At the start of each year, I attempt to make some sort of decided effort to pray about my future. I state this lightly, because I usually don’t even come close to the grand “seeking of the Lord” that I intended to. Sure, I might think/pray about things when I’m driving to work and I guess I’ll just sort of “pray” about things whenever my pastor is really on fire some Sunday, but still I find myself avoiding any real and tangible future thinking. Let’s be honest, the future can be a scary place.
Upon realizing my fear of the future this year, I began to ask God where fear might have started. Immediately, I began thinking about a series of events involving my dad’s failed business. Those years were filled bankruptcy, shame for having a failed business, and then years of bill collectors calling again and again. I’d watch my mom cry in bathroom and try to explain to her mother on the phone that she didn’t make a mistake marrying my dad. I think somewhere along the line, I saw my dad’s ambition to be an entrepreneur as a sign of weakness. Why have hope or drive for something when God will do what He will do anyway?
Ah, there it was. I thought hope was bad.
Well maybe not bad, but unrealistic and childish at least and definitely something that only children and really “spiritual” Christians have. Us average citizens you see, we are grounded, realistic, and wise. There is no reason to ask for grand things when you know there is no money for them. Stop asking, stop dreaming, “Your mother and I can’t buy you those things and you know that!”
It’s incredible how Satan can take the things that happened to us as children and somehow twist them into a reflection of how we see God. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, right? Then why have hope?
I was recently flying home from my beginning of the year vacation, arguing with God about the purpose of hope, and feeling sorry for myself. As I was in the midst of fighting back bitterness, the Lord interrupted me for the briefest of milliseconds. Clear as day, I felt Him say “give me a chance to show you what hope really looks like, Hannah- Ask me for something.”
“Alright, I said, then let me have the entire row to myself and I will sit here and hope that you will give it to me, deal?”
“Deal” He said.
So I waited. Passenger after passenger walked by my row, the plane slowly started to fill up and not one person sat down. “This is great” I thought, “This actually might happen!” Very soon after thinking this, someone sat right down beside me. But before I could even start feeling sad, I felt the Lord strongly tell me to keep your heart hopeful; there is another seat beside you. So I waited again and kept my heart hopeful. The attendants started the do the safety procedures and not one person sat down. As I closed my eyes to celebrate my answered prayer, I felt a tap on my shoulder; it was the final passenger on the plane, my row was completely full.
Here is why the Lord is so kind to me, if I would have had an answered prayer in that moment, it may have been a great story to tell and I might have hope for a few other things in my life, but I would have missed the point. That day, the Lord set up a foundation of hope that I have been carrying with me these last few months. While I waited for the Lord on that plane, I believed in His goodness throughout. My heart remained hopeful that the Lord wanted to give me good things, even when I could see that my odds were slim. After, everything was over, I wasn’t bitter or angry, I still had hope! Years of believing that I shouldn’t ask for things, because they were unrealistic, began to heal in that moment. I felt like the Lord was asking me to start dreaming with Him again, for me to start having hope for my own future, and to remember that even if my plans don’t pan out the way I think they should, that God still has good things in store for me.
If my heart turns hard when things don’t work out, then I keep myself in one place, never looking to hope for anything, and I stay comfortable. But, if I keep my heart hopeful, then I can give the Lord space to work in my life and take risks without fear of the future. For me, hope isn’t really about the result, but more of trusting that the Lord is faithful in the midst of a want or need. Psalm 37:4 has been so impactful for me recently “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I’ve even been contemplating Matthew 7:11 when I battle being discouraged: “if you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
I hope you are able to delight yourself in the Lord today; He is trustworthy for my future and yours.
Hannah Root is a dear friend and colleague of mine. As a former missionary to Ireland, she worked with Youth with a Mission to unite two opposite points of view of the nation by teaching the value of reconciliation. She currently works at Focus on the Family’s Digital Outreach. You can follow Hannah on Instagram @rannahoot