True Hope

A few years back I wrote a blog post about Discovering Hope. I can’t link you to it because it has long since been archived. That summer was a summer of HOPE. I was reading about new ideas, growing in faith and hoping that health and healing would find our family, especially my husband. It was an “aha” moment for me. I was discovering how God moved in invisible ways. How He could change our day’s trajectory with one phone call, one letter, one nod in our direction. I suppose up until that point I had assumed that our family’s path was in a fixed direction. It was that summer I found the hope that things could change.
That was a very, very good feeling.
One of the books I had finished reading during this time was Kisses from Katie. I had been encouraged, inspired and amazed at how this young woman was walking out her faith. I had all kinds of ideas of where our family could be a few years from that summer. I didn’t know how, what or where, but I felt a call to live life in bigger, more faithful ways. Not bigger in things or in vacations or status updates, but bigger-hearted, more living and more loving. I was sure this new discovery of hope meant things would be changing-and soon-healthy and whole, we would be moving into our “calling”.
Things did change, but not how I anticipated.
After a time of improvement, my husband experienced many setbacks, some severe. By the next summer, we were shuffling back and forth to the hospital two hours away. Sometimes he was admitted and sometimes it was just for testing or sometimes for immunotherapy treatments, but mostly it was to be informed,  “we don’t know what is going on. Come back next month after more testing/treatments/trials”.

I did not handle that change with grace.

Outwardly, life kept rolling on. It’s what you do. Laundry doesn’t stop and the cooking needs to be done which means you still need to grocery shop and chop carrots and make sure you don’t forget the soap. Bills still pile up and need to be paid and, of course, the learning must not stop.
When life happens, you do what you need to so
You do the next thing.
Sometimes, figuring out what the next thing is can be the hardest part.
Inwardly, I was a mess. Our life was not predictable or plan-able in any way and my illusion of control had been shattered once again.
I often thought if the “only” battle we were facing was the illness then I would be able to handle it much more gracefully (the truth is, I wouldn’t, but I liked to tell myself this). Life, however, doesn’t work that way. Look at Job’s life. He didn’t  just lose his kids, or his fortune or his health, or friendship, he lost it all. I didn’t understand how to hold onto hope when the future was so shaky, the dog had fleas, the bills were piling up, the roof was leaky, the heater was broken, the vacuum died (and ate some kitchen floor before it did), my friend stood me up at lunch and my loveliest friend left for Heaven.
How was I supposed to hope here, in this desolate place?
I started to resent my hope (and here, truthfully, is when the blog post was archived, aka…deleted). I started to question, most vigorously, not only the hope I thought I had discovered, but also the God who promised it.
Why would God show me hope for healing and give me dreams of something good, just to make it unreachable?
My prayers, when I could find the words, were more often angry words of confusion than sweet words of adoration and faith. Hands weren’t raised in praise or folded in peace, but clenched in fists-raised only so I could cry out my lament to the One who seemed silent and far.

It was a hard season.

Fast forward to this summer and I was notified that I would be a part of the Launch team for Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful. I was excited to read this next book by Katie Davis Majors (who had written the book Kisses from Katie I read during my summer of Hope). When I signed up to be part of the Launch team, I didn’t really pay much attention to the title of the book, I just knew that I wanted to read whatever she was writing.
The book came in the mail and I was excited to dig right in.
One look at the title and I realized that I couldn’t read it, not yet.
I wasn’t sure if I could read this, a book that I knew would challenge me to see circumstances in new ways again.
A book that was talking about, of all things, hope.
I knew God had been growing my heart in Unseen ways. (link) but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to approach hope again.
But because of my past experiences reading her story and the ways she shares of Grace, I knew that whatever she had to share wouldn’t disappoint.
I also knew that I couldn’t ignore this stirring in my heart, the one that could have been titled the same as her book; dare to hope.
So I finally opened the pages and I couldn’t put it down.
Page after page I was reminded of Truth, encouraged to dig in and walk out the path that He has chosen.
She wrote on page 71:
“Dreams die and seasons end and terrible, unspeakable things happen that don’t make much sense, but God is not done with us yet. He uses the bending and the breaking and the dying to prepare the harvest, to prepare more for us. We reach high to the Son and He comes down and pulls us closer. We lift our heads to Him in awe and we know that there might be hard around the corner but we can look expectantly even to the bowing and the breaking, even the death of all we have planned because we know in Him there will always be more. He sees the seeds that come with all the endings and He is faithful to use them, to turn them into beauty.”
This book, these words, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
And here is what I found, not necessarily in each lamentable moment, but in looking back on these past four years.

And God-HE is Hope.

I don't need to hold onto hope, Hope is holding onto me.

Any hope that is lasting hope, that doesn’t depend on an outcome or circumstances or prayers being answered in my way, that is the hope of Jesus.

Nothing less, and there is nothing more.

Four years have passed since that hope-filled summer. Four full and difficult and beautiful years.
Life today is not what I thought it might be four years ago. Health isn’t something we take for granted in our home, it is something we pray for daily. Tests and treatments are on hold not because they are unnecessary, but because a body and heart can only handle so much before it needs a rest and to reset.
Four years and I am still discovering, every day, how God moves invisible things, namely my heart. How He can change our life trajectory with one phone call, one letter, one nod in our direction. And how He can change our life trajectory by not sending that phone call, that letter and that nod.
And like Katie wrote
“He wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself….Sometimes the blessing is a hard road and an uncertain calling.”

God, Faithful God, promises me Hope in Himself, in all that He is.

To Hope in Him, in things unseen, that is a very daring hope, indeed.

A very long time ago, I read a blog post (which I cannot find but wanted to share his words) about Joseph and his trials, specifically the time he had to spend in prison. The author of that post went on to say that “Joseph had three options on how to view his trials. 1. Prison of self-pity 2. Dungeon of despair or 3. Sanctuary for God’s presence…Though at first, the prison looked like a useless detour, it was actually God’s pathway to the palace.”
Just as I have been learning that unseen moments can be times of worship and leaning closer to God, trials, Mercy Storms, they can be viewed as a “Sanctuary for God’s presence.”
Katie quoted a devotional she read that said exactly what God had been whispering to my heart.
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope-and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us.”

True Hope, the kind that is sustaining and life-giving, is different than hope that is dependent upon a certain outcome.
When I lean into Truth like that, when I hold onto the Hope that will never let me go, I can, no matter what, say along with Joseph that “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”
By His grace, this is what I pray to be able to do.
And this, this is the only next thing that is really necessary.
Seek Him first-above all things, even a worthy calling, a healed body and mind, an answered prayer-and all these things will be added-in His time and His perfect way.
Katie wrote
“And this blessing isn’t always what we think-the happy ending we wanted and the desires of our hearts fulfilled. Blessed is she who believes His promises. This blessing is different than blessing as the world sees it. It isn’t an easy life or one of success. Blessing is that, as we find ourselves in a place that God has yet to explain, may never explain, a place or a life that doesn’t line up with what we had in mind, He gives us a promise like He gave to Abraham. It is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. He will be here with us, our reward.”
And that, my dear ones, I believe is True Hope Discovered.

To Stir Your Heart:
Genesis 41:52-Matthew 6:33-Luke 10:42-Romans 8:25-Hebrews 6:19-Hebrews 10:23

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