One of my words for December this year is “hope.” I’ve been reminiscing about 6 years ago in November when we found out we were having our first girl. All through the pregnancy, I had been hoping it would be a girl. We had two boys and I thought it would be perfect to have a girl the third time around. This was a very far off hope considering that no female child had been born in Andrew’s family for six generations.
But just hoping with some far off dream is much different than realizing that your hope has been fulfilled. For me that ultrasound changed everything in my world. Here’s an excerpt from my blog post after the ultrasound: Before the ultrasound, I told people I just kept hopin’ and hopin’ it was a girl. But to hope for something and to see that hope fulfilled are two competely different states of mind. For the past two days, everything about pregnancy has been different. I’m not as tired and crampy. Instead of complaining and crying out, “Why are we doing this again???” I know why I’m doing this again. It is for my little girl. Before every time I saw a mom with a baby, I would ask myself, “What am I doing? I have two boys that are completely potty trained. I don’t carry anything but my purse, no diaper bag, binkies or sippy cups. The boys dress themselves and buckle in their own car seats. It will be at least three years before I’m in this situation again.” But now when I change a diaper, I’ll be looking at girl parts! It won’t be the same old baby routine I went through with the boys. I’ll be watching for how she is like the boys and how she is all girl. I can buy some new baby clothes for a girl!!! Yesterday I almost bought a baby girl stocking for the mantle. The whole world is new.
Recently I have realized that there are certain situations in which I have lost hope. I no longer even have the courage to hope that some day a relationship could be different. I assume that it will always be the same and nothing will ever change. So instead of reaching out in the relationship, I hold back. Instead of being fully myself and being vulnerable, I hide myself. Instead of sharing my feelings, which could in turn bring healing, I am silent. I have convinced myself that the other person doesn’t desire change. I have also lost hope that certain professional dreams will ever come true. When that happens, I lose the energy behind my work, and I write less, sleep more and spend time worrying about whether I’m on the right path. You see…I have lost hope.
In Luke, we meet another person who had lost hope. Zechariah was “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” (Luke 1:6-7) At some point in their marriage, I’m positive they had hoped for a son. They had even prayed and asked God for a son. Yet even after many years of faithful living, there was no son. But on the day he went into the temple to burn the incense, he had lost hope. On that day, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God himself, appeared to Zechariah and told him he would have a son. But Zechariah didn’t believe him. He asked, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) He was asking for proof that it would happen because his lack of hope led to a lack of belief. Gabriel then told him that he wouldn’t be able to speak until the baby was born because of his unbelief.
My lack of hope has also led to a lack of belief. Zechariah’s lack of hope is completely understandable considering the many years of prayers that went unanswered. All the evidence says that there is no reason to continue to hope. To hold out hope simply seems foolish. And yet, this is the very definition of faith…to believe what you cannot see. To continue to hope even when all the evidence is against you. Mike Mason wrote, “True faith requires painful waiting.” Waiting that is easy or makes sense because the outcome is predictable does not require much faith. But waiting and hoping in spite of the odds requires true faith.
A little later in Luke, we have a picture of what it looks like to continue to hope in spite of the odds. Shortly after his birth, Jesus was taken by his parents to the temple. There they met two faithful and devout people who had not stopped hoping and believing that they would see the Messiah. Simeon is described as “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” (Luke 2:25) The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Anna was an 84-year-old widow who was in the temple daily looking for the promised Savior. When they saw their hope fulfilled, they didn’t ask for proof or a greater sign. They simply believed. We know Simeon believed because he said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30) We know Anna believed because she told others about Jesus. Both had been waiting a very long time, but had not lost hope.
Hope fulfilled changes everything. When Hope Renee arrived in our family, everything changed. No longer could Andrew and I run a man-on-man defense and each take a kid. We had to go to a zone defense, and someone always had two kids. I also had a daughter who would go shopping with me and be creative with me. When I hope for the God to come in and restore relationship and mend broken dreams, everything changes. I can press into the relationship when needed. I am energized to work towards goals for my writing. I don’t have to spend hours worrying about the future and feeling shame over all the “shoulds” that haunt me. The hope is not some vague, far off feeling. My hope is combined with faith in a sovereign God who keeps His promises.
According to Luke’s account, the Holy Spirit was active in the scene at the temple. He wouldn’t let Simeon or Anna missed the fulfillment of what they had been hoping for. I imagine him standing next to Simeon as Mary gently handed him her newborn babe. The Holy Spirit whispered in his ear, “This is it. This is the one you have been waiting for.” The Holy Spirit is the one who engenders hope and belief in our hearts. Because of the Spirit, I can trust God to be at work in all areas of my life. He is the One who brings hope because He is the One who delights in doing the impossible. He won’t let me miss it either. I’m really hoping I won’t have to wait until I’m 84 to see the hopes fulfilled, but I just might. And when I begin to lose hope, I turn to him to remember the source of my hope. Or I look into the eyes of my beautiful daughter and remember what he has already done. And in this season, I remember that my deepest longing in my soul, to be made right with God, has been fulfilled when his sent his only Son to earth in a manger.
Where have you given up hope?