For many people, the New Year brings a sense of hope. It’s a time to start fresh, to change and grow, to see last year’s dreams fulfilled, and past prayers answered.
For others, it’s a struggle to hold onto hope when you’re coming off a year (or many years) of pain, disappointment, and brokenness. Still suffering chronic illness or pain though longing for healing. Still in school or a ho-hum job though longing for adventure. Still single though longing for marriage. Still X, Y, or Z though longing for the exact opposite.
When we’ve yet to see things we’ve been hoping for actually come to pass, it’s tempting to give in to despair. But despair will paralyze us from living out God’s purposes for us. Proverbs 13:12 says:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
God’s Word validates what many of us have come to know by experience: The disappointment of unmet hopes sucks so much that it sucks the life right out of us. Yet, read on, for the proverb closes with this:
“…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Fulfilled hopes give life. And as a tree of life, that means our fulfilled hopes are rooted and established, growing strong, and bearing fruit in and through our lives. It’s a great truth to rest on, especially when living in hopelessness seems worse than death.
So what do you do when you’ve been hoping and praying for things for months… for years… and your hopes still feel unfulfilled? Do you keep hoping God will save that lost family member or friend? Do you keep praying He will bring that significant other into your life? Do you keep waiting on Him to open doors—too long firmly shut—to places of influence, to nations, to jobs and positions necessary to fulfill your calling?
How do we move beyond deferred hopes and disappointment to living hopeful, abundant lives?
Throughout the Scriptures, God instructs us to put our hope in Him:
“Hope in the Lord and keep his way, He will exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34 NIV)
Hoping in the Lord results in inheritance. We are empowered to live hopeful about everything else when our ultimate hope is in the Lord. Practically, that could look like choosing to believe He is good and trustworthy even when doubt knocks at the doors of our hearts. It looks like choosing to believe He will fulfill our hopes in the absolute best way—His way. Practically, it could also look like waiting.
“I watch in hope for the Lord. I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7 NIV)
In Hebrew, “wait” is yachal, often translated “hope.” God wants us to wait hopefully so much that He allows the very word for waiting to imply hoping throughout the process! Hard news to hear when you feel like you’ve been waiting forever for hopes to be fulfilled… But hoping in the Lord ensures His arrival on the scene. He sees us. He hears us. He knows us. He will answer us. Hoping in the Lord invites us to experience His peace as we trust He’s in control.
A good indication of where our hopes are placed is whether we experience God’s peace in our waiting. If we’re anxious about the thing we’re hoping for, likely we’ve placed our hope in whatever that thing is. We become fearful of that thing not coming to pass, and rightly so, because our faith has been placed in something ultimately powerless to fulfill us.
But Psalms encourages us:
“Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption” (Ps. 130:7).
We can dare to hope—even to boldly hope for the best—when we hope in the Lord. We’re no longer relying on ourselves or others to fulfill our longings, but on God’s goodness demonstrated through His perfect plan. Part of that goodness we know and experience now, enjoying unreserved access to God’s unfailing love and full redemption through Jesus. When you’re fighting despair and feeling hopeless, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the reasons you have to keep hoping.
“Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).
The Holy Spirit is our guarantee and reminder that our God fulfills His promises (see Eph. 1:14, 2 Cor 1:22). That’s not to say God is going to give us what we expect, or even what we want. But as our good Father, He is going to give us what is for our best. He calls us to put our hope in Him, and also calls us to trust Him in the way He will fulfill those hopes.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20).
For children of God, hope in the Lord is hope that is never deferred. It’s hope that sustains. It’s hope that gives life. It’s hope that’s fulfilled.