What happens when we’ve heard God’s word and promises, and believed to the point of great hope for our lives, but the promises remain unfulfilled?
Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
After a long time hearing how good life is going to be someday, we need to see it happen. I’m not talking about wanting it to happen — we did from the first talk of it — we need it to happen. An unmanifested promise eventually elicits pain from the place it used to evoke hope.
Imagine a business promised its employees improved salaries and benefits. As months passed, the employees’ thoughts and emotions underwent change when the talk failed to become reality. After years of hearing promises that weren’t fulfilled, they felt foolish for their naive enthusiasm early on. Even the most loyal employees grew suspicious that the owners’ promises were empty words. Hope disappeared entirely for some, and barely held on for others.
Years passed. The business owners held yet another employee meeting to reiterate the promises. What once motivated had a different effect on people — it served to remind them how the meetings have disappointed; it sparked pain, not hope.
When I toured Dachau concentration camp in Munich, I imagined how the prisoners must have struggled to retain hope of liberation. Some were unable to, assuring their deaths by broaching the restricted fenced area to be shot by guards. Others held on to hope, managing (amazingly) to face each day of barbarous conditions. Some may have developed dysfunctional thinking to detach from reality to cope.
Each person was different emotionally and mentally. Some were more resilient regarding hope, some lost it quickly. Some exuded anger, others were inexplicably peaceful. Some found that to be with the angry or cynical was too much — it snuffed what little hope they were able to salvage — so they withdrew to their inner world where hope was sustainable.
This photograph is of Dachau concentration camp survivors at the arrival of the allied forces.
Liberation day. Hope fulfilled. What a powerful, historical, inconceivably-emotional, and incomparable moment in time.
Faith in a promise when it remains unfulfilled, even when that promise came from God, is not easy. The Bible is full of stories where God’s prophecies and promises were not manifested for years, even centuries. The people of those times surely experienced the “struggle-to-believe” that is common to man.
There are times our hope is slowly dying within. We are on the verge of taking action to absolve the inner turmoil. We consider going back to living the way we did before we grasped God’s promise and simply stop believing it — it seems that might relieve the pain. If we made life decisions based on a promise, we fear that those decisions were foolish. We consider denying our own personal history to erase the memories — maybe that will cure the inner conflict caused by deferred hope.
We can’t explain why, but we know something has to change. We’ve experienced what carrying a promise of God has done to us over the years. A seed was planted within our spirit or soul. It initially brought warmth to our souls, but changed over time. It became uncomfortable, a source of angst, and is often unbearable.
At the point when our heart has become sick, we need the promise to transform from unseen to seen. (Unseen to others but ask the bearer of the seed and they will say they were acutely aware of the seed over the years, sometimes painfully so and they will marvel that the same acute awareness they experienced could ever be unseen to others.)
A promise from God can’t stay an undeveloped seed, it must grow. While it is growing, it causes us to feel we must change or life must change. Something must give! How could a true seed of God, that hasn’t been discarded by the person it resides in, and doesn’t depend on the will of others, do anything but manifest?
Isaiah 55:11 – So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
The promise must become what God intended it to be. It is pushing to be seen. The person who is the field sown into, feels it as it grows, and must let it happen. He can’t manage it, control it, or change it. No wonder, if it’s a seed planted by the God, the creator of the universe — who can prevent something grown by God?
Amid the growing pains of faith, we can take our inspiration from the survivors of Dachau. Surely, if they sustained hope, we can too. We must hang on to our personal promises from God, and remain fertile fields for them to grow to fruition.
We look forward to the day that our hopes in God’s promises are fulfilled. Our liberation day. Hope fulfilled. What a powerful, historical, inconceivably-emotional, and incomparable moment in time it will be.