I think that I can safely say that 2020 has not been the year that many of us expected it to be. The world has been confronted with something no one could have ever foreseen. If you’re like me, then many of things that you went into the year looking forward to have fallen through.
Easter camp: cancelled. Sports: cancelled. University: suspended. For my friends: international exchanges, graduations, weddings have all fallen through. The world is coming to a grinding halt and, with it, a pandemic of disappointment is spreading.
I was hesitant to write an article concerning the current state of our world. The media is saturated with content about the current issue and I seek not to be another voice of panic. ButI felt that the work of disappointment had already been going on in my heart well before all this chaos.
Gain through loss
You see, I’ve been through a strange season in my life. Things I have hoped in and had hoped for have not met expectations and have left me disillusioned. Not because the things themselves are disappointing, but rather because my hope and expectation has been misplaced.
I think many of us can relate to this feeling. Things that we normally look to for happiness – social events, sports, work – have all been taken away from us. Whilst these things are not inherently bad, we would be lying if we said they don’t become idols at times.
Without noticing it, and I’m guilty too, we rely on them to bring purpose and happiness instead of the Lord. Nothing but a time like this could reveal that.
But beyond this period, many of us idolize our future. We have dreams, schedules, 5-year plans that we want to come to fruition. Yetto be honest, I've realised that none of that matters if those dreams and desires aren’t birthed by God.
A time like this reveals to us that our plans are at the mercy of things we cannot control. A financial hardship and a health crisis can both derail our carefully constructed plans.
How comforting to then know that God’s plans will always prevail (Proverb chapter 19, verse 21). So, instead of suffering at the hands of an uncertain future, lets perform the terrifying act of sacrificing our dreams and desires and offering them to God (Isaiah chapter 64, verse 8). Let’s ask Him to replace our dreams with His dreams; for that is the path to lasting joy and fulfilment.
And, in reality, Kingdom sacrifices aren’t really sacrifices. How can it be a sacrifice if you are gaining something of greater worth than you are leaving behind? (Straham Coleman).
Despite knowing the truth that His plans for us are best, the process of laying down ours can nevertheless be difficult.
I want it to be clear that I’m not saying that disappointment is wrong, or that it reflects a lack of faith, or that it is unjustified. The cancellation of something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time can and should be saddening.
But what I am saying is that this can be a unique time to reflect on where, and in what, our hope and joy lies. As Jay Wolf says, “New life should be shattering” and this couldn’t be more true.
There are times when the process of submitting to Him feels more painful than hopeful. Yet Mike Donehey encourages us this way:
“Friends, if the Lord is tearing down your world today, if all the walls on your so carefully constructed plans are caving in on themselves, then ask Him in faith, God, are you my treasure?
And if you find the answer is no, then ask Him to bring it on. Break out the scalpel. Tear down the walls. Let loose the storms. Ask Him to do whatever He has to do, until you can proclaim with the psalmist,
“Whom have in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73)”
The future is bright
I believe we are entering a time of hope-shattering hope.
I think that God is shattering many of our false hopes, our idols and rebuilding us with an enduring hope in Him. He is destroying our houses of sand and rebuilding us on His firm foundation (Matthew chapter 7, verse 24 to 27).
This is a process that is going to be painful, it is a process that will make us uncomfortable. It will be hard. But I believe it will be worth it. For in the end, we will have a hope that is unwavering, a joy that does not depend on circumstance and we will be better equipped for the struggles that life will inevitably bring us again.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans chapter 15, verse 13).
Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org