by Emily Conrad
I learned from a Stephen King novel that the longer a rope or line is, the more likely it is to break under stress.
I read that novel years ago, but the idea came back to me when a novelist friend and I were talking about how rejections and waiting have actually gotten harder to endure in some ways over time.
Shouldn’t we have developed a thick skin against disappointments by now? Shouldn’t we be used to waiting?
If you’re waiting for something too–and I suspect you are–perhaps you’ve wondered something similar. Or maybe you haven’t wondered about the why. Maybe you’ve simply noticed the increasing strain.
We wait for many things.
For rescue from unfair situations. For conflict to be resolved in our churches. For estranged relationships to heal. For children, prodigals, justice, diagnoses, healing, jobs, dreams.
But the longer we wait, the more difficult hope and faith become.
With David, we pray:
How long, Lord, will you continue to ignore me?
How long will you pay no attention to me?
(Psalm 13:1, NET)
And, if we’re honest, we find it hard to join David in the praise at the close of that very same Psalm, where he speaks with such certainty of how he’ll thank God when he receives his long-awaited rescue.
For us, the wait has just stretched too long. It’s about to snap.
Or is it?
As I take a close look at the straining ropes in my life, the dangerous tension isn’t the wait itself.
What if the popping of threads we hear during long waits, the ripping we feel, isn’t the rope representing our wait time, but rather our hope and faith?
I find I’ve attached these separate lines to my longings, and I suspect these same ropes are also tied to your dreams. How can we ensure they don’t snap?
The Line of Hope
As I examine the fibers of my hope, I see they’re woven with expectations—how long I expected the wait to last, how I expected success to come and to look.
Expectations like these impact how I feel as time goes on.
Unfortunately, we often set our expectations based on the people around us.
How long did it take this person to be well again? How long did it take that couple to build a family? How long did it take her to find a job? How long was he waiting for reconciliation?
Well, then that must be reasonable for me!
We braid the length of our hope based on these time frames. Or at least, I know I do.
The trouble is, God doesn’t use what He’s done in one person’s life to determine what He’ll do in another’s.
And, anyway, if we set expectations based on the people around us, we’re using a pretty small and subjective sample pool. Me? I’m far more apt to choose the best-case-scenario or near-to-overnight success than the author who didn’t find publication at all.
We’d be better off choosing which expectations to use to construct our hope from the Bible.
Perhaps we hesitate to do this because the Bible is full of those who waited for years and years–some, for decades. Abraham and Sarah waited for their promised son. Joseph dreamed he would reign over his brothers, but first they sold him into slavery and he spent some time in jail. David was anointed king but spent years hiding in the wilderness. The examples go on and on.
These examples show a God who accomplishes His purposes over a lifetime, not on any human time frame. Though His paths are straight in that they are ultimately good, they may seem circular from our perspective. They involve waiting, journeying, fleeing, fighting and… more waiting.
Though it’s best to go into an endeavor realizing it might be a lifetime journey, I know from experience how hard that can be to imagine at the outset. Yet, how much heartache I would’ve saved myself if I hadn’t clung to the expectation that I’d have a novel in print by age 25.
I still haven’t mastered the art of creating a long rope in this area, but because I’ve seen how discouraging it can be to reach the end of an expectation, I’m working on it.
As Proverbs 16:9 says,
A person plans his course,
but the Lord directs his steps. (NET)
There’s comfort in this, because the Bible also tells us God will fulfill His purposes for His children. He won’t abandon us partway through. (See Psalm 57:2, 27:10, and 138:8 and Philippians 1:6)
And as we also see in the accounts recorded in the Bible, God has more than the good of one person in mind. He promises all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham (Gen. 12:3). He saves people from famine by using Joseph in a leadership position in Egypt (Gen. 45:5). David’s reign was a time of victory for Israel, and we’re still blessed today by the many psalms David left. Abraham and David were also part of the lineage of Jesus.
During their years of waiting, would they have ever dreamed of all God had in store?
I doubt they could’ve fully understood the ways God would use them. And because our God can do more than we can ask or imagine and His power is at work within us (Eph. 3:20), I suspect the same is true for us.
A Greater Hope
But, when setting our expectations, we’d also be wise to consider Hebrews, which tells us the heroes of our faith didn’t receive the complete fulfillment of God’s promises on earth.
These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13 and 16, NET
By settling for an earthbound dream, we weave the wrong expectations into our hope. Disappointment ensues. Our hope is too short to see the project through.
As followers of Christ, our greatest and firmest hope must stretch into eternity, because then and only then will our truest and greatest longings be fulfilled. The relationship we’ve begun with our Creator now will fully bloom then, and we’ll wonder how we could ever have been tempted to tie so much of our hope to lesser things.
So, let’s let out the rope of our expectations, setting them as closely as we can to God’s will. Let’s braid our hopes with long fibers based on a God who will accomplish His purposes throughout our lifetimes and into our eternities. His version of success may not look like ours, but it will be good and will come in His time and His way.
More than Hope
And so, we work and we wait, and though we try to wait well, we may find that our hope isn’t the only line stretched during a long wait. The fiber of our faith is tested, also.
I have some thoughts on faith and truth that I hope will encourage you, but that will have to wait for next week. After all, the length of our hope ought to stretch into eternity, but I’m told blog posts shouldn’t 😉
If you don’t want to miss part two, I hope you’ll consider using the link below to sign up for emails.
In the meantime, may we yearn for Jesus more than for any dream-come-true. May we wait for Him and His rescue.
I rely on the Lord,
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