Unless I Had Believed

A few mornings ago, I woke with a heavy sense of dread, imbued by the nightmares that sometimes plague me. As I shuffled to the coffee pot, the clamoring needs of my children felt like alarm bells on an already fried nervous system. I was preoccupied with larger worries than “what’s for breakfast?”

We’re currently in the middle of a housing fiasco involving renters who won’t vacate and a housing market that’s seeing offers for 100k above asking price, and escalating by the day. Finding a house is beginning to look like a lost cause.

Beneath the pressing concerns of immediate needs simmer other background noises—broken relationships and severed ties, conversations I wish hadn’t happened. Maybe for you, like for me, there is a person or situation that haunts your dreams. I’ve done everything I know to do, and still I turn it over in my mind again and again, wondering what could have been different.

There is so much that could discourage us—so much about which we could throw our hands in the air and say, “What’s the point?” We all have the things that we have decided—maybe without even admitting it to ourselves—are out of God’s reach. God, however, is the one who decides when things are past His grasp.

We met an older couple for the first time last night. After dinner they were generous enough to share their story with us—a journey from Orthodox Jew to the counter-cultural movement of Berkeley, California in the 70’s, and finally to the deconstruction and reconstruction they experienced in conversion to Christianity. As I listened to this 72-year-old man talk, I was struck by his assertion that “Christianity was one place behind the last place I would ever look.” By his own admission, he was hostile to the gospel. Many could have easily written him off as a lost cause. But throughout his story there was the consistent theme of God’s grace, shown through encounters with other Christians, and glimpses of the “Hound of Heaven” coming after him.

For those of us who have grown up in the faith, there is a tendency to long for the drama of a conversion story like this, but this man shared how he has questioned God about not breaking into his life sooner. He has mourned the mistakes and heartache of the 29 years before he became a Christian, but anytime he has asked, like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof shaking his fist, “Would it have upset some grand eternal plan [to have become a Christian sooner]?” the almost audible response he heard was a quiet, “Yes.” As his life has proven, he was not left for lost, but the timing may never make sense to him.

Rather than the exception, the story of God breaking into lives and situations in His own timing is the rule, but our Western affinity for comfort and convention makes it easy to forget this. The Bible shows us a God who delights in taking on a “lost cause” and turning the tide when things seem hopeless. We who have heard these stories from childhood forget how ludicrous they are in any economy other than God’s.

The Israelites thought God had forgotten their plight before he brought them out of Egypt. They were terrified to go into the promised land—then God told them to march around the walls of Jericho? Can you imagine how you might feel about that course of action? How foolish it might have seemed? Story after story of unlikely causes follow this one: Gideon’s army whittled down to nothing; Jonah sent to the “lost cause” of Nineveh; Joseph stuck in the bottom of a well, languishing in Pharaoh’s prison; and Job watching his life fall to pieces before it is restored.

How many times do we forget that there were so many points along the way when these heroes of the faith probably thought things were beyond hope?

We are so prone to forget who God is.

We limit Him to tidy, small, requests, holding back the things we truly desire because we are afraid He might disappoint us.

I cannot say the lost causes in my own life have been met with miracles. Some have. And some may only see their resolution on the other side of glory. As we wait for God to work out the things that seem beyond hope, we can remind ourselves of King David’s words:

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”  Psalm 27:13-14

Thanks be to God that He is a good God who does not let us despair of our lost causes.

Annelise finds time to write in the margins of being a wife, mother to four young boys and, most recently, homeschooling them. Most of her writing begins as notes typed into her phone under a sleeping or nursing child. Writing has been her lifeline through years of recovery, and is group therapy for her inner committee. She is more certain of fewer things than ever, but persists in looking for truth and beauty. She tells her stories because learning you’re not the only one is a powerful antidote to shame. She is passionate about many things in life, constantly learning, and enjoys nothing more than a still house and her first cup of morning coffee. You can find more of her writing at https://whatexactlyamidoing.wordpress.com.