Last week, I wrote a quick post about a particular type of heartsickness that causes people to give up, not only on their calling and vision but also on Jesus. In what I can only describe as some sort of miraculous accident this quick entry became my most read post of the year. I think that fact speaks to the reality that many of us face heartsickness around something we thought was from God but didn’t turn out like we expected.
I had one friend write in and ask a very pointed question, that I think deserves follow-up. She wrote:
Yeah…what if you have tried to believe in that dream for several years but nothing has happened???? Years and years.
Honestly, my original post had no instructions about what to do in the place of disappointment other than to not let it destroy your faith. I stand by that advice in so many ways, but I wanted to offer something a bit more practical for this sister and others out there who find themselves trying to navigate heartsickness and decide what to do with that dream. For those who find themselves in that place, I would do (and have done) the following things:
- Discern What Was Jesus and What Was You- It’s unfortunate but true, sometimes we latch on to a vision that wasn’t from Jesus. Sometimes the things that stir our heart aren’t always the things Jesus is doing. I’ve seen people with ministry visions that are well-intentioned but obviously born out the flesh. In many cases these saints are loved by God but are listening to themselves. Believers in this situation need perspective and the place to get it is in a collective of older, wiser, and trusted friends who are willing to help you discern what is from God and what is from you. Tell them the story of your vision. Tell them about God speaking to you and the times God confirmed His voice. Then tell them the difficulties and let them help you discern what is from God. This is scary because you are trusting people who aren’t perfect. They may be wrong. But over the years, these men and women in my life have kept me from giving up on the right things and from pursuing the wrong things. Once you have discerned what is Jesus, lay down the things that are not. Grieve time you may have wasted on things that aren’t from the Lord. But hold to the things that, once tested, have proven to be real.
- Consider Yourself- We’d be wrong if we didn’t consider ourselves as part of the equation. Is there something in us that is keeping us from entering into the promised land where Jesus has called us? God called the first generation of Israelites to leave Egypt to inherit the promised land, but their inability to believe God kept them from entering. While I believe the gifts and callings of God can’t be withdrawn (Romans 11:29) I think its important to remember that we play a part in pursuing the calling on our lives. Paul says “I obeyed the vision from heaven,” (Acts 26:19) which tells me we can disobey it somewhere along the line. So we have to do a non-condemning assessment of ourselves and own the parts of barrenness that come from us. Where have we not believed God? Where have we been disobedient to the heavenly vision? In these places, repent and believe God that He can restore the years that the locusts have eaten. You may find yourself quickly catapulted back into the vision you’ve long considered dead.
- Remember Timing- Once you have spent real time figuring out what is from Jesus and what is from you and you have considered how you may be impacting your own vision, consider whether you have missed God’s timing. It’s possible that you saw something way off in the distant future and because of the way God speaks to our hearts, you thought it was for now or a year from now, but it was a decade or more in the future. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in this. Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that (at least) Abraham and Sarah “…died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth,” (Hebrews 11:13). In Abraham and Sarah’s case, they were given a generational vision that was real, but they could never pull it off by themselves. They had to raise up others to inherit their promises. So while your vision may be real, your expectations of timing may not be right. For those who are here, ask God about timing and prepare for the long haul. As Westerners, we believer everything must happen now, but God has His own timetable He is working on. God’s words to Habakkuk are also important. Habakkuk was a prophet who saw a vision of God but was discouraged when it didn’t happen immediately. God says this: “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed,” (Habakkuk 2:3). All of this is to say don’t let a discerned vision cause heartsickness just because of delay. Delay may be a misunderstanding of God’s timing.
Most importantly, remember that the things that are truly from God will happen. God calls things into existence out of nothing and spoke the Earth into existence over a period of days. Once you have discerned something is truly from God, don’t give up. All of the heroes the Bible tells us about are broken and unlikely people who believed God when all hope was lost. Don’t lose faith. Be like Abraham:
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, ‘That’s how many descendants you will have!‘ And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
It was a normal Saturday. I was mowing the lawn when a woman I knew from a previous church walked by me and struck up a conversation. Much of the conversation was just the normal catching up, but then she turned to tell me a bit about one of her relatives who had been fiery for Jesus but was now struggling to find purpose and had stopped meeting with believers altogether. She asked me to pray for him, which I did.
I sat there, praying, and a thought hit me that seemed to be spontaneous enough that I should consider whether the Lord was inspiring it. This is what I heard: “There’s a certain kind of disappointment that can paralyze a man’s soul.”
As I pondered the thought, I realized that often we can have high expectations for God to move and for things to change, but there are two different responses in the heart of men. One response is to continue to press in more. The other response is to become heart sick when you don’t see the type of Christianity you’ve been believing for lived out among a group of people. Proverbs talks about this when it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” (Proverbs 13:12).
This is the danger that so many of us risk running into. If we truly believe in apostolic Christianity, we run the risk of being disappointed if it doesn’t take root with our church. We can have a vision for revival and a move of the Spirit and when it doesn’t come in the time or the way we thought, we can become so heartsick we backslide. We can want to be a part of a house church so badly that we suffer in our walk with Christ when one doesn’t materialize. This isn’t just a theory, I’ve watched it happen with young men and young women who I thought were among the fieriest people I knew.
Disappointment makes our heart sick. So what do we do? Do we stop believing? Do we set the bar really low so no one can be disappointed? Not at all.
Instead, we press in to the heavenly vision that is given us. We also need to set our hearts on Jesus and not our vision. We take refuge in being loved by God regardless of whether we see everything we thought we would see. Often, those of us who are heartsick end up that way because the love of Jesus is not alive and active in our hearts, only the love of our vision. With the seeming death of our vision, we at best backslide and at worst walk away from our faith.
Friends, carefully guard your hearts so that your vision for Christianity and your life serve Christ. Make sure that Christ isn’t serving your vision. It’s the only way to protect your heart from this particular type of heart sickness.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.