The Pain of Hope

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 

Anne Bradstreet


Hope is such a strange thing.  We love it, and yet we simultaneously despise it.

It can be the most painful thing.  Do we dare to actually hope?

It’s a risk.  It makes us vulnerable to situations and people beyond our control.

We hope to meet and marry the love of our lives.  We hope for a better job.  We hope for reconciliation in our broken relationships.  We hope that next year will be better than this year.  We hope that this time the pregnancy will bring forth life instead of death.  We hope that things will change, or maybe we hope that they’ll stay the same.  We hope for promises to be fulfilled.

So many times it doesn’t feel worth it.

We get our hopes up or set on something or someone specific, and then it all comes crashing down.  Our plans are smashed.  Our heart is in shambles.  Our bodies are writhing in pain.  Our emotions are out of control.

It’s so easy to become jaded.

We can quickly shut down and build up walls and bury those dreams in the farthest corners of our hearts, hoping that somehow we’ll forget they exist.  It’s so much easier to live safely – where no one can hurt you.  Where there’s not risk involved.  Where everything is under our perceived control.

The routine is set.  My low expectations are met.  No highs.  No lows.  Just that mediocre plateau.

We’ve all felt pain in one way or another associated with hope.  It just doesn’t always work out.  Rejection is real.  Death is real.  Unfaithfulness is real.  Words actually do hurt, and we can’t erase the memories that seem to haunt us.

So where do we go from here?  Is this really how we’re meant to live – on the plateau?  Nothing on the horizon that we’re hiking towards.  No valley to explore.  No mountain to conquer.

Proverbs 13:12 says,

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

How can we hope after the person we thought we were going to marry declares they have no feelings for us?  How can we hope for a baby when the last one didn’t make it past the first trimester?  How can we possibly hope for restoration when our spouse slept with someone else?  How can can we hope when happily ever after seems to be the biggest lie we were ever fed – and actually believed?  Why didn’t Disney prepare us for the realities of life?

Will the seemingly never ending pain of hope ever end and actually come to fulfillment?

I think what we have to do in these excruciatingly painful and hopeless times is to look at where the root of our hope is.  As we process and acknowledge disappointment and grieve in all of those gut wrenching ways that can leave us feeling like a broken and stripped shell of who we once were, we must look at why we’re hoping and what that hope is anchored in.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with hoping for marriage and babies and a better paying job or a healthier body.  The problem can lie in the why behind it and in the value that we let it have in our lives.

Job says, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”  (Job 13:15a)

I’m not actually promised marriage or children.  We’re not promised an easy life.  Hopes aren’t always linked to promises that will be fulfilled in the ways that we want them to be.

But if we have our hope set on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith and on eternity with Him, then we can be sure that things will turn out gloriously in the end.

We must continue to hope for the best.  We must continue to believe that God is who He says He is.  We must continue to believe the best about people.  We should be the most hopeful people in the world!  We know how the story ends.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”   Psalm 126:5

If we truly believe that God is a good God and that He’s always working for the good of those who love Him and for the glory of His name, then this is true whether our hopes are fulfilled or not.  Either He is good, or He is not.  His character and purposes and affections do not change with shifting earthly circumstances.

We get Jesus.  We get the Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside of us and empowering us to do the miraculous.  He is the better portion.  If only we could believe that down in our core being.  God is not trying to cheat us or dangle things in front of us to torture us.  We mostly don’t understand His ways, but we do know that He is always good and He is always faithful to us.

Take courage.

Ask God the hard questions.  Grieve your pain.  Enter into the hurt, but also allow Him in as well.  God is not afraid of our anger or sorrow.  He’s used to taking the blame for things He’s not responsible for.  He’s used to being misunderstood.  Don’t shut Him out; let Him come in.  Sit with Him.  Let Him restore you.  He’s really good at turning ashes into beauty, so make some space for Him to move.

We must live with our hands open.  Don’t hang on to those ashes.  Open up and let Jesus take them from you so that He can fill your hands with something better.  We can’t receive the new, good things from the Father when we’re holding so tightly to things of the past.

It’s just so easy to let bitterness creep its way into our minds and souls and steal all the joy out of our lives today.  And that’s not how we really want to live is it?   Jesus says that He has come that we may have life and life to the full.

Abundant life.

So keep hoping.  Keep dreaming big dreams.  Keep loving hard.  Keep fighting the good fight of the faith.  The key is trusting that God is able to steward those things.  We can trust Him.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”    Matthew 7:11

There is an ultimate day coming when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  There will be no more pain or sorrow or hurt, and oh won’t it be glorious!

So take heart.  He is with you even now.  It will be worth it.  He will see you through this pain.

“You make known to me the path of life;
 in your presence there is fullness of joy;
 at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”   

Psalm 16:11



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