That’s what I told her hope is, while she chewed her fingernails and waited for the phone to ring. It’s what God means when He tells us to hope.
“I jumped for joy when I read that!” she said.
Then yesterday – devastation.
“What happened,” I begged God, my pen accusing Him in bruising speed across the journal page before me.
“I’m so confused. I think I made things worse. Now here I sit, wishing I’d never learned to type. If faith is leaning on Jesus in absolute confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness, how come I’m always falling down?” **
I bet it’s my anemic faith.
“You are good. You keep telling me in my crises to expect You. But what about in the crises of others? Can’t I expect You there, too? Now I don’t know anything, except she got bad news yesterday—how is that good?”
Where are You, God?
“I’m in the dark again, questioning Your . . . what exactly am I questioning? Your goodness, Your power? No. Your desire to step up and heal? Maybe. Your willingness to rescue?”
Yeah. That’s the one.
“It always comes back to that for me, doesn’t it? And then it becomes personal again. Are You our Champion? Do we matter to You in our exhausting daily wars? Is it wrong to enjoy this life and ask for a longer visa?
“I know ‘heaven is for real’ and people want to stay there when they get a glimpse of it. But for many of us, it’s the blurry stuff of gospel songs and sweet by & by’s—even fear. The enemy aims at our bodies, but it’s our hearts he’s after. He steals our peace and confidence in You.
“And how about this easy explanation some people give: “God heals perfectly when He takes people home.” You know that’s not what we prayed for. You knew what we meant—You’re not a greasy lawyer with slick answers. And You’ve given us authority to ask for things that will be granted to us.”
What am I missing? Does prayer even work?
“I’m losing ground in the tug of war where I was taught never to believe out loud that You heal the sick and do good. Not today. Not in middle America.
“Please heal him, Lord. Please talk to me. If this is the battle I think it is, if Your women are a great army, then this is just a skirmish and it’s not over yet. Because we’re praying.” ***
My troubled eyes fell to the Bible open next to me.
Be glad. Be in high spirits. Jubilantly rejoice. Sing praises to His name. Cast up a highway for Him Who rides through the deserts. A protector is God. You did restore and confirm Your heritage (us) when it languished and was weary. You, God, in Your goodness, did provide for the poor and needy. (Psalm 68)
Well, it wasn’t an explanation, but it was an answer. Spent, I closed my journal and got dressed for church.
Two hours after my debate with God, eighteen hundred miles away from my friend’s pain, an Anglican priest—his sermon finalized that morning—began to preach. I sat up straight in the pew as he began reading from the same chapter where I’d debated God that very morning—Psalm 68.
“God is [already] beginning to arise, and His enemies to scatter; let them also who hate Him flee before Him!” he read from verse 1.
“For nine days, the Bible says, the disciples and the women believers waited in the upper room, devoting themselves constantly to prayer. It was the in-between time,” he said, “the time between the promise and the reality, the realization.
“Prayer is central to our lives, to who we are as believers. Prayer shapes belief—what we believe about God. And when we pray, we reveal the things we believe.
“We imagine we are somehow responsible for our state in life because of our choices, good or bad. Therefore, we think we don’t deserve God’s goodness. But in John 17:1-11, Jesus is bold when He prays. He looks to heaven and invites His Father to be faithful to His promises. He puts His Father’s honor on the line.”
I fell in love with Jesus again. He couldn’t have spoken more clearly to me if He’d hit me with a fig tree.
“Look at the story of Lazarus,” the pastor continued. “Look how He prayed at the grave of a man who’d been dead for three days.”
“ ‘You always hear Me and always answer Me when I call You,’ Jesus told His Father. It was an invitation: Do on earth the things you do in heaven. God alone is in control. Jesus challenges God to be faithful because God is faithful. He’s saying, ‘Lord, prove to your people that You are faithful. We glorify you. Provide for Your people.’”My son, the Anglican priest, had no idea of the battle which took place in my soul that morning. He did not hear the way I questioned my Father’s heart before I came to worship Him. It wouldn’t have mattered if he knew. It’s not my faith that’s on the line—it’s God’s. And He has enough for the both of us.****
“Expect the Holy Spirit to show up,” the young priest concluded.
That’s just what hope does.
*(2 Corinthians 1:7, Amplified Bible)
**(2 Timothy 3:15, Amplified Bible)
***(Ps. 68:11, Amplified Bible)