I had only seen pictures of him but never met him face to face. My grandfather lived in Sweden and I met him for the first time when I was ten. Over twenty years had passed since my mother had seen him, so being the youngest I got the privilege of accompanying her on a trip of a lifetime. We sailed across the ocean, accompanied by my aunt and uncle on the SS Stockholm, to visit her father and his relatives. It was quite an adventure for a little girl and her mom. Once in port, we traveled by train to northern Sweden, past Lulea to a little village called Rutvik. My great uncle’s hay fields sprawled over many acres, surrounding a large winter home, a small “stuga” for summers, and a big red barn that housed cows and a horse named Jim (pronounced Yim). We were lovingly welcomed by hospitable relatives who spoke excitedly in a language I didn’t understand but would soon be learning. Then I noticed him, a shy looking man standing quietly at the edge of our welcoming entourage.
I still remember that first encounter with Grandfather. Like an elderly man out of a novel, this gray-haired character stood before us in a shabby wool cardigan and a crumpled hat. His left hand, dirty and calloused, held a pipe tightly in his mouth. Barely making eye contact, he merely nodded at our arrival, smoke puffing around his gray bearded head. I wondered if he gave hugs. Was that a twinkle in his eye?
My grandparents had immigrated to Chicago before my mother was born. A neighbor invited my grandmother to a storefront church and she soon became a believer. Her life was changed forever (and so was our family’s), but my grandfather could never accept her new-found faith. He eventually returned to his homeland and never saw his family again…until we arrived on the farm. It didn’t take long for my mom to realize all conversation about God was still closed. We spent nearly three months in Sweden visiting neighboring countries and getting to know our Swedish family. But Grandpa remained aloof and withdrawn. Mom faced the facts but never gave up praying for her father.
Years passed and she never learned whether he made a decision to accept Christ into his life. All the while, she kept praying. When a letter came announcing my grandfather’s death, she was devastated. Through blinding tears, she cried out to the Lord asking what good her prayers had accomplished. Immediately, a sweet assurance filled her heart and a scripture flooded her mind.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”
It didn’t seem humanly possible, and she had nothing to confirm it, but my mother knew from that moment God had given her the desire of her heart. She felt assured she would see her earthly father in heaven some day. That was the result of her faith, believing in what she did not see, and hoping against all hope that her prayers truly had been answered. I believe my grandfather met my mother at heaven’s gates with a big hug. Someday, I’ll get mine, too.
Read Romans 4:18-21
1. In what way did Abraham face the facts?
2. What do you learn about Abraham’s faith despite the reality he faced?
3. What do you notice from the way Abraham looked beyond his difficulties to the promises of God?
4. What was the result of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises?
5. In what was Abraham fully persuaded? Of what can you be fully persuaded regarding your present circumstances?
We learn from Genesis 17 that Abraham had some anxious moments as he waited on God to become the father of many nations. He fell down on his face laughing at the prospect of being a father at his age. But God did not count this against him. Faith doesn’t reject reality but looks beyond the situation to a God who is powerful to do what He promises. May all of us be like Abraham who against all hope in hope believed.