“…but we had hoped...” (Luke 24:21, NIV 1984).
One of my Christian physician friends with pancreatic cancer had a set-back this week. He and his wife had been praying for God’s healing, for the medicines to work, for his tumor to be held back by God’s loving hands. They had hoped for many things under God’s control and things are worse this week.
When we read the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ death, the Bible does not skip over their disappointment. These men had placed all their hope on Jesus and it seemed that those hopes were not to come true. As they walked the road, unable to recognize their Master, they did not know that their dreams were soon to be realized, that the Messiah was indeed among them.
When I look at my own great hopes, both for my life and for those I love, I see that many times I am walking down the same road… “but I had hoped.” When I find myself caught up in the gray existence of hope denied, there are three possibilities that keep me trusting in a loving God.
1. “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denial. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius.” Comte de Buffon
Certainly, for these disciples hope delayed was not hope denied; such has been true for me countless times in the past. God’s plan demands God’s timing, not ours. His delay does not always mean that He will ultimately deny our great desire.
2. “Thou in the depth of thy counsels, hearing the main point of her desire, regarded not what she then asked, that Thou might make me what she ever desired.”
St. Augustine commented on his mother’s unanswered prayer to keep him in Carthage for fear that he would never find the Lord if he went to Rome. Yet Rome became God’s transforming ground for the brilliant young man who could not let go of his sin in Carthage. Certainly God sometimes denies my requests because He knows better how to answer the great need behind my requests in a different way.
3. “If I did not believe that God’s will was behind my son’s death, I could not bear to go on.”
These words were spoken to me by a nationally prominent physician who believed that God’s will was behind all tragedies, knowing that his son’s death must have accomplished something grand to allow a loving God to cause a father so much pain. I assume, against my human understanding, that this doctor is right---that some of our very painful unanswered requests remain unanswered for a lifetime because God’s great plan of love and redemption will not move forward without our personal pain. Thus speaks the Cross.
I do beg you to answer my prayers. Let me trust you with your response and know that it is a response born in love.