Hope Feels Out of Reach—What Now?

I have a confession to make: Sometimes, I am a hope flunkie.

Yes, you heard that right. Like an ocean wave that is here one moment and gone the next, I find hope hard to catch, and while I want hope to lift me and carry me to shore, too often it passes me by.

In my youth I was hope-filled and idealistic, perhaps even a bit naive. Yet it wasn’t too far into my young adulthood that I quickly learned my hopeful expectations would often be dashed against the cliffs of reality.

When Hope Feels Out of Reach

Grit and Grace: The Official Armor of a Military WifeYou see, my husband is in the Air Force, and there is a Newton’s law of military spouses. Ask any military spouse and they will agree. The law is as follows: The day after your husband deploys, the school-aged kids will get sick, the car will have a flat tire, and your toddler, who is determined to wipe their own bum, will stuff so much toilet paper into the toilet that your bathroom floods. And you will be left to deal with it alone.

There it is, my hopeful expectations that I am a strong military spouse who can handle anything a deployment throws my way, dashed. I learned quickly to lower my expectations. Or, perhaps to say it better, I learned to hold onto high expectations that things will go poorly.

You might not be a military spouse, but without a doubt there is Newton’s Law for your situation as well. As Taylor Swift belts out on my daughter’s record player, “Heartbreak is a national anthem,” and perhaps Taylor has sung no truer statement.

Is It Worth It to Hope?

But being a follower of Jesus makes me question my status as a hope flunkie.

Even now, I face a life challenge that has me wondering if I should dare to hope. Like a crocus pushing through hard icy soil, I desperately want to deny my iced-over expectations and hold onto hope. But do I risk it? Or, do I take Warren Buffet’s advice that “the secret to happiness is having low expectations.”

Hebrews 10:19 instructs us to “hold unswervingly to our confession of hope.” So there must be a different course than continuing my string of failures in hope-holding! Walk with me a minute and let’s unpack this.

To find God’s definition of hope, let’s read I John 3:1-3. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… and anyone who thus hopes in Him (or, as the NLT says, “all who have this eager expectation”) purifies himself as He is pure.

Take a moment to soak that in. The God of the Universe, the very one who created the heavens and the earth, to include stars that are upwards of 28 billion light years away, and who also knits together a baby from a single egg and a swimming sperm, loves you. This God set his heart upon you, even sending His son to die so you can be adopted as his child. Mind blowing!

God Will Show Up

A few years ago, back in my half-marathon running days, I had a short amount of time between preschool drop-off and pick-up to get in the miles. One windy day I drove to a nearby trail, but I realized I left all my hair ties at home. Knowing I needed to get in the miles, even if my hair whipped wildly around my face, so I determined to run despite the lack of a hair tie.

5 ways to hold onto hope in radical uncertaintyAs I stepped out of the car, I stopped in shock. Right below my feet in the gravel lay not one, but three hair ties! With an entire parking lot of empty spots, I happened to perfectly park my car next to three (much-needed) hair ties. And in an instant I thought, “God loves me.” I think of this silly story often when I think of God’s love.

Also, I remember the time my friend needed to raise $10,000 in 6 weeks to serve as a teacher in Thailand. A man from Alabama called the school in Thailand and told them that God said someone needed $10,000, which he was ready to donate. And so off she went.

Another friend lost her husband and two sons in a plane crash. Years later, when reflecting on the weeks immediately following their deaths, she told me that she and her grief felt cocooned in God’s love. Mostly, I think about Jesus. Beaten beyond recognition and crucified on a cross, all because he loved you and me.

What I find most beautiful about meditating on the Father’s love, is this hope clears away the clutter. Or, as I John 3 says, it purifies us. May I even say this hope detoxifies us from the fallout we feel from unmet expectations? With this purifying hope, I can detangle my earthly expectations from the secure hope I have in my Father’s love. Will you join me?

This kind of hope is the root system I depend upon as my heart wrestles with the crocus-like possibilities of hopeful expectations. This wrestling will take time, because sometimes hope feels out of reach. But if the Father’s steadfast love is the root system of our lives, then our hearts can flourish whether our earthly expectations are met or end in disappointment.

Honestly, sometimes I forget to fix my mind on the solid truths of hope: I am loved, adopted and awaiting my home-going. It is so easy to fall into the trap that hope means tomorrow will be better. But what if my tomorrow isn’t better? Dear one, life is hard, but the love of God softens it.

Slowly, and I say slowly because it is a process, we need to allow the Father’s steadfast love to become our anchor of hope. This is the only hope that will carry us to the shores of our eternal joy in His presence.

When hope feels out of reach, listen to this podcast episode for a reminder on how to find it: Faith, Hope and Love: They’re All We Need – 229

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