Hope Deferred and Hidden Agendas

A few years ago, when I started waking up and realizing that things were not quite lining up in my life, I turned to the Lord and spent many intimate hours in worship and prayer. It was an amazing time, and I experienced a lot of healing and growth as a result.

But at some point I grew weary. It was too much effort to drum up the fervor. And I felt like it hadn’t accomplished what I needed, because things were still not right in my life and my husband was still dealing with the same issues.

So I started, little by little, to stop worshiping. I started praying less. And eventually I started to shut the Lord out.

(Except, of course, you can never truly shut Him out. But I did my best to clam up and shove my fingers in my ears, at any rate.)

Alternately I would beg and cry and get on my face and ask the Lord why He had left me to live in this situation and why He hadn’t swooped down and rescued me.  I would complain how alone I was. And then I would get angry at my husband because he wasn’t whole, and didn’t even seem able to see it, so he wasn’t trying to fix it either.

Finally, a few years down the road, I asked the Lord why He was so distant and begged Him not to leave me any more. I know, I know.  I’m the one who left.  I’m not saying this was a logical train of thought.

But He understands even that, so rather than giving me what I deserved for speaking that way to the Almighty, He simply surrounded me with His love.  I felt His presence, and it felt like He had his arms around me.  Somehow, in that place of love, I was able to admit that He had never had left me.   I was able to see how He had walked alongside me through all the pain.

I like to translate thoughts into pictures, so in my mind’s eye I saw a picture of Him walking backwards in front of me, telling me to keep my eyes on him as I walked a narrow path with sheer drops on either side.

That may sound less than comforting to you, but when I was six, my mother taught me to swim in much the same way.  She knew that I already knew how to swim but was too scared to try it, so one day, instead of catching me when I slid down the slide at a hotel pool, she stepped back and told me to swim to her. She could have grabbed me at any moment, so I was not in any real danger.  She simply forced me to use the knowledge I had, not because she needed proof that I could swim, but because I did.  She walked me all the way to the shallow end, one step at a time, and that was the last time I needed her to catch me in the deep end.  I eventually came to love swimming so much that I joined the team in high school and won a few medals.  So the picture of the Lord walking backwards in front of me clicked into place pretty quickly.  He needed me to walk this out, and He knew I could do it.

A few days after this, having had time to mull this over, I suddenly realized that back when I was doing all the intimate and fervent prayer and worship, I had held on to the expectation that the result of all this closeness would be that all my problems would go away.

How self serving that was! Even my worship had an agenda. Like the crowds that pressed around Jesus when He walked on the earth, I wanted to touch his hem so I could get healing, but I didn’t want to have an actual relationship with Him.

Or even worse, I did want a relationship, but it was because I thought if I had one, I could get better stuff as a result.

Apparently “better stuff” was never part of the plan. He set my boundary lines where they belonged and didn’t intend to move them. I had some cool ideas about some other fields that looked pretty promising but He had set those aside for other people and He was not about to move me into them, no matter how passionately I worshiped him or how well I kept his commands or how well I kept up the Christian Way To Do Things Even When They Are Hard.

I had assigned arbitrary rewards for service and fervor–rewards that He knew better than to give me.

No wonder I grew weary.

I knew the verse in Proverbs 13 that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Every time I would come across that verse, I would feel a little self-righteous and put-upon and think, “Yeah, see?  What’s up with that? When are You going to stop deferring my hopes, Lord?”

And I was missing the point completely. It wasn’t that He needed to give me the relief I wanted.  It was that I needed to put my hope in the right place.

I needed to worship and pray fervently not so I would get what I wanted in life but simply because He is worthy of my fervent prayer and worship.

I needed to be in relationship with Him not so I could get an inside scoop or a Bro Deal but simply because I love Him and He desires to be in relationship with me so much that He laid his life down to make it possible.

Because being in THAT place with Him makes all these “light and momentary troubles” kind of fade back into the place of importance they rightfully own.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18

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