“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations. . .Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months stayed in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me.’ she said. . . .Be joyful in hope.” Romans 4:18, 12:12, Luke 1:24-25
I injured myself as a competitive tennis player in my teenage years and then continued to suffer injury to my spine. As a result, I developed a symptom in my ligaments that has yet to fully resolve, so I remain with a degree of discomfort every day. Although I am grateful my pain level is far less, I hope for resolution – even 30 years later. My hope is based on the progress I experienced with 15+ practitioners in different timeframes in the last three decades who have given of their wisdom to help including some at Mayo Clinic.
I go through months or years of just “letting it be” because I can live with it but I have sought further input in recent years because hope stirs in me to pursue more. While this is nothing earth shattering, I share my personal journey to keep hoping. With every new treatment, doctor, and advanced technology, I think “this is the time when God will allow it to be released!” AND when there’s not resolution, I am at a crossroads. I can be tempted to shut my heart off to hope and shut God out.
I cry out in deep disappointment and sometimes anger, “Don’t you see? Don’t you want to heal me? Why am I spending time and money when you can take it away in an instant?” To keep my heart open to hoping is a vulnerable place.
The battle to hope in the Lord no matter the circumstance is part of the believer’s experience. Certainly, there are other areas where I’ve struggled to hold onto hope. The word hope means “confident expectation.” Romans 4 says Abraham continued to hope “against all hope.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains, “There was a hope against him, a natural hope. All the arguments of sense, and reason, and experience, which in such cases usually beget and support hope, were against him. . .” When it appeared God’s Word failed him, Abraham renewed his confidence that God could do what He said He would.
I ponder the long-lost hope Elizabeth and Zacharias had for a son. Zacharias appears to have given up when he asks the angel who is declaring the blessings of the son John the couple will have, “How can I know this for sure?” (Lk 1:18) Had Elizabeth given up since she was beyond childbearing years? Did she have a seed of hope? The encouraging part of their story is that God’s hope prevails against human response. He is not dependent on a person’s response and yet He draws near to the heart who is willing to expect Him to be true to His character whatever the outcome.
If you are hopeless this Christmas season about part of your story, take heart. Perhaps you’ve prayed for years for a family member to come to faith, you’ve been looking for a job or wanted a different one much longer than anticipated, you’ve been single more years than you want to count, you’ve lost a loved one years before you thought you’d have to, you have a health struggle that won’t relent, and many such heart aches and struggles.
Stir up confident expectation in these ways:
- Tell another person (people). Others can hope and pray when you cannot. As you feel prompted, I’d love your prayers for my current treatment to restore full movement. I’d love to pray for you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write out the promises Christmas brings to our world and to you individually. Even if earthly circumstances can’t change or don’t change, we have unshakable hope because our Messiah has come and will come again.
- Renew your confidence in the Lord by reflecting on a time period or event where you’ve experienced His faithfulness. Gather friends for a Sacred Story virtual or in person retreat in 2021 to build bonds with each other and put your story in words you can share.
Celebrating the Hope of Christmas with you, Laura