Have you been let down so many times that you’re afraid to hope again? People don’t always follow through. Unforeseen circumstances (or pandemics) have made it impossible for some to carry out what they promised. And people change their minds, and don’t always realize, or care, how it affects others. Too many of those broken promises can make us cynical about trusting anyone again. Even God.

What began as a dinner invitation, ended up being a lifelong friendship for a wealthy couple from Shunam and the prophet Elisha. After that first meal together, they decided they wanted to fix up a room for him to stay in whenever he was passing through. Elisha was grateful for their kindness to him. When he wanted to do something for her in. return, his servant brought up the fact, “She has no son and her husband is old.” A son could take care of her in her old age, especially if she was widowed, and a child would dispel the stigma of childlessness. For in those days people assumed barrenness was God’s judgment for sin.

This woman was caring and hospitable, but afraid to ask anything for herself. Who knows how long she and her husband had tried to have children, or how many babies she lost over the years. How many times did her heart break when another friend announced they were pregnant with their second, third, or fourth child, while her arms were still empty? She didn’t want to have her heart broken again.

To her joy, God gave her a son a year later. But just as the boy was walking and talking it all came crashing down. He complained of a headache, and within a few hours he was dead. Distraught and angry, the woman ran to the prophet for help: “When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi [his servant] came over to push her away, but the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why’ and she said, ‘Did I ask you for a son, my lord?’ she said. ‘Didn’t I tell you, “Don’t raise my hopes”?” (2 Kings 4:27-28).

She had been so afraid to hope, and yet, when trouble came…she ran to the prophet for help.

Can you relate? Are you afraid if you ask God for help, He’s going to let you down again? Or worse, do nothing?

Why, like this child, does God sometimes give us what we haven’t even asked for…and then take it away?

Years ago, I had a job I loved in the Learning Center of our community college, but I had to leave it to pursue a full-time job to support my girls and myself, when my husband left me. I had hoped to pick up another part-time job and stay at the college, but there was nothing available. A year or so later, I got a surprising email, saying I’d been recommended for the job as head of the Center. The woman I’d worked for was leaving on sabbatical and had written a glowing recommendation for me to take her place! It would mean a huge pay raise, doing what I loved, with all kinds of benefits. And I hadn’t even applied! Would I like the job?

Would I! I was wildly excited, quickly applied, and waited for an interview. It never came. I finally found out the college was required to advertise the job in-house first. Another woman had applied, and was awarded the position.

Unlike the Shunammite woman, who received her son back from the dead after Elisha prayed for him, my dream job stayed dead. For years I questioned why God would do that to me. Why would He dangle a golden carrot in front of me and then take it away?

A couple of years later, my girlfriend and I were talking about my upcoming marriage and move to another city. She posed this question. “If you had gotten that job at the college, would you be as willing to uproot and move to another city as you are today?”

“Probably not,” I admitted. “But why did God get my hopes up? It seems so cruel.”

“Think of all the good that came from it,” she said. “You were so broken after your divorce, believing you were stupid and a failure. It was a huge boost to your ego. Her letter of recommendation changed the way you saw yourself and encouraged you to keep on going.”

I admitted it was true. Plus, we agreed the job might have been more than I was emotionally ready for at the time. My girls and I were still in shock from the sudden loss of father and husband. A job with so much responsibility might have taken my attention away from the healing process we were all going through.

Whatever your situation is today, don’t be afraid to hope. God may or may not give you what you want, but He will give you what you need, if you will trust His timing. He knows what you’re ready for and what would overwhelm you, or lead you in the wrong direction. The most important thing is to keep your heart focused on Him and let Him decide.

Help is on the way.