Because still means stillness: seemingly not moving forward, not getting any closer, no evidence of progress.
Having unfulfilled dreams is hard. Especially when we look around and see others getting the things we desire. Especially when we believe those dreams are from God, for His glory. Especially when we submit to His timing and plan, but the longings don’t lessen or become fulfilled.
And maybe, as hard as we try to be content and grateful, to trust God’s timing and plan, most days we feel discouraged, confused, disappointed, frustrated, sad, and even angry.
How do we not give into the disappointment and give up on hope when the Lord plants desires in our hearts, but then doesn’t give us the desires of our hearts? How do we not give into the discouragement and give up on faith when it seems God isn’t moving us in any direction, towards our dreams or into new dreams? How do we not give into the frustration, confusion, sorrow, and anger, and give up on peace and joy in these places of still-ness?
A Place of Still-ness
There’s many stories in the Bible we could look to for teaching about persevering in faith and trusting God’s plan and surrendering our dreams to Him. But there’s one story of a woman who has often gotten overlooked as an example of faith.
We find this woman in the Christmas story.
And no, it’s not Mary.
Rather, it’s her older relative Elizabeth.
While Mary shows us what it looks like to step in faith into what we could’ve never dreamed, Elizabeth shows us what it looks like to walk faithfully in the midst of unfulfilled dreams.
In Luke 1, we learn that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah are old, and despite fervent prayers for a child, they have remained childless.
Then, we get to the part of the story that gets the attention: the angel Gabriel visits Zechariah and announces to him that Elizabeth will conceive and give birth to a son, who they are to name John. This son will be a forerunner to Jesus, to make ready hearts and awaken hope for the Messiah.
And there’s the happily ever after.
But we mustn’t forget that before her prayers were answered, before her dream was held in her arms, before this gift was given, like Sarah and Rachel and Hannah before her, Elizabeth suffered years of infertility.
We don’t know what Elizabeth’s life was like before this angelic announcement. But I imagine there were many years of those stills for her… still dreaming, still waiting, still praying, still hoping.
And maybe even coming to place where her dreams held more grief than expectancy, where her prayers were made more of tears than of hope.
She eventually did get her dream, her prayer answered. But even then, it was probably different than she had expected and desired. To chase a toddler as her joints stiffened? To guide a teenager as her eyesight failed? Did she even live long enough to see her boy become a man; to witness all the angel spoke about her son come to pass?
The first description we read of Elizabeth is found in Luke 1:6: “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.”
Righteous, blameless, upright, obedient, faithful.
Even though her dreams weren’t coming true, even though her prayers weren’t being answered, even though her waiting stretched long, Elizabeth kept walking with the Lord.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us “it is impossible to please God without faith.” Elizabeth was a woman who pleased God, so this means Elizabeth was a woman who had put her faith in Him. She had “confidence in what she hoped for and assurance about what she did not see.” (See Hebrews 11:1)
Even though her dreams weren’t coming true, even though her prayers weren’t being answered, even though her waiting stretched long, Elizabeth trusted the Lord and kept walking with Him.
I can’t answer for Elizabeth, but I can answer this:
The stills are hard, but in stillness we come to know that God is God.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The word “still” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word raphah, and in other places in Scripture, this word is translated as “feeble,” “alone,” “idle,” and even “fail.”*
It’s in the stillness, where the possible seems less and less possible, where our efforts are getting us nowhere, where we’re not moving any closer to our hopes and dreams, where we’re unsure which way to turn, where we wonder if somewhere along the way we made a wrong turn, and where we maybe even doubt if God is still there, still hearing, still caring, still working, that we must choose whether or not we will trust God; whether or not we will have faith that He is faithful to keep His Word.
In the stillness of still dreaming, still praying, still waiting, still hoping, we can know God.
The word “know” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word yada: “to know by observing and reflecting, and to know by experiencing.” When this word is used in regards to knowing God, it “is to have an intimate experiential knowledge of Him” and “is paralleled to fear Him, to serve, and to trust.”*
In the stillness, where we must continue to put into practice what we know is beneficial and good, even if we want to give up and give in to a temporary feel-good, where we trust what God promises is true, even when we’re not feeling it, where we cling to the belief that God really is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, even when we’re just not seeing it, God will make Himself known and we will experience Him in a deeper and more intimate way. We will experience Him as our hope, our joy, our peace.
As we put our faith in Him, we can be confident in what we hope for and assured about what we do not see. We can be confident that the hope we place in Christ will not be disappointed, for all God’s promises are “Yes” in Him. (See 2 Corinthians 1:20) We can be assured that in the still dreaming, still praying, still waiting, still hoping, God is leading, God is working, God is providing, God is comforting, God is listening, God is caring, God is weaving His goodness in us, around us, and through us.
And like Elizabeth, we will come to a place when we look back and say, “The Lord has done this for me.” (See Luke 1:25)
*from the New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong