What you find below was written well over a year ago. I wrote this at a heartbreaking time in my life. Today, I see that this situation was a stepping stone to a coming experience which would require even more hope, joy, and trust. Both this circumstance and the one that would-be came to a lovely, joyous ending. All praise be to God: my Father, my Friend, my Savior.
If you’ve lived in this world past your teenage years, you’ve probably learned that a basket woven of hope carries fear around in it.
Not the terrifying, horror-movie fear, or the Biblical, awe-factor fear. This is a different, quieter, and, oftentimes, much stronger fear. A debilitating fear that says if we have hope for something then it won’t happen. Our culture has even created a cliche for it: Don’t get your hopes up!
I think this is the reason Paul felt need to write about hope in a letter to the Romans. He tells them to “be joyful in hope.”
[I find it strange that joy is not our natural response to hope. I also find it all too familiar.]
Google tells me that "joy" is a noun which means a feeling of great pleasure or happiness.
Think with me: When is the last time that you had hope that God would accomplish something that seemed impossible... and that hope left you with a feeling of great pleasure?
Honestly, when I think God is giving me hope that He is going to do something impossible (by my standards), my response is a milder version of what I would feel if it already didn’t happen.
Why? I expect this is because I've hoped for something before and it didn't happen. So now when I sense hope, I prepare myself by feeling prematurely saddened by what I think is improbable.
Here's the thing: That isn’t joy. It's fear.
That kind fear is not what God has called us to. Most of us have heard Jeremiah 29:11 a thousand times: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.’” There it is. God's plan will give us hope, and not a sad hope. Paul says it's a joyful hope.
So, I’m trying to be joyful.
I’m being presented with a situation that’s harder than I ever thought it would be (and I’ve definitely thought about this particular situation a few times!). I had finally resolved myself to accepting the unfavorable outcome, and then I received a little hope. Not much, mind you, but some.
Some hope, some progress, a tiny sliver of light. (I thought of emphasizing "tiny" here, but that seemed to be a bit paradoxical. Suffice it to say this particular sliver of light can only be turned into glory by God Himself.)
Upon finding this tiny piece, God whispered to me:
Daughter, you have two options now: you can choose a fearful, reclusive hope, or you can choose to have the hope I’ve called you to: a joyful hope, that is patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
So here I am trying to be joyful in hope. Trying to be patient in affliction. And trying to try to think about being faithful in prayer. Probably I can’t do it alone. Probably I need His strength to continue. I’m not sure I can even ask for that right now, but I’ll get there one day. Until then, He’ll carry me along feeding me with joy and strength that I can’t muster on my own.
I look back now, and I'm grateful for this trial. I'm grateful for what I learned. I'm grateful for a God who willingly carried "me along feeding me with joy and strength that I [couldn't] muster on my own." I'm super grateful for the theme of hope that God threaded through the season of life I was in at the time. I'm grateful for the individuals involved and the path this led me on. It was hard. It was tremendously heartbreaking. If I'm honest, there's still a twinge of ache when I think about it. But because of this and other situations, I am more attuned to God's voice than I had been before. And that is something that no fear can produce and no money can buy.
If you are in a place where you feel you are receiving hope from God, please consider it. Pray through it. Ask a close friend. Take the opportunity to read through Romans and other parts of the Bible to learn more and see if this is truly a Godly hope. If you think it is, please remember two things: (1) all of Romans 12:12 applies, not just the "joyful" part; (2) if this situation does not come to the hopeful ending you are leaning into, that does not mean your faith is useless. Our faith is in a Resurrected Savior, not a hopeful situation. Each of these types of situations brings us closer to knowing God and being able to hear His voice clearly.