Christian Life, Life Rhythms, Married Life, Single Life, Theology

It’s Never What You Expect: Hope in the Midst of Disappointment

Last week’s post was all about life rhythms, that they’re a something that God uses for our good. Even though we should embrace whatever season we’re in right now, it’s okay for us to long for something more, especially in the face of disappointment.

In reality, until we get to heaven, we’re always going to be longing for something more. There are deep desires that God has placed in our heart that cannot be fulfilled in this world. The reality is that we have to live with unmet desires for our whole lives.

Still, it’s not bad for us to desire things that we don’t have or even to desire things we’re not sure that we’ll ever have. There’s nothing wrong with that. We should be aware of the fact, however, that even the desires of our heart that God gives to us will rarely come about the way we wish them too.

An Example from Paul’s Life

Let’s look at Paul’s life for a great example. In the book of Romans chapter 15 Paul writes this:

But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. … So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

-Romans 15:23-25; 28-29

Paul had desired for a long time to come and visit the church in Rome. He wrote the whole book of Romans before he had actually been to the city himself. Though he had wanted to go visit the city and the church there for a long time, God had kept him from it.

Longing Fulfilled, but Not in the Expected Way

Eventually, we know Paul did make it to Rome. The book of Acts chronicles how when Paul went to Jerusalem to present the offering he talks about in these verses, he was arrested by the Jews in Jerusalem. The Jews handed over to the Romans. He spent multiple years in prison, avoiding assassination attempts by the Jews and waiting for his case to be heard. When he finally was heard, Paul appealed to have his case heard by Caesar himself. In doing so, he won himself a free trip to Rome … as a prisoner in chains.

I doubt that when Paul wrote these words in Romans 15, he was imagining that his trip to Rome would be as a prisoner. If he was anything like us, he probably imagined that he would take the offering to Jerusalem, catch up with some friends there, and then set out on another missionary journey that would take him to Rome. It would be easy and happy.

Unexpected (and Maybe Disappointing), but Good

However, we also know from his other books that even as a prisoner in Rome, Paul was able to connect with the church there and do missionary work in Caesar’s household. How crazy! The path that Paul walked was probably not the path he imagined for himself. However, that path probably enabled him to reach people he would never had come into contact with otherwise. Because of this, Paul does not complain. Though it’s not the journey he would have chosen for himself, he praises God for it (you can see this at work throughout the book of Philippians).

What God did in Paul’s life, we should expect Him to do in ours. I’m not going to lie to you, that’s a hard thing to do and I’m not very good at it myself. I’m wrestling with God on this very thing right now.

My Unmet Longing

I started this blog a little over a year ago because I wanted to get a book published. Everything I read and heard said that in order to get publishers to look at your book, you have to already have an established following or at least be working on one. I didn’t have that, so I set out to build one from scratch.

It’s been harder than I expected and a lot slower too. I haven’t gotten as much traction as I’ve wanted. It’s a constant struggle to come up with content for my various social media accounts and this blog. I just feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time (even though I have learned a lot in the past year or so).

Things are not much better on the book front. I’ve sent my book out to several publishers since the beginning of this year and have yet to hear back from a single one. Silence is worse than a no. I submitted my book to a writing contest. I didn’t make it as a finalist and got conflicting feedback from the judges. I’ve been really discouraged about the whole process.

I know I’ve learned a lot in the last year, but I feel a bit like I’ve spent a year working for something that has gotten me nowhere. I know it’s not the case, but in some ways I feel like I’m no closer to my dream. What makes it harder to understand is that it’s a dream that I think God gave to me.

An Encouragement

Maybe you’re in a similar spot. Perhaps you have a desire to be in a relationship or have a child or find a better job or heal a friendship. Maybe you, like me, have prayed over your desire for a long time. Perhaps you’ve done some things to work towards that desire, but you just feel like you’re getting nowhere or the place where you’ve gotten isn’t where you wanted to be.

The encouragement for you and for me is that God rarely works in the ways he want him or expect him to. The path will rarely be smooth, but God will walk with us along the way. It might even seem like God is saying “no” to a desire for a long time, only to have it fulfilled in the unlikeliest of ways. The thing is, we can’t give up.

Paul didn’t give up during all the times God said “no”. Despite all the hardships, he still had hope. We shouldn’t give up either. If the desire that is in your heart is from God, he will fulfill that desire, like he did in Paul’s case. It might not be in the timing or in the way we want or expect, but there is a reason for that desire. God will fulfill it in his good time.

 

What about you, do you have a disappointment in your life right now? Share below and we can pray together. Or maybe you have a story of how God worked in the midst of your disappointment. Please share that story with the rest of us so we can be encouraged!

 

 

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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