A reminder that tomorrow we will commit to praying and fasting for God to bring marriage to those of us who desire it, to strengthen both men and women in their personal and relational lives, and to bring change within our hearts, minds, and spirits.
Shortly before Christmas I learned that 94 year-old Louis Zamperini would be coming to my church at the end of January on a speaking engagement. In order to prepare for his visit, I picked up the bestselling 2010 book Unbroken, which chronicles Louis’ remarkable life as a rebellious adolescent, an Olympic track runner at the 1936 Berlin games, and a WWII bombardier who not only survived 47 days on a life-raft in the Pacific after his B-24 crashed on a mission, but also horrific abuses in a Japanese POW camp until the war’s end. Upon his return to the U.S., Louis descended into the stupor of PTSD and alcoholism until, miraculous as the rest of his story, he found the love and grace of Jesus.
Reading Unbroken spurred on thoughts I’d already been considering about hope. While few of us have experienced suffering like that of Louis, it doesn’t make the challenging circumstances in our lives any less significant. Whether it’s singleness past a point we’d have expected, financial difficulty, broken family relationships, depression, infertility, etc., how do we trust that God wants our best? How do we hope in the face of adversity? How I wish I had all the answers! But here are some things I’ve been thinking about:
1) Accept the pain and struggle – We are often told that simply “thinking positive” and soldiering on are the ways through struggle. I’m sure we would all acknowledge the helpfulness of these tools (they have certainly helped me), and yet I believe they must walk hand-in-hand with the practice of accepting our circumstances. The fight to “be positive” can feel inauthentic (and exhausting) when everything around us is falling apart. The times in my life I’ve chosen to “let in” what I’m afraid of (never getting married, a troubled friendship, eternal loneliness, not making ends meet) it becomes less scary. Becoming friends with the monster in the closet disarms the monster.
2) Hope in rather than hope for – Almost always when we think of hope, we think of hoping for something, someone, or for circumstances to change. But if we look at scripture, Jesus asks us to hope in Him, turning our attention from the thing we crave to His identity as an ever-present, loving comforter. This isn’t to say the things we hope for aren’t good, only that it is God who sustains us in the waiting.
3) Stay in the here and now – To be “sustained in the waiting” reminds us that, while hope naturally points to the future, the present is where we live. It is good to look to the future but just as important to stay anchored in the now. While we acknowledge our longings, we are transformed as we allow God to refine and shape us into more unique and beautiful works of art. God is not a God of shortcuts. All we have to do is look at Scripture to be reminded of how long it took for redemption to take place through Jesus. I’m certain we would all say it was worth the wait!
The balance between hope and current reality is tenuous, but Jesus will provide the balance required if we ask it of him. It is my prayer that as you walk into the week ahead, He will accompany you on your unique journey of hope.