One thing that makes having a "quiet time" a lot easier is having your devotion sent right to your phone. (I know, millenials are Generation L for lazy, but it helps, okay?) I do exactly that, though... I subscribe to Daily in the Word by Paul Chappell and it's a great way to start the morning. Anyway, the other day the title of my devotion was "God's Plan for Our Dark Days." It caught my attention because a) it wasn't the kind of title that fit with the other Christmas-themed devotions this month and b) even though my life is good I sometimes fancy myself in the midst of a hard time. You know, just sometimes. =)
I started reading (the devotion was about Joseph and his response to the news that Mary was expecting) and immediately got hung up on this quote from Robert Morgan:
"Yes, the Bible does use the word hope. But in the Bible, hope is not synonymous with maybe. Biblical hope refers to sure and certain expectations,which, because they're still in the future, create in us a sense of anticipation. We don't always feel that God's way is right, but His faithfulness doesn't depend on our vacillating emotions, rather on His unchanging Word. It's not a matter of how we feel but of what God says."
WOW. First of all, we are offered hope in Christ. Everyone knows that, is told to cling to it, is told to claim verses like one of my favorites, Hebrews 6:19, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast." But even that "anchor" kind of hope, to me at least, usually feels like a maybe. Instead of trusting in God's promises and the sure and certain results they guarantee, I tend to think, "Maybe God will answer my prayer. Maybe this will all work out. Maybe...." But when I'm hoping for something God promises, I don't have to think that maybe it will happen, I can be sure it will!
But then we run into the problem of our own will and desires. "I hope this happens... I'm trusting God for it to... so it WILL. I'm sure!" Does it always turn out that way? Unfortunately, no. So how do we reconcile these two realities? That's what the second half of the quote explains. No matter how we feel, God is faithful and good. Aren't you glad that God's goodness doesn't depend on your emotions? Good grief, mine alone are a mess often enough that I'd hate to think anything as important as that is riding on them. And since He is faithful no matter what, then He keeps His promises no matter what. That just means that sometimes His version of the story turns out quite a bit differently than the one we try to write for ourselves.
I've heard this since I was a kid and listened to stories about Amy Carmichael in children's church. Amy prayed for blue eyes, despising her brown eyes as a little girl. In her mind, God never answered her prayer the way she wanted Him to. Then, of course, she became a missionary to India and her brown eyes fit perfectly with the disguise she used to save so many children from becoming temple slaves. I've known that story for years and yet the truth of it hit me again this week when I read the quote in my devotion.
We've all received answers to prayer that weren't the "yes" we hoped for. But that doesn't mean we give up hope, or that our hope is just as uncertain or futile as a birthday wish. It just means that God's goodness (thank goodness!) doesn't operate on the short-sighted desires of our hearts OR the doubt, fear, or even anger we feel when those desires or requests aren't met to our liking. God is faithful despite my emotions, because His faithfulness is grounded in His word, which He always keeps. Doesn't He promise to never leave or forsake us? And to work things out for our good? And to be a "strong hold in the day of trouble"? He's never broken those promises, no matter how I feel about how a certain twist or turn in life. What we consider surprises are all part of the plan He's had for eternity... a fact that's mind-blowing and comforting at the same time.
When I was a teenager- mostly in junior high, naturally- I would sometimes wish that I could know see into my future and know who I would marry. It was terrifying and exciting at the same time.... was it someone I hadn't met? One of my crushes at school? (Ha, no, it was not.) I had no idea who that Mystery Man would turn out to be (and then, of course, he ended up being the one I'd wanted all along, or at least since around age 11. Funny how that works.) But God knew all along... when I would come home crying in 8th grade because Boy I Had a Crush On had teased me (again!), I'm sure the Lord just wanted to say, "Stop it, you silly girl. The one I have for you is so much better!" (He does tease me occasionally, though.)
The same thing happens now... when I want to cry or complain about how life is sometimes (and I know, my life is pretty great. I'm just talking about the occasional bad day we all have) I feel like God just wants to say, "Hey! I've been writing your story all along, and it's turned out pretty great, hasn't it? Just trust me. I see the whole road and you can only see this rest stop."
My hope that everything will turn out for the best isn't just a pie-in-the-sky, we'll-see-what-happens, "maybe" kind of hope. It's an "anticipation rooted in a sureness and certainty that can only be attributed to God's promises... His faithfulness and goodness that remain no matter how I feel" kind of hope. That's the best kind, isn't it?