A Letter to the Disappointed
To the one grasping for hope,
There’s something about January 1st, the start of a new year (or a new decade), that excites me. It’s like everyone is given a clean slate. We’re free to be who we want, try new things, go new places. We’re free to live in a way we didn’t have courage to in the previous year. Who we were in the previous year isn’t who we have to be.
Until it is.
Until what you hoped would change in the new year hasn’t changed. No matter how hard you try, every day is the same. Maybe you feel like you’re running on a hamster wheel… constantly striving for something only to get no where.
I was reminded of 1 Samuel 1 on a day where I felt like this, like the thing I was hoping for, praying for, would never come. If I’m being honest, what I really felt was forgotten. And 1 Samuel 1 reminds us that Hannah felt the same way.
Year after year, Hannah hoped, prayed for a child. With each passing day, she longed for change, but the change she hoped for was not the kind of change she had the power to make happen herself. She was barren. No matter how often she prayed, now matter how much she hoped, without a miracle from above, her circumstances were utterly devastating and severely disappointing.
As if her own disappoint wasn’t enough, Hannah watched as those around her gave birth to multiple children. She watched as other womens' dreams were fulfilled. She watched, heartbroken, yet she hoped, she waited, for her own miracle.
Does your heart hurt for Hannah the way mine does? Does her story resonate with you on a deeply personal level the way it does with me? Do you too feel like maybe God has forgotten you, or like he hasn’t heard your prayer?
If you’re in the midst of a Hannah season, whatever it may be you’re desperately hoping and praying for, God has not forgotten you. Though he may not be answering just yet, he hears, and in just the right time, he will respond. God needed me to hear this story so desperately that he brought it to my attention on several different occasions this month. Maybe you desperately need to hear this story too.
Although Hannah was frustrated, devastated, by her situation, she didn’t lose hope. She cried out to God. "In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head,” 1 Samuel 10-11. The Lord heard Hannah, and in time, gave her that child she prayed for. His name was Samuel.
The important thing here isn’t that Hannah prayed just hard enough for God to answer. I don’t want you to read this and think the solution to your problem is pray harder, louder, or offering God something in return will do the trick.
The important thing to take from this story is this: God heard Hannah, and in time, he answered. You see, God knows the perfect time to answer our prayers. And to take it one step further, He knows the best way to answer them. As Lysa TerKeurst says in her book It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way (which I highly recommend if you're in the midst of a season of disappointment and suffering), "God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way."
The same is true for you, friend.
I can’t will God to change my circumstances, just like you can't will him to change yours. While I wish I could, I can’t. My situation is hard, and I can’t see how this could possibly be good for me, but I have to trust that God is good and when his word says “God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28),” I have to believe in that truth.
I can’t promise that your prayer will be answered the way you’re hoping. I can promise that God hears you and however he responds, whenever he responds, it will be the best possible resolution because he sees the end from the beginning and all that happens in between.
Reading Hannah’s story reminded me that I’m not the first or the last person to ever feel like God isn’t listening or that he’ll never respond. If you’re feeling alone in this season, take heart in this story. It gave me hope to keep pressing on, keep leaning in, and keep trusting that while God may delay, he does so with a specific purpose.
When we’re in the midst of disappointment, it’s hard to look beyond it. It’s hard to not be consumed. I get that completely. Trust me. Hannah got it too.
I imagine with each new year, she entered with hope that her identity would change and she could finally add “mother” to her title. But for many of those years, it never happened. The change she hoped for never came. And it wasn’t because she failed, or she wasn’t a good enough Christian. It was because God’s timing was different.
Maybe this year you’re hoping for change like Hannah. Like me. But friend if the thing you’re praying, hoping for, doesn’t happen in your timing, remember Hannah. Remember how long she waited, but goodness, was God faithful to deliver her. And for you, for me, he will do the same.