We ask you to close your eyes and think back to a time in your life when the outcome was not what you had hoped for. It could be you asked Santa for a bike and instead got a toy truck or a doll. You worked hard to gain the lead role in the school play or to become the football team’s starting quarterback only to find yourself part of the ensemble with no speaking part or on the scout team (the practice squad that mirrors the upcoming opponent so the starters can be prepared). You applied for the manager position but it was given to someone else who in your view was less qualified than you. Maybe a friend or family member was diagnosed with cancer and for one year you prayed daily for them to be healed, only to watch them die from that terrible disease. Or maybe, you have waited for something and you waited and waited and waited, possibly you are even still waiting today. But around every turn, it seems another door closes. If you are like us, at some point you’ve uttered the words “I had hoped” and watched hopefulness turn to hopelessness.
The Bible gives us two wonderful stories where the outcome, at least to human eyes, was not what the participants had hoped for. The first is the story of Abraham and Sarah. When Abram (his name before God changed it to Abraham) was 75 years old God promised him that he would become a great nation and his name would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). Shortly after that, God revealed to Abram that his offspring will be as plentiful as the stars (15:1-5). Fast forward eleven years and Abraham and his wife Sarah are still without children, likely wondering how God’s promise of “many descendants” would come to childless parents. So they took matters into their own hands and Abraham slept with their maidservant and she became pregnant and had a child named Ishmael (Gen. chap. 16). Not a good idea!
The second story is found in the New Testament and it occurs after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Two men were walking on a road lamenting the fact that Jesus was dead. During their walk they came upon another man (it was the resurrected Jesus but they did not recognize him) who asked why they were downcast and they answered “we had hoped” that he would be our redeemer but now he is dead (Lk 24:13-24).
In neither of those stories did the seemingly “final” outcome line up with the “hoped for” outcome. But here is the rest of those stories. Abraham and Sarah did have the promised child, Isaac, thirteen years later (25 years after the original promise to Abram), and from the lineage of Isaac came Jesus, the greatest name of all! And with the two men on the road who had lost all hope, later that night they were having dinner with this mysterious man when they suddenly recognized him as Jesus, and they ran out of the house telling everyone, “It is true! The Lord has risen (Lk 24:34).” just as He promised!
Here is the good news. God delaying an answer to your prayer is not always a “no,” it might simply be a “not now” because God’s timing is perfect and your (or ours) is not. And we sometimes miss God’s blessing or answer to our prayer because we are expecting one answer but it comes in another form and we do not recognize it.
So today, when what you hoped for never comes or is delayed, fight off the urge to take matters into your own hands and simply wait on God. And keep your eyes and heart wide open and allow God to work out His plan in His way in His timing, because is it always true that God can turn hopelessness into hopefulness, regardless of the present situation. Two of the most powerful words in the Bible are still… “But God,” as in “But God turned my hopelessness into hopefulness.”