Week 10, Part II: James and the Fatherless
Day 4: The Work of Experience and Hope
(James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-6, Proverbs 13:12; Psalm 39:7)
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12a
No one likes disappointment. You hope for something and you hope for something and then — It doesn’t happen. You don’t get the job you were hoping for, someone else puts a better offer in on the house you wanted to purchase; whatever the disappointment might be, it makes our hearts hurt. In fact, according to the above verse it makes our hearts sick. None of us are immune to moments such as these, eventually we will all face some great disappointment. Even as I write this, the FTN ministry is going through something that appears as though it will not work out as hoped and planned. The question is: When we come to these moments in life and ministry, how do we approach that disappointment?
If we have never learned to exercise patience (see yesterday’s post), then we are in the habit of fixing things on our own. We will potentially feel compelled to somehow fix the problem that we have encountered even though we have no idea how to do it, or do not have the means to do it, or perhaps not the skill. The results will be more disappointment and, most likely, a big mess. Or, perhaps, because the weight of doing whatever needed to be done rested entirely on us, we will be further weighed down by a great load of guilt, discouragement, and even depression, resulting in the “sick heart” mentioned in Proverbs 13.
If we have learned to exercise patience, then that patience has given us experience. We know absolutely without a doubt that God can overcome any obstacle, can mend any heart, can heal any disease, and can work good out of any situation. We also know that if it doesn’t go as WE think it should, He is still sufficient because we have waited patiently and experience has proven it to be so. This shifts the focal point of our hope.
In Psalm 39:7 David said, “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.” When we have learned by patience and experience that our hope can unequivocally be placed in God, we can then approach not just situations of disappointment but also life in general with an entirely new confidence. This is exactly what Romans 5:5,6 is telling us, and it does so by pointing us to the greatest display of God’s faithfulness in our weakness: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The greatest need any of us ever had, the need for salvation, for redemption, was a need we could never meet. The verse says, “For when we were yet without strength”. We had absolutely no way of paying what we owed. But, “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” If God could, over the course of all time, work out His plan for redemption so that at a precise moment in time His Son would die not only for your sins and mine but also for the sins of the whole world, can He not also solve our puny problems?
When Christ is our hope, our circumstances cannot “defer” it because it is no longer dependent upon those circumstances. Missionary Hudson Taylor once said of a time of trial, “I had not then learned to think of God as the Great Circumstance in whom ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28), and of all lesser circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best because either ordered or permitted by Him. Hence my disappointment and trial were very great.” (Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor, pp 113, 114) How our lives and perspective change when Christ, the Almighty God, truly becomes our one Great Circumstance! Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” When our hearts and minds are fixed on Christ, then we have peace.
Does this mean there will never be tears or sorrows or times of frustration? No. But as we work through them with our eyes fixed on Christ and with the confidence that patience and experience and hope have taught us, we will not be so easily overwhelmed and defeated. Hope that is firmly fixed in the right place, in God, will not make us ashamed. If we hope in our own strength, we’ll be disappointed. If we hope in the strength and means of others, we’ll be disappointed. But if we hope in God, we will never be ashamed.