The Bible defines faith as this:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1
So what happens when the things that are hoped for never materialize? Why is that your "faith level" is usually determined by the number of things hoped for that actually do come to pass?
Are you a more "successful" or "spiritual" Christian if most of the things you pray for actually happen? What if you pray for something for a long time and earnestly believe that it will happen and then it never does? Do you not have enough faith? Do you need more practice praying?
I don't know. But I do know there have been at least two times in my life where I have earnestly believed that something would happen and it never did. I prayed and prayed. I even rested. But the things I was believing for God didn't happen.
The first time was when I was in 7th grade. Financially, were not very well off. My mom never had enough money and she was driving my late step-father's old paint truck. Somehow she was entered into this contest at a dealership to win a new Dodge Caravan. I wanted her to win that van so bad. I can't remember how long it all took, but it seemed like I spent a couple of weeks of fervent praying and believing and trusting in God that he would allow mom to win that new van.
Well, long story short she didn't win it. And I really had a hard time with that. I just couldn't understand why not. Would it really be that hard for God to just grant this request? I mean, He's God, right? This should be easy for Him. And, its not like we were asking for something that we didn't really need. Seems pretty petty now, but, for some reason, it really effected me and I was very dismayed that God wouldn't go ahead and give us that van.
The other time was not too long ago. In May 2006, I took a job at Rosetta Stone in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We believed this was God's plan for us to move. We put our house on the market and a couple weeks later packed up all of our stuff and moved to Harrisonburg. We figured the house here in McKinney would sell shortly and we could then buy a house in Virginia and move to the next phase of our lives. Until the house sold, we stayed at Cori's parents house (I commuted back and forth on weekends) for 2 months and then rented a house for 4 months.
Throughout this whole time, we had 55 showings at our house, which was sitting empty in Texas, but not one single offer. After a couple months, we lowered the price. A couple weeks later, at the recommendation of our realtor, we lowered the price again. Then again. Then our 4 month listing agreement expired and we signed a different realtor to market the house hoping that a change of pace would make the difference. Since we were already at our lowest list price, we just waited. And prayed and waited. And prayed some more.
We were in Virginia for 6 months. At long last, we could no longer afford to make a mortgage payment in Texas and a rent payment in Virginia as well as utilities and all that nonsense. So we packed everything up (again) and moved back to Texas in November. The day we arrived back in Texas was exactly 6 months to the day that we left.
During that whole time, we were very patient. We never really doubted that we made the right decision to move there, even when things looked bleak. But that didn't change the fact that we had to move back. The whole time we were plagued with questions of why the house wasn't selling? Maybe we did make a mistake. Maybe we weren't supposed to move after all. What the heck is the point of all this? There just has to be a reason, right, God?
That was almost exactly 2 years ago and I am still trying to figure out the why's of it all. People have asked me, "So why do you think God allowed you to go through all that?" I wish I could say I knew. I have no idea why it worked out the way it did. Did it grow our faith? I suppose it did. I still feel like it was the right thing to do at the time. Although it wasn't a fun experience going through many of the emotional ups and downs that went along with that, I will say we had a good time in Virginia.
As a family, we look back on those 6 months with fondness. If I had it to do over again, I would. Maybe the point of it all was the process we went through rather than the end result. We joke about that being a really fun 6-month vacation ... and next time, let's not bring EVERY household belonging on vacation with us! :)
Regardless, those are two times in my life (there could be more, not sure) where I have tried to exercise faith to believe God for something and it didn't happen. At least not the way I wanted or expected it to.
I admit, those are 2 very innocuous examples. There are people out there praying and believing for much more important things than that. There are people with cancer praying for healing. There are people with failed marriages praying for reconciliation. There are mothers of dead children crying out to God, "Why?".
So what if we have faith but what we're believing for doesn't come to pass? Not enough faith? Is our faith misguided?
I don't know. But I do know this: Faith is not getting what you ask for. The people with the strongest faith are the ones who ask and pray and don't receive, but still believe! The Bible says the world is not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:38).
I think the biggest lesson I've learned through all of this is - its not about the destination, its about the journey. God is not a magic genie that does our bidding. Most of the time we think we know what we want, but God knows the desires of our hearts and his plan is better than ours. God is interested in our souls, our relationship with him, not our comfort.
If faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, then that's where God wants us. Not seeing, just believing and letting Him see. He sees the big picture - the infinite, spiritual realm while we never can and that's where our hope is, not here, not now.