As a church planter you have to ask for things. Lots of things. Now everyone should ask for lots of things, but I’ve found myself doing that more these days because I have less in some sense. Though much was already committed before I was even “signed,” I still do have to ask for money. That’s kind of hard. But I also have to ask for people. And you can’t really ask people for themselves, at least not at first. Because of that I’m at the mercy of people returning phone calls, meeting me and meeting with me, showing interest in me, the church, or the gospel (preferably all three, but one out of three isn’t bad). Since I cannot provide that interest, I have to ask God for it.
And while scary, it can also be kind of fun. It can result in great excitement and praise.
For instance, I prayed for several neighbors that I had made contact with a while ago, yet hadn’t been able to connect with. I prayed specifically for two of them to return a phone call. Just 15 minutes after praying, I saw a name pop up on my I-phone. It was one of the two.
For a very short 5 seconds, I praised God out loud before answering the phone. There was talking, but it wasn’t to me. He had “butt-called” me. If you’re not familiar with that term, we’ll just say he accidentally called me without knowing it or realizing I had actually answered the phone.
From the heights of praise to the depths of disappointment. In 4.5 seconds.
James 4 reminds us that we don’t have because we don’t ask. So we should definitely ask. But the problem when you do ask-and I’ve already mentioned that I have to ask for a number of things I haven’t asked for before-is that you set yourself up for disappointment. You really do. I think we need to honestly count the cost of asking.
Of course there is a reason that God says, “No, or not right now.” Just like when parents tell there kids, which is always a good reminder. Why should I expect my kids to take it so easy, when it’s hard for me?
With much asking comes much disappointment. Of course with much asking, comes much thanksgiving. But instead of basing my confidence in prayer or spiritual well being on how many times God said, “Yes” that week vs. how many times he said, “No” or “Not at the moment,” I’ve had to reconsider how I view disappointment.
The Psalms are full of highs and lows. Full of disappointment and full of thanksgiving. You might think the persons writing them were a bit unstable. But I think that’s just a healthy vibrant spiritual life. If you aren’t disappointed, you probably don’t care all that much. And if you are disappointed, remember, that is so much better than being apathetic. Or even being dry. Going back and forth between disappointment and thanksgiving is far more healthy than a “stable” dry time.
Disappointment is not a dark desert highway on the way to the Hotel California, but an experience of a real relationship with a Heavenly Father, who out of love, may say, “No” or “Not yet.”
I’ve been dry. I’ve been on spiritual auto-pilot before. I’m learning that temporary disappointing periods are actually much better. It means there is a real Father-son relationship taking place, just like the one which takes place in my house each day. Highs and lows, but it is real, not robotic. I’m learning to see disappointment in a new light.