I believe in the promises of God. I believe that God is in control, and that God can and does act in life transforming ways. I believe that God is actively pursuing redemption and reconciliation with the whole world, including myself.
I believe all of these things to be true, yet I confess at times I don’t see it; at times I come close to losing hope.
How do I respond when it seems my prayers are going unanswered? How do I respond when I cry out to God, knowing God has the power to respond, and I hear nothing?
The situation is universal, although the details may change. We cry out for an individual in pain. We cry out to God for life transformation. Sometimes it’s for a family member, sometimes a friend, sometimes simply an acquaintance. We know with everything in our being that God has the power to act. God is good. Why would a good God not perform a miracle? Why would a good God fail to respond? Yet no matter how much we cry out, we hear silence. No matter how many nights we spend on our knees, in sack cloth and ashes, it seems to change nothing.
I must confess, there are times when I lose hope. God could act, but for some reason God has chosen not to act. Intellectually I can rationalize that God knows more than I do, that individuals at times have to be willing to accept God’s transformation, that God’s ways are not my ways. But in my heart, none of that matters. I can’t understand why God chooses to remain silent. I can’t understand why the person in need remains in bondage; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to throw in the towel can quit caring. It’s easy to say, “I guess it’s just a lost cause.”
Recently, in a moment in which I stood at the edge of a proverbial cliff ready to give up on hope, I was reminded of an ancient hymn and the words resounded loudly in my head. “Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart.” The words were not my own, but were coming from somewhere else, encouraging me to hold on and not lose hope.
The ancient hymn “Be Thou My Vision” is a declaration of wholehearted devotion to God. It is an old Irish hymn from the 8th century. While the words have changed some over the years, the song speaks of one who is finding all hope and life in the God of Heaven. It is also a reminder that at times we can not see what the future holds. We hear the promises of God, but at times, we don’t have faith to believe the promises because everything we think we see around us points in the opposite direction. It is in these moments when we need God to see for us. We need God to be our vision to see what we can’t see and to strengthen our weak and feeble hearts.
There are times when we want to give up and lose hope. There are times when it is just easier to give up crying out to God for change than to continue the struggle with no end in sight. Yet, even when everything around us points toward silence from God, we continue to believe. Not because we can make some rational sense out of the tangled mess or even because our faith is stronger than mountains. Instead, we continue to believe because as Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove says, “our lives have been caught up in the life of a God whose promises cannot fail.” We continue to believe because we can’t help ourselves. We continue to believe because to give up hope is to give up on God.
And in these moments, when we are struggling to hold on. When we become like the man who addressed Jesus in Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief.” When we are in these moments, we ask for God’s vision to be our vision, so that we can continue to believe.