It feels funny and even a bit odd that around the same time I decide to make my blog public is smack dab in the middle of an emotionally tough season in my life. It feels like I’ve invited you all over to my house without cleaning up at all; like I’m very aware of the mess and the chaos, but still say, “Come on in!”
Maybe we’ll call the timing divine purpose.
I like a clean house. Neat, orderly, and things in their proper place (for the most part). I like the dishes cleaned and the smell of a warm candle lit, carrying scents of pumpkin spice or warm apple pie throughout the whole house. I like to sit on a couch free of clutter and collapse into a bed clear of clothes and junk.
I like my life to feel the way a clean house does, too. But right now, it most certainly does not. There’s stuff piled in each room and projects pending that I was sure would be done by now. The scents wafting through are not of peace and joy, but rather of jealousy and bitterness. I told you…messy.
At some point, you make plans for your life. Sometimes these plans are drawn out, descriptive, and take place over the course of years. Others are brief, easy to obtain, and are “scheduled” to take place in the near future. Some fall in-between the lengthy and the short term, and are sometimes just a vague desire. Let me just tell you, I make plans that fit into every category. All the time.
How’s that working for me, you ask? Not so great.
I’m not sure I even realized I had specific plans for my life until they didn’t happen. The absence of what I thought my life would be like at 25 has caused a domino effect of disappointment, jealousy, and even bitterness at times. The game of comparison has begun, and Dwight Edwards was incredibly right when he said that “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Lack of good things in my life is not the problem. I could count my blessings for days. The perspective of “what are you thankful for” leaves me with a list of people, things, and circumstances that I cherish deeply, and am very grateful for. The problem instead seems to be the chasm between my plans and expectations for my life, and the reality that I find myself in.
The norms that are pressed on us and the feeling of disappointment of not meeting those norms can feel heavy. You’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it: “You’re NOT going to college?!” “You’re (insert any age) and single??” “When are you guys going to start having kids?” “You’re changing jobs…again?” Cultural norms are not so underlying when they smack you in the face, asking in disbelief why you haven’t done what you “should have done” by now.
Unmet cultural norm meets unfulfilled desire. Cue the urge to despair.
“A state in which all hope is lost or absent.” That’s the definition of despair: to lose hope. You’ve waited. You’ve prayed. You’ve hoped. You’ve prepared. You’ve planned it out. You’ve talked to others about the things to come. Yet still, the waiting continues without any guarantee that it’s going to end. And slowly, the once brilliant flame of hope starts to dwindle to a just a flicker. Your fear then shifts from living in unmet desire to living without hope.
A flicker of hope might not feel like much, but when looking over the edge on the cliff of despair, it’s the last secure ground to stand on.
The ability to keep walking forward while living in unmet desires is rooted in hope. The trouble is most people hope in what they’re waiting for rather than a God who provides all things. They are placing all their eggs in the basket of the gift; and without the gift, the future begins to look very dim. Then one by one, the eggs begin to break.
And I don’t say this because I’ve discovered the secret to happiness in any and every situation. Some days I have to chose joy; other days I’m still searching for it. Instead, I say this because I want to transcend happiness and rest in hope. I want my hope to be in Someone that is strong, steady, and unchanging; the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5).
Rooted, unwavering hope in something unchanging is like sunshine for the soul, nourishing and life-giving—even in a season of drought.
In Hebrews 6:19, hope is referred to as an “anchor for our souls.” May you find hope, and may it be just that.