Have you ever felt forgotten by God?
That He once spoke a hopeful word over your life but then walked away and seemed to forget about it. You wake up most mornings in anticipation and go through your day in faith, but still see no evidence for what you were hoping for on the horizon.
Abraham knew what this feels like. Abraham had been called God’s friend and had been given covenant promises by God for blessed future generations and yet as years slipped by one after another, he must have wondered if he had been forgotten by God. Where was the child of promise? Now in his 90’s, doubts must have plagued his mind as he looked up at the starry expanse each night. “Maybe God didn’t really speak, maybe I misunderstood the promise, maybe it is ridiculous to believe the impossible could happen anyway…” Abraham must have walked outside many nights to look at the starlit heavens feeling like he was waiting on God with a handful of crumpled hopes that were slowly withering away.
Bryan Duncan once wrote a song that articulates well Abrahams’ struggle to makes sense of what was happening to him. The song is simply called, “I’ll not forget you.” In one key part of the song, Abraham is voicing his heartache to God and says, “And every day in pain I wait; I can’t help but wonder why… You promise me your love and say, goodbye. Please don’t say, goodbye!” Abraham’s knows that he has no where else to turn. If God does not answer, there is no future for him. And so he cries out, the echoes of his desperation reverberating off the barren cliffs and rocky crags of a deep desert night, “Where are You??” God’s response to Abraham offers no explanation for the delay or details for an expected timeline. He simply reassures Abraham with these tender words of love, “I’ll not forget you. I’ll not forget you. I’ll not forget you…. Learn to trust Me.”
Like Abraham and Sarah long ago, I too keep vigil – waiting on God for the promises I heard early in my life that I thought I had understood; that had once been like guiding stars shining out clearly marking the road ahead of me. (Youth always expects things to be accomplished quickly! 🙂 ) But after the years started melting quickly into one another and I still had not seen these heart dreams fulfilled, my heart began to grow weary as I allowed words of discouragement and disillusionment to creep in and plant their roots of bitterness. I tried to remember how exactly I had pictured my dream’s fulfillment or what had been the precise word God had spoken then. But my memory of that earlier time was vague and uncertain. In that season I began to pull away from God. I reasoned that if I didn’t place such high expectations on God, I wouldn’t be so disappointed and I could preserve my image of Him as a loving Father – just one that I didn’t have to rely on too much.
However, one thing I have learned about God over the past few years is that He does not settle for “long-distance relationships”. When we start to pull away, He is quick to pursue us. Two things happened this past year that really gave me a new perspective on how waiting and worshiping go together. The first thing that happened was that God opened the door on two fronts for me to taste some of the heart dreams I had been longing for – only to realize once I had stepped across the threshold that there were all kinds of complications I hadn’t bargained for when they were simply pictures of possibility in my imagination. As I started to come to terms with all of these unexpected wrinkles of reality marring my idealized picture of how I thought my dreams would unfold, God met with me during a series of heart-sifting, wrestling, lamenting prayer walks in which I came to the final realization that I had set my dreams up as an idol, seeking after it more than after the heart of God. I came to see the love of God so clearly through those prayer times. How gently and lovingly, He revealed how I would never be satisfied by the fulfillment of these dreams alone. I could only be deeply satisfied when my heart was full of Him.
Whether we are in a crisis point in our life or in an extended barren season where everything has felt dried up and no clear path of how to move forward, I learned that we need to remind ourselves God’s love. Whatever emotions tell me, as I worship Him during my times of waiting, I know that He hasn’t forgotten me or left me alone. On the days, when my heart cannot sing, I revisit the words of the patriarchs and the prophets. Moses tells Joshua, “The Lord is the One who goes on before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear, nor be dismayed.” And the Prophet Isaiah says, “God says, ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child? or lack compassion for the son of her womb? Even if she could forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…'”
And as I read, I remember that the same God who spoke these ancient promises thousands of years ago, is the One who holds me by the hand and guides my life as well. I can look back and see His faithful provision in every step. I can see clearly that I have never been forgotten or forsaken by Him. That even though I may forget what God has spoken over my life in years past or even forget what He has spoken to me today, I know in my heart that He will never forget. David encouraged his heart with the words, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” And I am learning to do the same when I walk through the dark valleys of discouragement. I say to my soul, “You are not alone. You are not forsaken. You have been paid for by the precious blood of the Lamb. You are His child now and He will never let you go. His faithful love endures forever. Bless the name of the Lord and wait. He will not forget you.”