Last week I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference. Months ago, when I was first asked to participate in the event, I was told that the subject for my talk was “Searching for Hope When Things Seem Hopeless.”
My personal experience with this particular topic comes from the years we’ve been waiting to bring home our fully adopted son from Africa. In my talk at the conference, I went into detail about the nearly four years this boy has been a part of our lives. It’s been years of paperwork and frustration, and a lot of questioning.
During that time, we have learned a lot about hope and why we need it and how we can sustain it and how to survive the waiting. After a lot of prayerful introspection, I realized I had learned (but not really mastered) ten things:
Find your ideal “wait” – The time you’re waiting may seem interminable but it’s still valuable. Fill it with good things.
Feel your feelings – God made us to experience emotions. Don’t stuff those feelings in an unused hall closet. If you feel grief, then feel it. Anger? Feel it. But don’t stay there. Then use those feelings to connect with others.
Look for timeline revelations – Spend time taking stock in how God has participated in your story by looking back at journals and Facebook posts.
Allow God to write the story – God is not a fiction writer. He deals with truth. It may seem helpful to guess why you are waiting but don’t let your guessing consume you. It’s not about the “why” and God doesn’t owe us an explanation.
Don’t let the thing you’re waiting for become an idol – It’s easy to become fixated, or even obsessed. Anything that distracts us from God can become an idol.
Watch out for envy – If you’ve ever been the last one in your friend group to join the next phase—getting a real career, marriage, kids—then you understand envy. (Or if you’re a human being that doesn’t always get what you want, you also get it.) Here’s my 3-part advice: when you’re feeling a strong pull toward jealousy, stay off social media, look for ways to serve the people you envy, and–when all else fails– fake it ‘til you make it.
Lean on friends – You are not alone. Let people in.
Pray expectantly – This one is hard for me. Author Rick Warren says HOPE stands for “Holding on, Praying expectantly”. Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, yet that’s the insane part of hope. Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Keep doing the crazy, hopeful thing.
Where do you place your hope? Hebrews 6:18-19 says, “These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he says something, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. So these two things are a great help to us who have come to God for safety. They encourage us to hold on to the hope that is ours. This hope is like an anchor for us. It is strong and sure and keeps us safe. It goes behind the curtain.” We have access to the One who is all-powerful. He has been in the “Holy of Holies” and he leads the way for us. He can handle the burden of our frustrations and unfulfilled expectations. But consider yourself warned: He may change your desires to something else when you give up the reins to Him.
Seek out joy – Choose joy and dismiss bitterness.
These past four years waiting for our son to come home have been so difficult and continuing to remain hopeful may make me a fool, but I will choose hope. Without hope we are broken. Without hope we are lost. Without it, what’s the point?