“Are we going to live by what he promised or by what life gives us?” This was the question Lloyd Shadrach posed in his sermon “He Breathed His Last.” Right now I’m not crazy about what life is giving me and I’m finding it much easier to focus on that. The last two years I have been writing a book, piloting a study, building a “platform,” and wholeheartedly pursuing the life of the writer/speaker I felt I was called and created to be. I thought that would lead me to a place where I could get paid to do what I love. But it hasn’t. I thought I had laid the foundation beautifully and all God had to do was come in a bless it. He hasn’t. I have dug the ditches in anticipation of rain, but it has not rained. I have set the sails, but the wind doesn’t blow. So I sit in the wasteland knowing I have no ability to make it rain or make the wind blow. I can’t make someone want to publish my book; I can’t make anyone pick up the phone and call me to speak. So I wait in the middle of nowhere, in the wasteland, in the wilderness…at least that how it feels to me.
In the wasteland, there is death. For me, it’s watching my dream career die, and I mean completely die. Other times it’s the death of other dreams…dreams of marriage, dreams of having children, dreams of financial stability. Or maybe it’s a literal death of a person or a death of a relationship. In Luke 23, it was the death of the Son of God. The one who represented hope to a nation. Many watched their dream of peace and power die as Jesus hung on the cross.
Lloyd offered two “comforting” lessons from this place of mourning. 1.) God is present in our darkest moments and 2.) God doesn’t prevent the darkest moments. Both true, yet both not exactly what I was hoping for. In our modern Christianity, we want the doctrine that allows us to work hard enough to avoid the house of mourning all together. We want the version where there are no more tears, and we try to make it so here on earth. In the church, we don’t know what to do with people in mourning. We offer trite sayings and try to see how God is going to work it all out for good. But the truth is first there is death, painful, excruciating death.
Lloyd also said, “The essence of real hope is to lose hope in everything but Jesus and his promises.” In his infinite mercy, God was weaning the disciples and true followers of Jesus from their false hopes of earthly peace and power. When he died on the cross, every selfish reason they had for following Jesus had to die as well. This is what he is doing for me. I have lost hope in agents and publishers to help me fulfill my dream. I’ve lost hope that building a platform will make the dream come true. I’ve lost hope in my own ability and some days wonder if I was a fool to think I could be a writer/speaker. And truthfully there have been very dark days when I have lost hope even in Jesus, wondering if he cared or if he loved me.
I stood in church at the end of the service praying and asking God what his promise was for me. Often I have reminded women that the promise is his presence, that he would be with me through it all. But last Sunday, that promise was not enough. And then he brought to mind a different promise, one that I’m honestly afraid to share because I don’t even know if it counts as a promise. It was I Peter 5:6 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” This one was enough; this one made me cry.
So I will hope for a resurrection. A resurrection that will not come on my time table or in the way I think I should. It will be a resurrection that comes exactly when God intends for it to come. In John 11 when Lazarus died, Mary and Martha believed that Jesus had the ability to raise Lazarus from the dead, and they knew Jesus loved him. When Martha ran out to meet Jesus, she says she believes that Lazarus will be resurrected, if not now then at the end. Even in their own personal wasteland, they continued to hope for a resurrection. I think Mary and Martha would have preferred Jesus to come and heal Lazarus when he heard he was sick, but he didn’t because it wasn’t time yet. Why did Jesus wait and not go to Bethany right away? Why did he wait until Lazarus had died? Why did he wait for him to be buried in the tomb for three days? “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
What Jesus wanted more than anything was to glorify the Father. Because at the proper time, the resurrection will happen and no one else can take credit for it. No one can say “he wasn’t really dead.” No one can say “we prayed so hard and had so much faith that God had to act.” I won’t be able to say “I just worked really hard at it and followed steps X, Y, and Z and that’s how I became a writer/speaker.” More than anything what I want as His Princess is for the King to be glorified. I know the wasteland does not end in death, but in life. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but for now I place my hope firmly in Jesus and his promises. That is the difference between false hope and real hope.