In response to one of my many queries, God said that to wait for His promise is to receive Isaac, but to take another route to the fulfillment of God's promise is to receive Ishmael. In other words...do it my way and forfeit the true prize; let God do it His way in His timing and receive His promise.
The challenge for me at the moment is that there's a third way, a middle road between Isaac and Ishmael. And I can't decide whether it's a semi-Isaac or a semi-Ishmael or something altogether different.
Yet God was pretty clear in His promise. It's my puddle of faith that's muddy.
I know I'm not alone in trying to unravel the gnarled ball of yarn that is faith in God's promises. All sorts of things contribute to the tangled knot. The two I'm dealing with in this season are:
- Questions of whether or not I heard God correctly. This doubt goes right back to the Garden of Eden when satan craftily asked Eve, "Did God really say..."
- Questions of whether or not God's promise is actually my own desire masquerading as Truth. When the Word of the Lord is something I would never have thought of or don't particularly enjoy (ie. 'do a one-day fast every week'), it's easier to believe it's from God because it certainly isn't MY idea. But when the Word of the Lord sounds very much like my deepest dream, it's easier to suspect the Word may be nothing more than my longings.
Can God do what He says He will do?
Will He do it in my case?
Yes, if He said He would, then He will.
Did He say He would?
I think so.
But what if He didn't?
Therein lies the rub.
Therein lies the temptation
to doubt my ability to hear God,
which affects my belief that
God can make Himself heard.
What I must remember is this:
God wants to communicate with me.
God is bigger than my ability to hear.
And follow them.
Which is the harder part.
Yes, that's how I feel. It's like I'm in a room with 3 doors: the door marked 'Isaac' is closed; the door marked 'Ishmael' stands fully opened; the door in the middle is ajar.
"Wait for Isaac!" my heart cries.
"Is that what God is saying?" my heart asks.
So I sit on the floor in the room before the doors and wait.
Is this a test of faith?
But even more to the point, I believe it's a test of faithfulness. God's faithfulness to fulfill His promise; my faithfulness to wait for Him to do it His way.
How painful is the waiting! In the beginning I had peace. Now hope wavers like a candle flickering in the wind. It struggles to stay burning, to fight the good fight, to never give up. But the wind blows stronger and the rain spits and the candle burns lower.
Does God know the length of my wick?
I want to please God with unwavering faith; I want it to be credited to me as righteousness. I've asked Him many times to increase my faith, and I suspect this is how He does it...by testing it.
By making it wait.
Faith isn't faith unless it believes in something only God can do and trusts Him to do it. But it's costly, that kind of faith. It separates marrow from bone and gets to the heart of the matter...what do I believe about the nature and character of God?
Corrie ten Boom said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
Do I know God enough to trust Him with the future of my deepest dream?
I hope so.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."
Have I seen God at work in my life?
Most definitely. Without a doubt.
Perhaps most compelling of all is the anonymous quote scratched into the cement wall in Auschwitz concentration camp by a Jewish prisoner:
"I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining,
I believe in love, even when I don't feel it,
I believe in God, even when He is silent."
I guess the real question isn't whether or not God is faithful to fulfill His promises; the real question is do I believe God is faithful to fulfill His promises.
Based on how far God has brought me, and the work He has done in my life, I have to say 'yes. God can do all that He says He can do, and He will fulfill His promises in my life.'
Let Your will be done, Lord.