When Things Fail to Turn Out the Way You Pray
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Surely you have stumped your toe more than once on the ugly rock of disappointment. Something for which you had planned or dreamed didn’t work out as you had hoped leaving you disappointed and discouraged. For some reason, for which you have not a clue, your fervent prayers to God did not result in the answer you wanted or expected. Then you attempt to reason why: “Is God punishing me? Is there some un-confessed sin in my life of which I am unaware? Did I not have enough faith?” Possibly you even thought, “Is there really a God or is all this Christian stuff foolish nonsense?” Severe disappointment often produces doubt in the heart of the believer.
Did you ever get what you thought was an answer to prayer and it turned out to be a great disappointment? A while back my wife and I were having financial difficulties and we determined that she was going to have to get a job. We met at the church and went into the sanctuary to pour our hearts out to God in prayer. When we arrived home the phone was ringing. Someone was calling to tell her about a job opportunity. She went on the interview, got the job, and started almost immediately. We rejoiced in what we thought God had done. But it didn’t take long to realize that her new job was miserable beyond imagination. What we believed to be an answer to prayer turned out to be a great disappointment.
In today’s focus scripture, Paul talks about something you and I would classify as a valid reason for disappointment. He talks of “suffering” which most often results in disappointment. Suffering can be found in just about every area of life. We can suffer in relationships, in jobs, in family life, in health, in finances, living conditions, and in ministry.
You thought he was Mr. Right, but he turned out to be from the pits of hell. You thought that was a wonderful job opportunity but, boy, were you wrong. Your home life was supposed to be a haven of security, support, and love, but it turned out to be a chaotic mess. You had a good life going until that dread disease hit you.
Perhaps you worked all your life to prepare for your senior years only to have your hopes shattered when your retirement funds went down with the stock market. That nice home you had hoped for turned out to be a rundown one bedroom apartment. The church God gave you to pastor that looked to have so much potential for growth, severely declined. You had high hopes for those children you brought into the world only to see them go in a direction that broke your heart.
Paul saw something in “suffering” that can easily be missed. When he looked at his ample share of “suffering” he did not see disappointment. Rather, Paul saw “suffering” as a pathway to hope that “does not disappoint.” When we continue to walk with God through our “suffering” we grow in “perseverance.” That “perseverance” builds Christ-like “character.” When we possess Christ-like “character” the result is “hope.” It is a higher hope that “does not disappoint.” This ultimate hope is born out of God’s love and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
My life has provided a plentiful supply of disappointments. I have always been a dreamer and consequently taken on projects and jobs at which I failed miserably. There have been things that I prayed for that just never came to pass. Some pursuits have been blessed greatly by God. In others I felt like I was left to hang on a very weak limb of faith.
Through it all I have learned a great lesson on why things don’t always turn out the way we pray. More important than what we want out of life is what God wants for us. What He wants in you and me is the highest quality “character” that always maintains godly integrity regardless of our circumstances. It is “character” that always produces “hope.” And when we reach that pinnacle of “hope” we enter into a place where there is no disappointment.
Are you suffering today? Rather than giving into disappointment and discouragement, surrender your circumstances to God and rejoice in your sufferings because it is a sign that God is working to grow you in the faith with Christ-like character that brings glory to Him. In that place, you will experience hope that does not disappoint, “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
For more on this topic, check out this article: What It Means to Hope in the Lord
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.