Battle-Ready Hope

hope dares the soul to live battle ready

Battle-Ready Hope

I was praying one morning when a bold, audacious request entered my mind. I was just about to lay it before the Lord when something deep inside of me reacted … or maybe I should say … rebelled. It all happened so fast – one moment I’m enjoying a conversation with my Savior and the next – I’m shutting Him out. I heard myself thinking: “No! I’m not asking about that! I’m tired of being disappointed … tired of hoping … tired of hurting … it’s not worth the risk – Forget It!”

Although I was surprised by the sudden intensity of my little temper tantrum, I knew exactly what had just happened. God had simply exposed yet another area of my heart where I had allowed the pain of deep disappointments to diminish my hope. I didn’t even want to summon the strength to ask God again to breakthrough in that particular area.

Have you ever felt that way? What happens to your heart when you experience ongoing disappointments … or when you’ve waited years for an answer to prayer with no breakthrough in sight? Do you shut down your heart to hope? Do you find your prayers becoming reasonable rather than radical? Or do you fully surrender the disappointments and the delays, refusing to give up hope and fully trust that God’s heart is for you?

Disappointments and delays … is there any greater faith-killer?

I’m always reminded of Zechariah and Elizabeth at times like this. They are described as “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” But they also experienced deep heartache. Two insurmountable obstacles are described in the very next sentence: they had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6,7).

But God’s glory is just about to break loose in their lives:

Zechariah is performing his once in a lifetime priestly duties when suddenly the angel Gabriel shows up with a declaration that’s just as startling as his sudden appearance. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-15)

Wow! Wouldn’t you expect Zechariah to be jumping up and down, laughing with joy, falling to His knees, overflowing with praise to His God. Finally! After all these years! Their hopes and dreams were going to be realized!!

But that’s not even close to what actually happened. Zechariah responds with a doubt-filled question: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Oh my, I bet the silence in that moment was deafening …

Gabriel, an ACTUAL angel APPEARED right before his eyes and gave him this “your dreams are coming true” message from the very MOUTH OF GOD …. and then … Zechariah … um … I can barely say the words … wanted proof. Really?? How can that be?

Well here’s what I think was going on … (and you have every right to disagree). But I feel like I can really relate to Zechariah in that moment.

I think all those years of faithfully and persistently praying and longing and hoping for a baby only to be disappointed time and time again, coupled with seasons of deep heartache as they watched their friends getting pregnant and playing with their little children had damaged Zechariah’s heart.

I think somewhere along the way, tired of being disappointed, tired of hurting, his weary heart stopped hoping for a baby. He still loved the Lord and continued to serve God faithfully and obediently all those years. But at the moment of this glorious announcement, Zechariah struggled to open his wounded heart to faith.

I wonder how many of us need to open our weary hearts to faith. I wonder how many of us have allowed disappointments and delays to send us running to the safe harbor of diminished hope and watered down promises.

I’m deeply grateful we’re not called to manufacture faith or produce hope. But we are commanded to believe God’s Word with child-like faith. This means we have to do battle against the cynicism and doubt that arises as we view obstacles through our life experiences rather than through the eternal lens of God’s unchanging character and His unfailing promises.

The next time our souls are “weary with sorrow” may we pray as the psalmist prayed: Lord, “strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:27)

May we become warriors who consistently battle any undercurrent of doubt by running to Jesus and running to His Word and may we live battle-ready even when we’re soul-weary.