“I haven’t given up hope, but…”
I was catching up with a friend. She and her daughter have seen a rough stretch. Death in the family, countless unanswered prayers. Though my battles were different, we reached the same conclusion: the last fifteen years had not gone as we’d hoped.
When you go that long with something wrong, your mind finds ways to deal with it. The most common is to assume that this is how things will always be. This is how God operates; this is his modus operandi for you. Every year offers hope. But it always ends with disappointment. The last go-around didn’t bring any breakthrough, you reason; why would this one?
“I haven’t given up hope, but…”.
We know in our hearts that we shouldn’t throw in the towel. Still, our hope features a “But”. We’re not sure we want to put our hearts out there. Not again. It might just be easier to Gethsemane this one and move on.
“…a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (Mark 5:25-29)
We read this story and go, “Wow, all she had to do was ask Jesus and he helped right away. One ask, one touch. If only.”
But that’s not the lesson at all.
Think about it – this woman went through twelve years of the hope-and-disappointment roller coaster. Every doctor she’d visited had promised a cure, along with fervent prayers that at last God would move on her behalf. Every time, the hope crashed. No explanation.
This woman, right up until the moment she touched Jesus’ cloak, was me and my friend. Years of desolation. Not only was she stricken, but the search for a cure had left her destitute – and ceremonially unclean on a daily basis. Trial spawning other trials. She was alone and shunned. Thousands of prayers fallen on seemingly deaf ears.
And then…one brush of Jesus’ robe and all was well.
After twelve years of heartache, none of which seemed to point to anything ever being right again…the rules changed in a touch. A new life in every way.
Because of her uncleanliness, she risked everything by entering a crowd. Had she considered that this prophet, this healer from the very God who had implemented the Mosaic law, might not appreciate being seized by an unclean woman?
Well, she went anyway. There was no “but” affixed to this woman’s hope. Only audacity could have pushed her through the disappointment and the crowd, an unbowed “maybe this time”, made stronger, not weaker, by the years.
The crippled woman from Luke 13 suffered at Satan’s hands for eighteen years. The man who washed in the Pool of Siloam had been blind from birth. Veterans of disappointment.
For the man at the Bethesda pool…thirty-eight years. In that society, thirty-eight years brought a man right to the twilight of one’s life expectancy. Yet there he was, beside the pool, when Jesus showed up. His years hadn’t keep him home.
I want that faith.
I cannot predict what God will do in your life. Gethsemane is indeed the end of some prayer roads.
But I can tell you what kind of hope Jesus wants in us: no “buts”. These stories of double-digit-year waits weren’t canonized by accident. Whatever breakthrough you’re praying for, it can come out of nowhere, unexpected, even on the heels of years of wearying, mystifying frustration. Indeed, I might even dare to say that it’s really more about the faith then the breakthrough.
I want my dear friends to see that, to jettison the “but” and look to each day with hope. It may be tiring; it may require courage to hope again.
But if this is how Jesus wants us to live…