I’ve been reading through Hebrews 11 (again). It is (of course) all about faith.  It’s about the faith of some monumental Bible characters, but also some rather obscure ones, people who don’t even get mentioned by name.

I wanted to see something different this time through.  I wanted God to show me something I hadn’t seen before.  I wanted an “ah-ha” moment that I could apply to my own life, my own faith journey.  The “ah-ha” moment didn’t come with fireworks or great theological understanding.  It came in one word. 


Faith is about trusting God with an unknown.  Abel didn’t know why God asked for a sacrifice, but by faith, he gave one.  Enoch didn’t know that the result of walking with God would be that he got swept up to heaven without going through the process of death.  Noah didn’t know why he was asked to build an ark, but he obeyed.  Abraham didn’t know where he was going, but when God said, “go”, he did.

Read through the rest of the chapter.  Over and over, people were asked to do things or experience things that they didn’t understand.  They were asked to venture into the unknown with God. 

I have some big unknowns in my life.  Things I would much rather turn into “knowns”.  But there’s something about packing up these unknowns, getting on the path God has for me today and continuing to walk with God that pleases Him.  And there’s something about trusting Him with these unknowns that gives a foundation to the things I’m hoping and praying for.

I don’t get it.  But I don’t have to.  I simply have to trust God with my unknown, and leave Him to make it known in His timing.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  Hebrews 6:12

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.  Romans 8:25

Story 2

I shared a story the other day from the book “Heidi”  about one little girl’s amazing faith in God when prayers seem to go unanswered.  Here’s another touching dialogue about trusting God between Heidi and a doctor friend whose daughter has died.  He has come  from Frankfurt to visit Heidi up on her very special mountain… 

“Yes, Heidi,” he responded, “I see how lovely it all is, but tell me — if one brings a sad heart up here, how may it be healed so that it can rejoice in all this beauty?”

“Oh, but,” exclaimed Heidi, “no one is sad up here, only in Frankfurt.”

The doctor smiled and then growing serious again he continued, “But supposing one is not able to leave all the sadness behind at Frankfurt; can you tell me anything that will help then?”

“When you do not know what more to do you must go and tell everything to God,” answered Heidi with decision.

“Ah, that is a good thought of yours, Heidi,” said the doctor. “But if it is God Himself who has sent the trouble, what can we say to Him then?”

Heidi sat pondering for a while; she was sure in her heart that God could help out of every trouble. She thought over her own experiences and then found her answer.

“Then you must wait,” she said, “and keep on saying to yourself: God certainly knows of some happiness for us which He is going to bring out of the trouble, only we must have patience and not run away. And then all at once something happens and we see clearly ourselves that God has had some good thought in His mind all along; but because we cannot see things beforehand, and only know how dreadfully miserable we are, we think it is always going to be so.”

“That is a beautiful faith, child, and be sure you hold it fast,” replied the doctor. Then he sat on a while in silence, looking at the great overshadowing mountains and the green, sunlit valley below before he spoke again, —

“Can you understand, Heidi, that a man may sit here with such a shadow over his eyes that he cannot feel and enjoy the beauty around him, while the heart grows doubly sad knowing how beautiful it could be?  Can you understand that?”

A pain shot through the child’s young happy heart. The shadow over the eyes brought to her remembrance the grandmother, who would never again be able to see the sunlight and the beauty up here. This was Heidi’s great sorrow, which re-awoke each time she thought about the darkness. She did not speak for a few minutes, for her happiness was interrupted by this sudden pang. Then in a grave voice she said, —

“Yes, I can understand it. And I know this, that then one must say one of grandmother’s hymns, which bring the light back a little, and often make it so bright for her that she is quite happy again. Grandmother herself told me this.”

“Which hymns are they, Heidi?” asked the doctor.

“I only know the one about the sun and the beautiful garden, and some of the verses of the long one, which are favorites with her, and she always likes me to read them to her two or three times over,” replied Heidi.

“Well, say the verses to me then, I should like to hear them too,” and the doctor sat up in order to listen better.

Heidi put her hands together and sat collecting her thoughts for a second or two: “Shall I begin at the verse that grandmother says gives her a feeling of hope and confidence?”

The doctor nodded his assent, and Heidi began, —


Let not your heart be troubled
Nor fear your soul dismay,
There is a wise Defender
And He will be your stay.
Where you have failed, He conquers,
See, how the foeman flies!
And all your tribulation
Is turned to glad surprise.

If for a while it seemeth
His mercy is withdrawn,
That He no longer careth
For His wandering child forlorn,
Doubt not His great compassion,
His love can never tire,
To those who wait in patience
He gives their heart’s desire.

from the book, “Heidi”   by Johanna Spyri, 1880 

Ah…..the faith of a child.


