Hope in the Midst of Disappointment

The May 2018 issue of Tabletalk treats the practical theme of “Hope Amid Disappointment.”

Editor Burk Parsons points us to the idea of this them in his introduction “When Hope is no More.” This is part of what he says:

Those who think life is all about being happy in themselves by finding happiness within themselves will always be disappointed. That’s precisely how God designed us. For it is only when we become utterly hopeless about ourselves that we really hope in God, and God does not disappoint, because He cannot disappoint. Becoming hopeless about ourselves takes a sovereign act of God, who alone enables us to turn from hoping in ourselves to hoping in Him alone. Hope is a gift from God. Out of the good pleasure of His will, before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen to give eternal hope to those whom He elected from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Hope is given to us by God’s grace, and it is sustained in us by God’s Spirit for our earthly and eternal good and all for God’s glory.

There are four main articles that center on this theme of hope:

Today we take some thoughts from the article by Dr. D. Murray (professor at Puritan Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI). As you will note from the title of his article, he looks at “failure and disappointment” as they are found in the Word of God. Murray shows us that the Bible never hides these two realities of life from us. Concrete examples are found in the lives of the greatest saints – from Moses and David to Peter and Thomas.

But Murray also shows us why these failures and disappointments are recorded for us: they are gospel lessons and moral lessons for us. Here are a few applications he makes on this point:

Failure Should Be Shared

One of the problems with the constant success narratives that we are fed today is the message that success is for everyone and everyone will be a success. The result is that no one is prepared when success never visits and when failure knocks at their door repeatedly. Conscious of this imbalance, Johannes Haushofer of Princeton University published a résumé listing his career failures on Twitter. He did this “in an attempt to balance the record and encourage others to keep trying in the face of disappointment.” “Most of what I try fails,” he said, “but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me.”

The Bible publishes résumés of failure for just about all the characters in it. Some of them even publish their own. The psalmists, for example, not only confess their failures but sing about them—not to celebrate them, of course, but to grieve over them and to seek God’s help with them. They are brutally honest about their lives and about how so much of life just doesn’t work out well. In Psalms 73 and 78, for example, Asaph confesses how he fails while the wicked succeed, resulting in a failure in his faith. He puts it all on the table and says, in effect, “I’m not handling this well.” God then steps in to remind him of His promises and purposes, and Asaph begins to recover his spiritual poise and equilibrium. How thankful we should be for these songs of failure that we can identify with, reminding us that we are not alone, helping us to accept that the abnormal is normal, and guiding us to bring our failures before God as well as share them with others.

And here is another good one:

Failure Does Not Define Us

The result of this is not that we never fail again. No, the result is that failure no longer defines us. Our God and Savior does not define His people by their failures but by their faith. Look at all the failures of the Old Testament saints, and yet look at how God defines them in Hebrews 11. It’s not the hall of failures but the hall of faith. He doesn’t recall their stumbles but celebrates their successes through their faith in Christ alone. Failure is still part of our identity, but it’s no longer the major part. It’s still part of our lives but it’s not definitive, it’s not the last word, and it’s certainly not the first word. Failure is not what God sees first when He looks at His people, and it shouldn’t be what we see first when we look at ourselves or other Christians either. We are righteous in Christ. That’s our primary identity. That’s what God sees first, and that’s what we should see first, too.

You will plenty of profitable reading in this issue of Tabletalk. Follow the links above and below the read more on this important subject.

Source: Failure and Disappointment in Scripture