Our Sunday School class that ended two weeks ago was on the book called "Living in The Gap Between Promise and Reality," by Iain Duguid. The study was based on the covenant promises found in the book of Genesis and examined the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and others.
Paul Miller also covers this theme with current application in the chapter titled, "Unanswered Prayer: Understanding the Patterns of the Story" of his book "A Praying Life."
Here are a few of the quotes that I found valuable and helpful:
"Every part of your being wants to close the gap between hope and reality. We will do anything not to live in the desert."
The denial approach to suffering is "filled with hope but doesn't face realtiy. For instance, some Christians try to sidestep suffering by insisting God has healed them..."
Determination approaches suffering by setting out to fix whatever it is that is causing the pain. "You have faced enormous obstacles before and overcome them, and you are going to do the same with this. You leave no stone unturned... By the sheer force of your will, ... you are going to make this happen... It's a short trip from determination to despair, where you realize that you aren't going to change the situation, no matter what you do. It hurts to hope in the face of continued (rejection/failure), so you try to stop hurting by giving up on hope... Despair removes the tension between hope and reality. Despair, in its own strange way, can be comforting, but it and its cousin, cyncism, can kill the soul."
"In contrast, people of faith live in the desert. Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances but are fixed on hope. Paul describes how 'in hope (Abraham) believed against hope' [Romans 4:18].
"The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is not way out. You don't know when it will end. There is no relief in sight... God customizes deserts for each of us... It is very tempting to survive the desert by taking the bread of bitterness offered by Satan -- to maintain a wry, cynical detachment from life, finding perverse enjoyment in mocking those who still hope."
"God takes everyone he love through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here's how it works: The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances. The things that brought us life gradually die. Our idols die for lack of food... The still dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth... Suffering burns away the false selves...
"After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert, David wrote:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he's the only game in town."
And this past Sunday we started a new Sunday School class on the Book of Psalms. How incredibly Providential. I love the Lord. He always provides the perfect manna in every situation. He is so good!
Quotes taken from pgs. 181-184 of "A Praying Life"