Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a wish fulfilled is a tree of life. -Proverbs 13:12
Hope and I have a strained relationship. All too often, I have found myself on the wrong side of hope—its dark side where shattered hope lives. It has led me to avoid hope as much as possible because the disappointment of an unfulfilled hope is just too painful to live over and over. I’m not talking about hoping for small things like receiving a certain gift for Christmas or the hope that I don’t get the flu that my twelve-year-old brought home from school. I’m talking about the biggies—the life changing, feeling it down deep in your gut types of desires that require the hand of God kind of hope. You know the kind—the ones that when they don’t come true, shake your faith.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines hope this way: to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.
To cherish a desire with anticipation sounds beautiful doesn’t it? Those very words bring back to me the greatest hope I have ever had and the most devastating agony that came when it appeared that my hope would never be fulfilled. Some of you have heard about my husband’s and my struggle with infertility. All I had ever wanted was to be a mother, and yet, the words from our doctor told me that I had hoped for years in vain. Next to my shattered hope, lay my shattered faith. I knew God was capable of giving me a baby, he just wouldn’t. I won’t go into further detail about those incredibly painful years right now. (Bob and I are currently writing a book that covers this topic entitled When God Said No: Our Adoption Journey, which should be coming out within the next six months.) What I had thought was crushed hope, had merely been deferred hope. Looking back at that time many years ago, I can see now that what God had intended for my husband and me was far greater than my ability to hope for. Our family, consisting of three adopted and two homemade children, has been perfectly designed by God. If it wasn’t for that, I would never have known or had the privilege to love three of my children nor would I have the joy of loving my four precious grandchildren. You would think that, having lived through both terrible heartbreak and unfathomable joy, I would be able to risk hoping again. I think I avoid hoping in order to avoid the pain of unrealized dreams or the heartache of, as Langston Hughes said, a dream deferred. I still have trouble trusting that God really does desire the best for me. Lately, I’ve found myself hoping again. At times, it seems that my desire will come to fruition. More often however, I just see the mountain of a miracle it would take to get there and wonder why I ever let myself hope again. Have you been there? Most years for Lent, I think of something I should give up, something that will make me suffer, even if it’s just a little. This year, however, I feel God calling me to heal this relationship that I have with hope—to learn to trust that no matter when or if my hope ever becomes true, God is still faithful. Each week, I am reflecting how hope is depicted in scripture or on quotes from people that I have great respect for and ask God to show me the other side of hope—the side where light shines and fear doesn’t. I would love it if you would join me. I have no great wisdom about hope to share with you. I only have my brokenness and a will to grow. Lent is the perfect time for growth. It’s important to remember that after the pain of growth, the heart sickness of deferred hope, there is the tree of life that lies in the resurrection.