Do you remember the story of Heidi, the orphan girl who lived with her grandfather at the top of a mountain in the Alps?  Most of us were introduced to her by watching old reruns of the Shirley Temple movie.  But did you know that the original story is filled with some amazing spiritual treasures?  If you want a heart-warming lesson on “unanswered” prayer, read on…

Heidi leaves her mountaintop home to be a companion to Clara, a girl in Frankfurt who is wheel-chair bound. Heidi’s innocence and outlook on life have an effect on everyone, but she eventually becomes so homesick for the mountains that she is sent back to her grandfather. Later, Clara comes to visit, and her health improves so much (because of the mountain air and rich goat’s milk)  that she learns to walk.

As the children lay that night in bed looking out at the stars Heidi said, “I have been thinking all day what a happy thing it is that God does not give us what we ask for, even when we pray and pray and pray, if He knows there is something better for us; have you felt like that?”

“Why do you ask me that to-night all of a sudden?” asked Clara. 

“Because I prayed so hard when I was in Frankfurt that I might go home at once, and because I was not allowed to I thought God had forgotten me. And now you see, if I had come away at first when I wanted to, you would never have come here, and would never have got well.”

Clara had in her turn become thoughtful. “But, Heidi,” she began again, “in that case we ought never to pray for anything, as God always intends something better for us than we know or wish for.”

“You must not think it is like that, Clara,” replied Heidi eagerly. “We must go on praying for everything, for everything, so that God may know we do not forget that it all comes from Him. If we forget God, then He lets us go our own way and we get into trouble; grandmamma told me so. And if He does not give us what we ask for we must not think that He has not heard us and leave off praying, but we must still pray and say, I am sure, dear God, that Thou art keeping something better for me, and I will not be unhappy,  for I know that Thou wilt make everything right in the end.”

 from the book “Heidi”  by Johanna Spyri, 1880

(and with many thanks to my sister, Gayle, who decided that this was the summer to read through this classic book again!)


I’m waiting for then.   I realized just how many stories turn on a “then”.  “Then” can change everything,  especially when God is involved.

For instance, the other morning I was reading some stories about faith in the book of Matthew.  They were stories where Jesus rewarded faith in impossible situations.  He rewarded them with a “then”.

There was the story of two blind guys who cried out for mercy from Jesus.  He asked them if they believed that He was able to heal them.  They answered yes.  Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you”.  (Matthew 9:29)

There’s the story of a paralyzed man who had really good friends.  They brought him to Jesus, and Jesus saw their faith.  Then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house”. And he arose and departed to his house.  (Matthew 9:6-7)

A military commander came to Jesus, pleading with Him to heal his servant who was “dreadfully tormented” with illness.  Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you”.  And his servant was healed that same hour.  (Matthew 8:13)

These are big, bold, miraculous, life-changing  “thens” and there’s no reason to believe God isn’t still in the business of them.  It’s not just about Jesus healing blindness and paralysis and things that torment us.  It’s about God recognizing the kind of faith that believes He can do what He says He will do.

I’m going to keep believing.  And I’ll wait for then.


As in “God-pleasing”.  I uncovered some old sermon notes in my journal with the date “8/7/99” written in the top corner.  I have no recollection who preached the sermon, but reading this description of faith over again makes me realize why I kept them.   And 11 years later (almost to the day!) they still excite me.

God Pleasing Faith

BELIEVING when you don’t see.

OBEYING when you don’t understand.

PERSISTING when you don’t feel like it.

GIVING when you have nothing to give.

THANKING God before you receive it.

TRUSTING even if you don’t “get it”.

LOVING God no matter what.

(And to whoever originally wrote this, I’d give you all the credit if I could remember who you are!  But for right now, we’ll give God the glory.)

But without faith it is impossible to please God.  For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6


I love it when God delightfully surprises me, when He does something that was totally unnecessary and un-asked for and unexpected. 

I was resigned to paying a whole bunch of money (a triple digit bunch of money) for something I needed – not something earth shattering or necessary for life and breath, but something I was going to have to purchase sooner or later anyway.  “Well, Lord, You’ve blessed me and this won’t totally break my bank and I am so grateful for Your provision, so here we go.”

Then, an idea came to my mind to try one more option before I hit the “purchase” button.  And that’s when I believe God smiled.  And He watched as I smiled.  I purchased my VEI (Very Expensive Item) for… get this … $5.00.

Oh, I know, there will be skeptics who shake their heads at my weird excitement and tell me that God doesn’t work that way and it was just a nice coincidence.  But I’m going to keep smiling anyway.  Because I believe it’s little things like this that remind me that no matter what’s happening in my life, no matter what the need is, God can provide.  He might not always be as dramatic as my $5.00 purchase today.  He might choose to have me sweat it out a little longer, or He may even want me to make the purchase and trust Him to provide.

But today He smiled.  He made me smile.  And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves to delightfully surprise me. 

Even when it’s totally unnecessary.

Your comforts delight my soul.  Psalm 94:19

The LORD rejoiced over you to do you good.  Deuteronomy 28:63

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17