Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you
I want to write to you this morning about Disappointment and Discovery.
In Acts 16, after reading of the great work of God accomplished in Lystra and Iconium, we see the Apostle Paul and his companions full of enthusiasm to preach the Gospel in Asia. But they were not allowed. Paul then set his heart on going to Bithynia. However, in some way that is not clear to us, but was clear to Paul, they were again forbidden by God to follow that path, and so he found himself being thwarted and unable to realise what he had set his heart upon. We can only imagine how disappointed he felt.
That often happens to us in life when the dreams we have cherished and the desires we have longed for are spoiled and crushed and remain unfulfilled. Perhaps it was a childish ambition to be someone special, maybe a football player or a doctor or even a princess. During teenage years it might have been a desire to obtain a first-class Honours Degree or to become a ballet dancer or an airline pilot, only to discover that it was not to be. Perhaps we hoped to find romance with the dashing young man or woman whose charms had entranced us, only to discover that they had no interest in us, and how terribly disappointed we were!
Some people throughout their whole life have longed and thirsted for love. They did not want to be rich or famous, they simply wanted to fulfil those deep longings to be married, yet they found themselves disappointed and let down. Then there are others who have married and have had real joy in anticipating the birth of a child only to be deeply disappointed when that has not happened.
In the words of the hymn-writer: “Hopes are crushed, and castles fall, and what we long for most of all eludes so oft our eager hand.”
There are many disappointments on the pathway of life when like Paul, we long to go into our Bithynia and – it was not fate or chance – but God who has not allowed it. It was a very deep and distressing disappointment at the time, and we found it difficult to see that the hand of God was in it.
His disappointments can come to us in a variety of ways, but there is always a purpose and a reason behind them, which is what Paul and his companions were to find out later. In time, there came the wonderful discovery when Paul received the call to go to Macedonia, and immediately they set sail on a voyage that had unimaginable consequences. It is an old saying that large doors can open on little hinges, and here the fate of a whole continent and of the world, lay in one little boat. I have no doubt that Paul would look back on that time of bewilderment and thank God for it as He saw that His hand was in it all. Perhaps he might never have heard the cry from Macedonia if he had gone to Bithynia.
A favourite verse of mine is Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious to you.”
How many of us have discovered the truth of that promise and lived to thank the Lord for it!
There are many disappointments in life, and they are very real, and we feel them deeply. Our hopes may be dashed, our dreams of Christian service may not turn out as we hoped; our prayers may not be answered as we wished.
But God makes no mistakes. He can turn our disappointments into wonderful discoveries and our present failures into future triumphs. There are times when like Paul, we need to bow before God’s mysterious providence and realise that despite the things that we cannot understand or even accept at times, He always does all things well and our Bithynia might well be God’s Macedonia.
Although those discoveries might not be uncovered or realised in this world, when the dawn of heaven breaks we shall make the greatest discovery of all, and we shall see that there was a good reason or every disappointment and that: “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30)
Sincerely in Christ,