God on Monday
‘Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised’ (Hebrews 11.39).
It is natural, in an unstable world, to crave certainty. But some of that craving can be based on the idea that life is, or should be, smooth; a linear progression in terms of career, relationships and health. How then do we cope when, despite our best efforts to keep things stable, our expectations are unmet?
The letter to the Hebrews can help us navigate the role of faith in the face of disappointment. In chapter 11, the writer commends the ordinary men and women who become Israelite heroes for their incredible faith in the face of hardship. Yet, as indicated in the verse above, they did not receive what God had promised in all its fulness.
God understands disappointment. In another reading set for this Sunday (Isaiah 5.1-7), we find a parable about vines that were planted on a fertile hill with the full expectation they would yield an abundant harvest. But despite God’s careful nurturing of these vines, all they produced were sour grapes!
If we are honest, we frequently face disappointment. We may be denied an expected promotion, or a new deal; or contract falls apart; or we have to lay off staff, even though we have done everything in our power to keep them on our payroll. We may even become disappointed in faith itself when it fails to yield to our expectations.
Such scenarios can be hard to deal with when we allow our view of life to be shaped by prevailing soundtracks that suggest rosy pathways and happy endings. But we need to abandon ill-founded expectations and embrace a robust faith that demands no certainty other than the sheer goodness and faithfulness of God, whatever our circumstances.
Keep the faith, and that faith will keep you when the source of your faith is the Living God and not your own expectations. Reject the consumerist mentality that sees faith as something transactional – a means to get what we want. Remember that growth happens in life’s transitions, and exciting things can happen as a result of the unexpected. Challenge the idea of life as smooth linearity as a myth. Trust in God’s good plan for our lives.
God, in an ever-changing world full of inevitable setbacks, help us to keep faith in you. Help us to resist basing our identity and value on narrow expectations that lead to disappointment. Inspire us afresh with the knowledge that you work all things for our ultimate good.
Check out Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, by Bruce Feiler. A useful summary on Amazon is here.
Shermara JJ Fletcher, Principal Officer for Pentecostal-Charismatic and Multi-Cultural Relations at Churches Together in England
God on Monday is produced in partnership with the Church of England. The reflections are based on the scriptural readings designated for the coming Sunday in the Church's lectionary. You can sign up to Faith in Business here to receive each God on Monday instalment.
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