ourselves.  But with each safely calculated prayer, we’re essentially telling God that we don’t trust Him.  That we don’t trust His promises to provide for us according to His riches in glory.  That we don’t trust His awesome, lavish character displayed all throughout scripture.  We’re saying, “God I know you may be good to others, but I don’t trust you’ll be good to me”.

How heartbreaking it would be for me if my daughter was ever afraid to ask me for her heart’s desire.  You see, the bond is built, not in me giving to her, but first in her trusting me enough to ask.  In her own little two year old way, she trusts me with her heart.  No matter where we are or what we’re doing, if she wants yogurt, she will ask.  She doesn’t concern herself with how I will get it or that there’s no refrigerator in the car.  She doesn’t care that she already ate the yogurt I brought for her twenty minutes ago and we’re miles from home.  Her only thought is that if she wants something, she can ask mummy for it.  I don’t always give her what she asks for.  Sometimes it isn’t the right time.  Sometimes it’s not appropriate for her level of maturity at two years old.  But I love that she asks of me.  It shows that she trusts my heart towards her.

If we are honest with ourselves, many of us can say we’ve ‘laughed’ just like Sarah.  We’ve thought some things were just too wonderful for God to do for us.  We’ve limited our faith in God’s ability based on our circumstances.  We’ve had dreams and hidden them away in places in our hearts so deep, we forgot they were even there.  We’ve allowed our faith to become withered and old.  We’ve lost our child-like faith in our loving Father.  He does all things well.  Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.  All throughout the pages of scripture God shows His heart of love and compassion for His people.  Rescuing them time and time again from destruction.  He always has a plan.  Even when we mess up.  Even if it means we go around the mountain for forty years.  His plans are more wonderful than we could ever imagine.  But we rob ourselves of the wonder of intimate relationship with God if we never feel safe enough to crawl into His lap and ask.  It’s such a deception of the enemy to think we’re safer or even happier trying to rid ourselves of our desires.  Or that it’s better not to go to God with such ‘silly’ requests.  “God has better things to do than to listen to me,” we sometimes think.  That is so far from the truth.  And it keeps us from experiencing and knowing the Father in deeper ways than we ever have before.

When God asked why Sarah laughed, she denied it.  But God called her on it.  God knew why.  But He asks us questions to help us see what’s really in our hearts.  Sarah was full of doubt and disbelief.  After so many years of waiting and hoping for her miracle, she’d given up believing in the God of miracles.  She was probably unaware of the state of her heart.  Hence God’s gentle question and reminder of who He is.  Sarah could have filled books with stories of God delivering her family from destruction throughout her life.  But we often allow time to muddle our memories of God’s goodness.  We begin to attach our faith to the one thing we haven’t received, instead of marveling at all God has done.  We become so fixated on the things we don’t have, that our hearts become sick.  Sick with despair, doubt and sometimes resentment towards God.

Today, God lovingly and patiently asks us the same question He asked Sarah all those years ago.  Why do we laugh instead of allowing ourselves to dream and hope in God?  Is there anything too hard for God to do?  Anything too wonderful for Him to do for us?  May we come face to face with the places where our faith has dried up.  The places where we’ve decided it isn’t safe to believe or hope.  May we find the courage to be vulnerable before God.  To let Him into our secret places.  To trust Him with our hearts.  And to know, truly know, that everything we desire is in Him.  That there is nothing beyond His ability.  Nothing too wonderful for Him to do for His beloved.  May we ask without trying to determine how He’ll do it.  May we stop praying ‘safe’ prayers from hearts that don’t trust God.  May we put our hope only in Him.  Desire nothing more than Him.  And find that our hearts are full and open wide to receive whatever He has for us, in His perfect time.

Love & Blessings,

Less Trodden

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