Hope Differed and the Hope that Lasts
“Hope differed makes the heart sick.” -Proverbs 13:12
It had become my favorite room in the house, I had spent many nights there praying that God would fill it with children who would grow up to serve Him someday. Now at last my prayers were being answered, this room had become a room of rejoicing. Every time I would pass by it in the hallway, I couldn’t help but smile and pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Sometimes, I would go in just to smell the baby lotion or rearrange the diapers in the little basket for the hundredth time. Everything was fully prepared for the children who would be moving in within a matter of days. Yet, some things are not meant to be, and our home being filled with children the week of July 20th, 2022, was one of those things not meant to be. It wasn’t the first time our hopes had been disappointed- each month there was a negative pregnancy test, months earlier our international adoption had fallen through when the country we were adopting from went to war, two more failed adoptions would soon follow. Here we were, in the reality of our disappointed hopes grieving infertility, three failed adoptions, and simultaneously rejoicing and mourning that the foster placements we had so diligently prepared for were going home where they belonged so much sooner than expected, before they would ever move in with us. That little room- our nursery, once full of bright hopes and dreams had become a room of grief and hopes differed.
I am not the only one who has experienced disappointment at times, disappointment is a real and normal part of life. We are human beings with emotions- emotions like excitement when something we have longed for seems to finally be happening, emotions like sadness when those things don’t come to fruition after all. There is nothing wrong with being sad or grieving over the many disappointments of life, it is how we grieve these things that matters.
Every Thought Captive
2 Corinthians 10:5 tell us to “Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” In the midst of great disappointment, the enemy will take every opportunity to fill our minds with untrue thoughts, it is absolutely vital that we realize how susceptible we are to these attacks. We must not only “take every thought captive” but work proactively to fill our minds with the truth of Scripture. We must “speak truth to our heart” as the Psalmist said (Psalm 15:2). We do not simply cast out the untrue thoughts, we replace them with truthful ones and dwell on those instead. For example, when facing disappointment after disappointment, it can be tempting to question God’s goodness and feel as though He is out to get us. We must take thoughts such as these captive- choosing not to dwell on them, then replace it with the truth- God is not out to get us, He is out to sanctify us. What does Scripture say? God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:28-39), He is working all things, even the greatest disappointments, for our good. Our present sufferings and disappointments are working for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
When struggling with the disappointment of unwanted singleness remind yourself of this verse: “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” -Psalm 34:10
When struggling with the disappointment of childlessness remind yourself of this verse: “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” -Psalm 84:11
When going through a disappointing breakup remind yourself of this verse, “As for God, His ways are perfect…” -Psalm 18:30
When struggling with the disappointment of not getting that job promotion you wanted or not getting that dream house you put in an offer for, remind yourself of this verse: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
It’s hard work in the moment, but continually fight to rid your mind of those thoughts which are not true and “speak the truth to you heart”.
In addition to constantly filling our minds with truth, we should seek to dwell on God’s past faithfulness to us. Charles Spurgeon said this with much more eloquence than I ever could so I will quote what he had to say on this subject here:
“Remember what God has done for you and then say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (He. 13:8). When you are praying, if you cannot see that He is comfortable towards you today, recall that He was yesterday. If there are no present manifestations of divine favor, remember the past. He has been gracious. Can you tell how gracious? He has abounded towards you in lovingkindness, tenderness, and faithfulness. He has never been a wilderness or a land of drought to you. Well then, if in six troubles He has delivered you, will you not trust Him for seven? (Job 5:19). If you get into sixty troubles, will you not trust Him for sixty-one?“
“We say that we ought always to trust someone until they deceive us. We reckon someone until we find otherwise. Let it be so with God. Since we have found Him good, faithful, true, kind, and tender, let us not think badly of Him now that we have come into difficult straits. Come to Him and say, “Are you our God? Did you not bring us ‘up out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay.’ (Ps. 40:2)? Surely then, you will not leave us now.”
“The wonders God can do! He loves us to state our difficulty, that when He gets us out, we will well remember the condition we were in.“
“After pleading the promises and confessing our condition, we may say, “Lord, if help does come, it must come from You. It cannot come from anywhere else, so we look to You. We believe help will come. Though we do now know how it will come, we are looking to You. Though we do not know when, we are looking to You. Though we do not know what you would have us to do, still we are looking to You. Our eyes may be full of tears, but they are on You.”
