Every acre of your life should glisten with the dew of hope. Hope, in fact, is one of the chief characteristics of our calling (Eph. 1:18). But sometimes the gap between promise and possession becomes fallow.
The fallow ground of abandoned hope.
Fallow ground is soil that has at one point been prepared, but then left inactive – abandoned – until it becomes resistant to seed and moisture. This is ground where we’ve ceased to expect results. These are places where disappointment has led to discouragement and even disbelief. Fallow ground is where you have stopped hoping things will be different. This is the fallow ground of abandoned hope.
The Path toward Fallow Ground
Have you ever been disappointed? Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Disappointment is tiring, wearying and can even be devastating – like a wound in our soul. Over time, disappointment leads to discouragement; the wound in the soul becomes inflamed or infected. Discouragement can be too painful or frustrating to face or fight, and eventually the scar of disbelief covers the wound in our soul. Fallow ground is left. We no longer bother with hope in that place.
After all, isn’t it easier to acquiesce to status quo than to anticipate change? Isn’t easier, less painful, less frustrating to cope than to confront? Because, after a while, it feels like it has been after a while. This is the fallow ground of abandoned hope.
This is the ground, I believe, of a father’s heart in Mark 9:14-24. The story pivots on Jesus’ statement to this desperate father that “all things are possible to him who believes.” The daddy responds with “I believe (I want to believe, I know I should believe, I am trying to believe); help my unbelief.” Help my unbelief? This was no willful rejection of faith. No, I believe the father was saying something much more like this:
I’ve been disappointed so often. The heartache of watching this boy’s life being destroyed has been overwhelming for me. I have tried everything – twice. It has been like this for too long. What hope I had ran out a long time ago. I brought him to your disciples, and not even they could help. And now… now YOU are standing in front me, asking me to believe?
Yes. Yes He is. He stands as the single greatest hope on the planet, as the savior of the world, God-become-man, the anointed One, and asks you to trust Him. And if you will permit me to project my view upon the story, I believe the father’s confession of faith, but request for help reveals that He heard something in voice of Jesus, that he saw something in face of the son of God that began to break up the hardened soil in his soul. There is something about Jesus and His perfect, pristine radiance of God’s glory and expression of His Nature (Hebrews 1:3) that breaks through the dark clouds of fear and pain and draws us to risk, to trust, to hope again. From the blazing love behind his piercing gaze, Jesus says, “all things are possible.” There is nothing that is not possible. His words beckon hope’s return.
How to Restore Hope to Fallow Ground
If the gap between possession and promise has dried and hardened, it needs be broken up. We can till the ground with truth: God’s person (who He is), His promise (what He has said), His Providence (what He has done), and His power (what He can do).
We strike the dry soil in our soul, reminding it of who God is, that He is Good, profoundly and exceedingly Good, and that his loving-kindness endures forever. We declare that He is faithful and He is Holy. (Pardon the grammar that follows) He is gooder, wiser, kinder, and better than I’ll ever know or can measure. We then remind our soul of all that this great-big-good-God has said, of His promises – and that each one is “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Further, we use the tool of God’s providence – we recall and recite what God has done for us and for others. We can be very generous in the application of providence; the testimony of the Lord is a powerful and practical tool to restore hope. Finally, we recall that what whatever God has done, and what He has said He will do, He has the power to perform. Like Abraham we stand in the place of barrenness and believe in “God who raises the dead and calls the things that are not as though they already were. Against all hope, with hope he believed…that what God had promised He was able to perform” (Romans 4:17-18, 21).
And we fasten hope to the soil of our hearts with the chords of perseverance (Heb. 10:36-39). Perseverance means we will not give up this ground again to hopelessness. We will not cease to till our soul with the truth of God’s person, promise, providence and power. We will not shrink back. Believing deeply, we hope boldly. And we persevere, because something has got to change, something has got to give, and it’s not going to be us: dry bones will rattle with life, springs will rise up in the desert places, light will break through the clouds; blind eyes will open; deaf ears will see; the lame will walk. Hope will rise and rest upon the landscape of our life as fresh as the morning dew.
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