Hope in the Unanswered

She is often used as a scapegoat in biblical discussions, but I totally get where she’s coming from. Sarai, devoted wife of Abram, who wanted more than anything to bless her husband with a child. But she was barren for the majority of her life.

Month after month, year after year, they prayed for a child. But nothing happened. Until God gave them a promise, “I will give you a son and multiple generations will be the result.” Read Genesis 15.

But month after month, year after year passed with no baby. How many prayers were whispered during sleepless nights? How many tears when Sarai’s womb dried up and she moved into menopause? Where was the promise?

hands held out to God, light, cross
Image by Geralt of Pixabay

What do we do with those long-term unanswered prayers? Sometimes we step away from hope into doubt or even despair. Sometimes, like Sarai, we come up with our own solutions.

As a Jesus follower with a current unanswered prayer of at least 10+ years, I get it. I totally understand and hope to someday put my arms around Sarai and say, “We are definitely cut from the same cloth, sister.”

Sarai took her plan to Abram and he agreed. “So . . . you want me to go have sex with our young slave girl until we make a baby? Okay. Sure.”

I can imagine the grin on Abram’s face as he jogs toward Hagar’s tent.

But we know the outcome of this story: complicated family dynamics, rejection, abandonment, suffering, and mistreatment on both sides of the generational lines.

Even so, God stepped in and later (a good 10+ years later), blessed Abram and Sarai with their own son, Isaac. He also blessed that first son, Ishmael, who became a prince and the father of multiple children.

Proof positive that God can make something good come out of our goofy mistakes. Even when our impatience forces us to make up a new scenario. Even when we tire of the non-answer and do something we may later regret.

So how do we find hope when our prayers remain unanswered? When we don’t know if God will ever show up in our lifetime? When the hope is dusted with a layer of doubt and tempts us to despair?

We do the only thing we truly know to do. That difficult process from an over-used and under-utilized word. We trust.

We do what I did this week when my non-answer and I faced off — again. When the same prayer felt like an old rerun with no clue of when the answer might come.

We get on our knees and pray our guts out, beginning with the acknowledgement that God’s job is a level above ours.

We open God’s book and find a verse that will help us through that particular sleepless night. Mine was Psalm 87:5, “God Himself will establish her.” Emphasis on ‘God will’ . . . not I will.

We avoid trying to make something happen — faster than the patience required to wait.

And we dig up trust again. Believing that someday, either the answer will come or the reason for its cancellation.

Trust does not need a reason to find hope. It just happens when we intentionally act on it. And when trust warms us with God’s peace, we may discover a smidgeon of gratitude — even during the wait.

©2023 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For ideas about how to trust each day, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

4 thoughts on “Hope in the Unanswered”

  1. An over-used and under-utilized word. . . Trust. Boy, you’ve so nailed it there. A reassuring piece. Thanks!

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