Sunday, March 9, 2014

Redefining Hope

I used to think hope was a four letter word. I vividly remember weeping, yelling at God to stop giving me hope because it was always dashed, it was only a mirage, and I had come to hate it.

For a long time, I believed hope was a curse...not a gift.

But the reality was, I didn't really know what hope was.

I had hijacked hope and turned it into something it wasn't meant to be.

For most of my life my hope for happiness, for marriage, for parenting, for working out all the details of my life rested on me. I constantly carried the burden of planning and designing and figuring and worrying about so much. And since I was so busy doing that, I not only missed out on living life, but I was settling on a mediocre life created out of the mind of a child, as well as basically setting the whole thing on fire; I was taking the role of director when I wasn't made to do that, nor equipped to do that, and in the end, I was lighting a match to my life and my hope didn't stand a chance.

See, my hope was in me. in people. circumstances. feeling secure and safe. wanting everything to work out just so.

And since my hope was in all of that, it was in brokenness. My hope was just a mirage.

It was doomed to be dashed.

I look at my life back then as a building engulfed in flames.

I had built the structure with my visions and dreams and misguided ideals...and my "hopes" were in all of that and now those hopes were the burning timbers.

My mom dying, and then me being engrossed in devastation and divorce, come March 2009, I sat in the embers of what's left after the firemen leave from putting out a 4 alarm fire.

I sat alone, in a heap of rubble. And as much as I hated where I was, I was also relieved to have had the fire put out. Something inside of me knew I had been chasing something that didn't exist. I was chasing an illusion that I kept calling hope, but it wasn't real. It wasn't there.

And I just sat in the smoke of my hope and life burned.

I can't help but wonder, if all those times I begged God to stop giving me hope...all that my hope was in had to first be burned before I could ever let go of it.

If I ever to was to have a chance at knowing what real HOPE was, I honestly believe my version had to play out, and I had to watch it burn.

I believe that because I've now experienced how God has answered that prayer of mine...that cry of my heart, the deep cry of wanting to live in hope.

Over these last 5 years, God has taught me that HOPE isn't a "four letter" word. In fact, I kind of think it's been His mission in my life to show me that I had hijacked hope, and He wanted it back.

He was taking it back; and He was going to redefine hope for me.

When I came to a pivotal moment in my life, when all I'd put my hope in had fallen, the greatest life lesson God has shown me is that if I put my hope in anything besides Him, it isn't hope.

Hope only exists when it is in Him.

Genuine Hope takes Jesus.

As I sat amongst the rubble, there was no joy, relationship, love, or peace. I hadn't experienced, I mean truly experienced, any of those in years. And I believe the reason is because all of those glorious gifts are contingent on HOPE, so putting our hope in Him and only Him is crucial to grasping all those treasures we long for, we're desperate for.

What's remarkable is that in the same moment of having all my hope dashed, was really the first moment in my life to clearly see genuine HOPE.

Through God's grace, at the bottom of my pit is where I knew my only way out and up was with God.

I saw HOPE, because amongst my destruction, all I saw was Him there with me.

I knew that I had nothing left.  I had spent 31 years putting hope in myself and I was on the floor weeping a life destitute, a life broken, a life burned.

Each day, I remember that picture. I remember what and where my brokenness gets me.

My life changed, my faith changed, and eventually, my definition of hope changed when all I had left to get me up off the floor was Jesus.

Before then, I had never grasped the simple fact that my task of being human was to live life.

What I did was orchestrate life...not live it. I needed to learn how to LIVE it.

Living takes trust; it takes an element of walking in an unknown. I'm not someone who can handle not knowing what's around the corner.  I'm too fearful to live amongst unknown. TRUSTING amongst unknown was a foreign concept. It was insanity to me.

Some of that fear was reasonable...I had circumstances in my life that fear was fed, but much of it, I chose or I didn't know what to do with because faith and trust and grace weren't  something I lived out.

But, through God's infinite grace, He walked me through the fire, pursued me in the rubble, and His constant goodness and mercy and faithfulness have continued to massage the fear and worry out and convince me to trust see that my hope is now in HIM.

It's a daily work, but He's faithful and unchanging, so He's quick to remind me that trusting Him, placing all my hope in Him is an integral part of freedom, of peace, of truly living.

And when one sets aside all that is within them to fix or mold or create and rests it all in the mighty hands of God, life starts taking a turn, it shifts into a realm that becomes a bit magical...remarkable...wondrous...and dare I say, hopeful.

One of my favorite verses for over 10 years now is in Romans 5. It always gave me hope that something would come from the mess I kept walking in...but I didn't really get it until I'd walked 10 years in it.

I think most of us strive to be people of character. We wish we'd have courage and be brave. We wish we'd truly love and be loved. We wish we'd be patient, merciful, and full of joy; to be known as a perseverer, an endurer, a believer, a hoper.

But, those treasured characteristics don't come easily, they aren't cheap, and they are only earned through the crap none of us want to experience; they come through blood, sweat, tears, heartache, grief, loneliness, sacrifice, and in walking through all of that, trusting in the hope that only God can give.

God's great mercy allows those to be found as we walk on a journey, a journey with Him through all that life brings.

"And not only this, but we also have joy in our troubles, knowing that troubles bring perseverance, perseverance brings character, and character brings hope; and hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy SPirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

In Him,


  1. Oh Shelly how your transparency-filled words filled me with hope. Hope only exists when it is in Him! Wow. Thanks for sharing!

  2. So glad Josie!!! Love you friend. :)