Advent is upon us. It’s a time when we celebrate the hope and joy and peace that was ushered in with the birth of a baby all those years ago. But you might not feel much holiday cheer this year. You might be finding it hard to hope in a year of so much disappointment and pain.
I wonder, though, when we peel away all the glitter and glam that normally accompanies our Christmas celebrations and allow ourselves to sit in the messiness of this holiday season, if we’ll actually start to have a truer grasp on what that baby’s birth really meant all those years ago and what it means for us today. After all, the reason Jesus’ birth was so significant was because of the suffering that people were experiencing. Jesus was the promised savior, the one who would rescue God’s people out of their oppression, the one who would take what was wrong in the world and make it right. It was out of their pain that hope was born.
You see, when things are good and all is just as we would want it to be, there is no reason for hope. But hope is necessary because we live in a world that is broken. We all have things in our lives that are not as we want them to be, whether those are broken relationships, unfulfilled desires, health issues, loss, or injustice. We all know pain and disappointment, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. And yet, God calls us to hope.
We have hope because we know that God is faithful to his promises. However, we might at times be confused about what God’s promises actually are. I would like to think that God promises to bless me with health, wealth, and safety if I just follow his commands. I want him to grant my wishes if I just name them, claim them, and have enough faith. I want him to make my path as smooth as possible if I just remain loyal to him. But God doesn’t work like that. He is not our personal genie, and he is not limited by what we think is best.
I cannot pretend that I have God all figured out or that I know how he will act. What most often stands in my way of true hope are my own expectations on how I think God should resolve matters. I want it to be quick, and I want it to be simple, and I want it to end in me receiving what I desire.
But God is much bigger and holier and more mysterious than I know. I can’t imagine his ways. I can’t figure out how God is going to work everything out. I can’t control the way that his hand moves.
It’s important to differentiate between God’s promises and my own expectations. God promises to be my healer but he doesn’t promise me health. God promises abundance and provision but he doesn’t promise me wealth. God promises to be my defender and protector but he doesn’t promise me safety. I have to release my expectations if I want to recognize God’s faithfulness and receive his blessings.
Though I cannot expect God to move in the way that I prescribe, it is his character that gives me reason for hope. I know that God is faithful. I know that he is strong. I know that he is wise. I know that he is good and kind and just and merciful. Therefore, I have hope.
There are times when my heart grows weary in waiting. There are times when I feel angry about the pain that I am suffering. There are times when I question whether God and his promises are true. That’s ok.
Hope does not mean that we ignore the pain or the doubt. Instead, it requires us to be honest about what we feel while also calling to mind who God is.
Hope does not mean that our circumstances will absolutely change. But God can bring us freedom, peace, and joy even in the midst of our circumstances.
Hope does not mean that we will get what we want. But we can trust that God knows and will provide what we need.
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
– Lamentations 3:19-24
What are you hoping for? Where are the areas of pain or disappointment in your life? What is the wrong that you want to be made right? Bring it before God with honesty and vulnerability. Then, remind yourself of his kindness, his wisdom, his grace, his power, and his unfailing love. Release your expectations, but hold onto hope as you wait patiently for God to move.