Remember what we learned a couple of weeks ago: God knows disappointment. He asked Hosea the prophet to be a living example of His disappointment. We too, know disappointment. Now, what will we do about it? That’s the question, isn’t it? This is where faith intersects life in our disappointments. Faith does not always protect us from people disappointing us. Faith doesn’t shield us from circumstances that aren’t what we want them to be. No, in this area faith’s job is not so much to protect as it is to overcome and thrive.
Thrive? Has a disappointment got you asking how? Do you wonder how the pieces will ever go back together? Perhaps what you expect is that you will continue to go through the motions, but surviving and existing is really all you are expecting. This is the temptation. This is what disappointment does to us. It tells us that we can’t do any better, relationships will always fail, or circumstances will never improve. It tells us we have little or no hope. Yet, that is not the message of the gospel. God has quite a different message! He says that there is hope!
Here comes the fun (hard) part. Faith may not protect us from hurts like this. Instead, faith leads us overcome and thrive. Thrive? Jesus said, “I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Faith says that this promise must be for me too. This means me. No matter the struggle. No matter the disappointment. No matter the pain. Jesus came to give me an abundant life. That’s what faith says. Disappointment says something quite different. Disappointment says that it is hopeless. Disappointment says that a full life is for other people. So, what is the magic formula for getting the abundant life? (BTW – it isn’t a magic formula!)
Faith calls to make a choice – start over or embrace bitterness.
For those of you who are going through this kind of thing in your own life, thank you for sticking with me. It isn’t enough to hear that you reflect God, is it? I had thought about starting this section by talking about how God can use our pain to help others, but it’s not enough that we can be a minister in our pain, is it? Before we can rejoice in being Hosea to our friends and family or rejoice in helping others with their pain, we want the answer to the mystery of our own struggle. How can I live abundantly after such disappointment? The answer is found in what both Hosea and God offered the ones who had so disappointed them. The answer is to start over. This is the secret that alludes so many down trodden souls. This is what happens when forgiveness is real. This is what is missing when we pray for forgiveness from God and yet can’t forgive ourselves. It is what the father offered the prodigal son and what Jesus lived out with Simon Peter, the woman caught in adultery, and the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. All of them were invited to start over.
Starting over. The words seem so simple, yet it is in living out those words that the tremendous power of faith emerges in our everyday life. Think about what our faith in Jesus teaches us. It teaches us that grace can truly change a life. Our faith does not teach us that a reformed life deserves grace. That would be works – and quite frankly is nonsense. Reformation does not erase the hurt. No one can earn forgiveness. No amount of good works can lesson disappointment. No, our faith teaches us that the invitation to start over is completely a grace thing. It is a decision on the part of the one who was hurt (God) to start over with the one who did the hurting (us). We didn’t earn the invitation. God simply gave it. He decided to start over with us. God believes that faith will transform us. God believes that His invitation can and will make a real difference. That is the power of grace.
Our faith declares that such a truth doesn’t just flow from God to us. Like Hosea, we are God’s men and women who can live that way everyday. The call of our faith is to follow God’s example. The call of our faith is to start over by believing that living in grace makes a real difference. That is walking by faith, isn’t it? To start over with those who have disappointed us, especially when we are deeply hurt, is a flesh and blood declaration of our belief in the power of grace. It is this belief that Peter encourages women to live in when he says that they should win their husbands, “over without words… when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (2 Peter 3:1b-2) In other words, as they live in grace with their families, women who have unbelieving spouses will make a difference in the lives of those precious people. They don’t make the change by being brash or angry. They don’t influence them by nagging or pointing out how they are always right. The women transform their homes by living out grace. Living that out is faith!
In the same chapter, Peter tells all Christians to live out this grace – even when we are punished for doing good. He says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16, emphasis mine) Did you catch that last part? Basically, Peter declares this – I live in grace with others and God will work a miracle on their attitude and change it in my favor! That is the power that God declares that grace has when we live it out. God tells us that lived out grace changes people and life in profoundly wonderful ways. When we have been deeply disappointed, our faith is supposed make it possible for us to live out that truth. We can, by faith, start over.
I think that is enough to think on for today. Next time, we will think a bit about the alternative to starting over – bitterness. For now, hear the challenge of faith in your life. Consider the challenge of the prophet Hosea to start over. Pray about who you need to start over with to see God’s miracle of lived out grace.
Something to think about,