By the time I was 10 my family life had been significantly altered. My parents divorced. Not even a year later my father moved not just out of state, but out of the U.S. I lived full time with my mother, so growing up I spent the better part of a decade flying back and forth for an annual, or sometimes when I was lucky, semi annual visit to see my father. These years were hard for me. As far as personality and interests go I am much more alike with my father than my mother, and I enjoyed the time with him. But the time passed quickly and it seemed like the visits were never long enough. With age and time the goodbye’s grew harder. And as the years passed the one thing I needed at the end of each visit was to know just how long I would have to wait for the next.
It didn’t have to be a concrete plan, no airline tickets needed to be purchased, I just needed for the conversation about the timing of the next visit to take shape. As long as I knew that yes, there were plans for a next visit, it would be the HOPE I needed to carry me through the waiting.
HOPE by definition is the desire we have for something we think could happen.
Thinking there were plans for a next visit fulfilled my desire to see my father, it was my HOPE.
Thousands of years ago, God gave the Israelites the promise that He would provide a King to deliver His people from bondage. He didn’t tell them exactly when this would happen, but for the one’s who knew Him by His character of faithfulness, as one who keeps His promises, there was HOPE.
Believing God’s promises gives us HOPE. But waiting for God to fulfill His promises is hard. What I’ve learned in my adulthood is understanding how disappointment plays a role in cultivating HOPE.
Maybe you didn’t get the job, or the relationship didn’t work out, or the healing hasn’t come, or you’re still not pregnant, or your kids are making bad choices, or whatever the earthly woe is – do these disappointments shatter your HOPE?
Disappointment is real. It can also be very revealing. Disappointment has a way of exposing the desires of our hearts. But when these desires are unmet and disappointment sets in my question to you is, do you quit or commit to wait just a little longer?
On my journey God has shown me that He wants to be my HOPE and He is there with me in the waiting. In light of this I’ve come to ponder, do I really believe that God will fulfill His promises to me. The answer is revealed in my ability to wait and how I manage disappointments.
I wonder how many fulfilled visits to see my father it took for me to manage the disappointment of an airline delay, of which I am certain there was a least one.
The Israelites had been waiting for hundreds of years for their King, with several disappointments along the way. Some had stopped waiting, stopped believing in God, and had settled for less than than what God was wanting to fulfill, but there was one teenage girl who was holding on to HOPE.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her:
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Hime the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.
Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man? The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the hold One to be born will be called the Son of God.
And consider your relative Elizabeth – even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:26-37 HCSB
Why might Mary have held onto HOPE?
Did Mary know how many times God had already fulfilled promises that He had made? Did she know that God had delivered His people out of Egypt exactly at the time He had promised Abraham that He would?
My childhood HOPE wasn’t that my annual trips wouldn’t get cancelled, my HOPE was to see my father. Travel delays were disappointments, not HOPES.
I confess over the years sometimes I’ve confused my disappointments with HOPE, I can imagine we all do this at some point. But God is faithful to fulfill His promises, in His time, in His way.
This is one of the most difficult lessons I’ve needed to learn. These disappointments in hindsight I’ve grown to understand, served their purpose. They revealed what my true desires are, and have shown me that these were not the appointments that would have fulfilled those desires.
Twenty years down the pike from all of this and I can report that I’ve enjoyed being less than a 30 minute drive from my father for the last 8 years. Almost exactly the amount of time I had to endure in my childhood waiting to spend time with him. Over a long span of time God has proven Himself faithful to meet my desire. God fulfilled my desire to spend more time with my father. God fulfilled Elizabeth’s desire to have a child. You may have to wait, you may have many disappointments along the way, but be like Mary and have HOPE.
Keep your HOPE in the ONE who fulfills HIS promises, who knows your desires better than you do and believe... “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
For further reading and reflection:
Reflect on Mary’s response to God’s will for her life.
How does Mary’s response (sometimes referred to as hymn) reveal that her HOPE was to see God fulfill His promises to His people?
Where have you experienced disappointments that helped to reveal God’s will for your life?
How has His will led you, albeit a different way than maybe you anticipated, to your true desires?
How does this cultivate HOPE that He will fulfill His promises to you in the future?
ADVENT is a season of anticipation that we will experience Immanuel “God With Us” which can only happen if He is our HOPE.