-Beside Still Waters, page 48, In Six Troubles
Overcoming Self-Pity and Learning Contentment
I sat on the kitchen counter, arms around my husband’s neck crying over one disappointment in the midst of many. As the tears streamed in torrents down my cheeks and my discontented heart murmured, my dear husband began to name our many blessings. It was not what I wanted to hear in that moment, but it was definitely what I needed to hear. After naming several things for which we could be thankful for, he proceeded to convict me further by sharing an encounter he had just had with an old friend he had run into that day. When he asked his friend how he had been doing his response was “I have a brain tumor and my wife has dementia, but God is still good.”
A common temptation when facing disappointment is to wallow in self-pity. We must fight this urge with all our might, as Elisabeth Elliot said. “Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy us.” Self-pity can truly be a destructive thing in our lives and the best way to fight it, is by choosing thankfulness. We can choose to dwell on God’s goodness and faithfulness to us rather than on our disappointments. We can learn to be content and satisfied in Christ because He is enough- all we will every truly need. We can learn to trust Him because He is perfectly wise and never makes mistakes. Let this prayer of the puritans become our prayer as well:
“I am well pleased with Thy will, whatever it is, or should be in all respects. And if Thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair, I would choose to refer all to Thee, for Thou art infintely wise and cannot do amiss, as I am in danger of doing. I rejoice to think that all things are at Thy disposal, and it delights me to leave them there.” – Valley of Vision
The Hope Within Us
As Christians, our response to disappointments should not be to plumb into “the depths of despair” as my favorite book heroine Anne Shirley often did. Christians are never without reason for hope regardless of their circumstances. We can grieve our disappointments, yes, but we do not grieve without hope as the lost world around us does. Hope is what gives us courage and strength in the midst of our trials. The world knows the power of hope- our culture encourages positive thinking and looking for the good as a way to endure hardship. But it is pointless to have hope unless there is someone to put our hope in. What good is positive thinking unless there is a God who can bring about a positive end? The world cannot have the deep hope that Christians have.
The gospel is a story with long periods of waiting which requires hope from God’s people. In
Hebrews 11 we are given story after story of God’s people who lived their lives waiting. The hope they had in the midst of their waiting is called faith- faith that God would come and save, faith that He would come and rescue them, faith that He is good- these are the reasons for our hope. Faith and hope feed each other. The greater our faith, the more we will hope and the more hopeful we are, the more our faith will grow. Being hopeful- believing that everything will have a good outcome (I’m not talking about earthly outcomes but eternal ones), approaching situations in life with a positive attitude is an act of faith. It is godly to think positively as long as our hope is based in our belief that God is good and not in our own creative visualization.
It is godly to pray and believe that the help will come in the midst of financial difficulties.
When your marriage is struggling, it is godly to hope and pray that you can both change.
When you are sick, it is godly to hope and pray for healing.
When you are single, it is godly to hope and to pray for a spouse.
If we do not have hope, we will lose heart, which means we will lose courage. Waiting in hope is a way to strengthen your faith in God’s goodness, waiting in despair is a great way to lose all of your courage. The “expectation of the Lord” appears many times in the Psalms, a waiting infused with strength and joy, not worry and doubt- with rejoicing and hope.
Hope is believing that God will be good to you and finding the comfort of the future in the present. Hope means ignoring any thoughts that things will turn out terribly. Hope means preaching the gospel of God’s goodness to yourself. Hope gives strength and joy in the time of waiting. Hope is having courage to believe in the best outcome- not necessarily the outcome we desire but in the outcome God can most use for our good and His glory. God wants hopeful people, that is why He is constantly telling us in Scripture not to be afraid. God tells us not to be afraid because He knows the outcome, He knows the end of the story and He says we have reason to hope. In Psalm 71:14-15 David writes, “But I will hope continually and praise You more and more…” God’s goodness has no limits, there is always hope.
Are there areas in your life where you are afraid things will turn out badly? Do you tell yourself that what you are hoping for will never come? Find courage to keep on hoping for the best by speaking these words to the Lord “I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more, I will not lose heart unless I believe that I will see Your goodness.” God will make your heart strong in this kind of eternally minded hope.