It’s a dreary day today. Not even a small patch of blue giving hope that it will clear. (Someone once told me that if you see a patch of blue sky “big enough to make a pair of overalls,” the day will eventually be bright.) But today there’s no hint of that happening.
When I wrote the post below, there was no “patch of blue” to hang my hope on. I was ready to take a drastic measure. Then my sister spoke a word that caused me to hold off.
If you ever feel like I felt and can only see the dreariness—the what ISN’T, the what HASN’T happened—and how long you’ve waited for that “patch of blue” to give you hope—I pray this post will steady you and remind you that God IS at work.
And He will show up.
Might not be how you expect Him to, but you do want to be found faithful in the waiting. The Israelites waited to hear from God during a 400 year time of silence. I imagine they had lost hope in the promised One; but finally the Hope of Heaven, the Light of the World, suddenly made His way into their darkness.
A Fightin’ Chance
Yuck! I certainly never expected this. They looked half-dead already. My sister, the one who had inherited my dad’s green thumb, the one who had carefully planted them in my garden out of the goodness of her heart, solemnly noted the unusual dark patches on the leaves and declared these pansies were diseased. What used to be the only bulletproof plant my black thumb could never kill were sadly on their way out. Really galling since everyone else’s pansies were showing off their vibrant colors and good health all around town.
Not these. PITIFUL. Dang PIT-I-FUL pansies. They mocked me every time I walked up our sidewalk. The only thing left to do was cut my losses and yank them out. That would be better than the sense of failure that I had every time I saw them. A harsh reminder that for the first time in my pansy planting history, my good plan had failed; I had wasted my sister’s time, my money and was now witnessing their inevitable slow death.
Pansy-pulling plans were discussed.
“No,” green-thumbed sister countered, “just give ’em a fightin’ chance.”
I had my doubts. But with that encouragement, I left them alone. Many weeks of ugliness passed; not exactly the first impression you want others to have when they come to visit your lovely new home, right?
I had absolutely no hope that giving them “a fighting chance” meant anything more than wishful thinking.
I was wrong. One day a single tiny bloom peeked through. Frankly, the rest of the plant and it’s pansy partners still looked diseased — so one bloom was nothing to get excited about. But even I, Worst Case Kathy, couldn’t deny a glimmer of hope had crept into the corner of my mind — maybe something good was taking place — undetectable to my eye — hidden under the surface.
There had been absolutely no evidence of anything remotely resembling life — until there was. As I write this today, my garden is filled with bright healthy visible reminders that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” — and don’t give up — on anything or anyone.
God is using this pansy story as a personal parable. He’s applying it to the frustration I wrestle with over Major Prayers still in the unanswered column. Things I pray for year after year begin with great hope, but then I compare my Major Answered Prayers list to those of others, and mine doesn’t look so good.
Is anything good happening? Is God doing a work still unseen, below the surface?
If it is, I have absolutely no indication. But the pansies remind me that I need to hang in there and not give up. I now ask God to use everything — and anything — to do His unexpected work in every dark and hidden place that my prayers cover. I ask Him to transform what currently looks dormant, diseased or possibly on death’s door into a revived, restored and resurrected thing of beauty that I will one day see.
This is not wishful thinking.
After all, He’s the author of creative solutions and redemptive rescues. When Plan A, Plan B and Plan C are thwarted, He puts Plan G into effect. God’s plan. More innovative, complicated, something that only the God who put the stars in place can do.
No doubt He is actually already doing it — still invisible to me — but I know that one day what He did in secret will be revealed. He’s gonna do whatever it takes whether that mean trials or blessings, the people of God, the word of God — whatever is needed to “give ‘em a fighting chance.”
All I need is a sanctified imagination to see the possibilities, keep praying and wait.
I don’t even need to work out carefully crafted plans of my own to “help” God do his job. When we work, we work. When we pray God works.
And like the unexpected turn around in my own personal pansy parable, His work cannot always be seen — until it is.
Rooted In Truth Scriptures/Growing In Love Practical Application: (followed by Listen and Watch)
- When you are discouraged—invite others into the battle. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Exodus 17:12
- Let others know when you are “stuck in enemy camp.” Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
- Realize you have an enemy who wants to discourage you. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
- Preach the gospel to yourself. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
- Write out scripture and keep it “back pocket” close. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
- Remember the cross; it proved God’s great love for us. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2
- Count every great or good thing until you lose count. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8
- Spend time in private and corporate worship. As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes…and they were defeated. 2 Chronicles 20:22
- Before you “take your marbles and go home,” because people let you down, look up. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…Matt. 6:33 Don’t grow weary in doing good. Gal. 6:9
- Don’t give up. I admire my friends still in deep waters after years of praying. But they keep on sharing their ongoing difficult situation and receive practical help, wise perspective and emotional support from many— because they were willing to be vulnerable. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
- When others need encouragement, pray, then act! It doesn’t need to be extravagant or profound—just wrapped in love. My sister told me something very simple and practical, “Just give ’em a fighting’ chance,” which kept me from pulling the plug on what really looked hopeless. If she hadn’t offered those simple words, I never would have seen the greater truth that God would reveal to me through my own personal pansy parable. So if you know someone short on hope—in any given situation—and you can share how God “showed up” in your own need, JUST DO IT. Go ahead and prayerfully write that text, forward that song, send that email or handwritten note. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:4 …The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6