"[Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed -- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were."
"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead -- since he was about a hundred years old -- and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God."
Abraham believed and hoped against all hope.
Without weakening in his faith.
He looked the facts square in the face.
And he believed the promise of God, anyway.
When Pat and I were officially NOT dating (that totally awkward time after we told each other we knew we were supposed to be married when he broke up with me and dated another girl...) I kind of hated thinking about the promise God had given me about Him. It just made me mad. It didn't line up with the facts. And I faced the fact of no relationship with Pat just about every day, since we studied together every day in a group of about 12. One day, at the end of class, he met me in a doorway, looked at me, and said, "Hope."
I could have killed him. How dare the one killing, or delaying, or preventing, or stepping all over the promise ever think he is in the right place to demand hope of me!
Still, it was the right thing to do. Even though it hurt. Especially coming from him. Hope. Not try and make it happen. Not figure out how to make it sound good on paper (or on a blog entry). Just hope and believe and wait in the face of the facts.
This advent and Christmas season, my thoughts around Jesus were taken over with the story of my friend's little girl, Lia. I've never met her in person (since she lives far away), but I have known her through my friend's blogs (click to read it) since she was a newborn and Eden was kicking around in my belly. Lia has had a rough time from the start, with surgeries, lung problems, G-I problems, developmental anomalies, and all kinds of things no one understands going awry in her beautiful little body. I want for my friend's daughter everything I want for my own daughter and it is hard to see her robbed of her own health.
Lately, she has been losing weight and is losing many of the abilities she had worked so hard to gain, such as speech, walking, being alert, and eating. And no one knows why. What we don't say outright is that we are afraid she is just wasting away and will die without ever being given a fighting chance. Test after test yields no result and no diagnosis. It feels hopeless in terms of her longevity.
One night, I laid in bed crying and praying for her and I felt like God had something to say to me about the situation. It wasn't a promise that everything would be just as I'd like. It was a directive to pray believing that God CAN make everything just as I'd like. Not because it's important that God can do my will, but because it's important for me to recognize that I pray to the God who can do more than I can ask or imagine. To that point, I had been acting as though His power in the situation was pretty much the same as everyone else's. But it's not. When I pray, I'm praying to the God who really can give life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.
More often than not, I try to hedge my bet in prayers and assure myself with reasons why it will still be okay and I will still trust God when He doesn't come through like I want Him to. But I found myself faced with a decision one day. I was looking through pictures of Lia when Israel eavesdropped and decided to make her the topic of a string of questions. And I had to decide: Do I introduce this girl to my kids? Do I encourage them to pray for her, as we do for others we know who are sick? What if she dies? What will my kids believe about God then?
I realized then that I was trying to hedge my bet. It's not my job to explain or tidy up God's plan for the world. And why would I think it's a good idea to keep my kids from getting to know anyone they may lose in life? Are we only supposed to pray for things we know are going to turn out alright, anyway? No! This precious little girl and her family are people. They are people who hurt and who laugh and who fight and win and fight and lose just like we do. They are people of prayer and courage who need prayer and people of courage, which is just what I want my children to be. So we're not going to hedge our bets, here. We're going to pray for them and stand by them however we can.
The God who can raise the dead, who can intervene to make anything any way He wants meets us as we walk in through the door. He says, in the face of despair or pain or death that only He has the power to obliterate: Hope.
So we do, even though it may hurt and even though it could be dangerous...especially coming from Him.
We hope against all hope
trying not to weaken our faith
we look the facts square in the face
and we believe in the power of God, anyway.
I am not the world's best pray-er. And I don't have the world's strongest faith. At all. Those facts don't change just because I'm writing this blog entry about prayer and hope. But if you're not perfect like me, I hope you'll be encouraged even as I have been encouraged.