Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hope Deferred

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." Proverbs 13:12a

It is my absolute least favorite verse in the bible, to live out at least.

Every one of us has probably experienced the reality of this verse. I know I have in tenfold. For all the years we were trying to get pregnant with Jacob. My heart was so wounded and heavy. I would just weep. I remember driving in my car often and just crying out to God, begging Him to open my womb.

There was this song I used to play over and over again during that time in my life. The lyrics sang, "I will trust You Lord, when I don't know why, I will trust You Lord till the day I die, I won't lose my faith in the one I love, I will trust You Lord." I listened to and sang them out over and over again, they were my prayer.

My family and I also experienced this "hope deferred" powerfully in the 3 1/2 years that we fought and waited to finalize Ethan's adoption. Time and time again, it was two steps forward, three steps back, at times barely holding hope, begging God to move on our behalf, living with the knowledge that someone could come and take him away from us at a moment's notice. During that season of life the song I sang continually sang "I will bless the Lord forever, I will trust Him at all times, He has delivered me from all fear, He has set my feet upon a rock, I will not be moved, and I'll say of the Lord, You are my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, my shelter, strong tower, my very present help in time of need, Whom have I in heaven but You, There's none I desire beside You, You have made me glad..."

These songs were a part of the act of my will. I didn't feel them, they didn't even necessarily always ring true, but they were an anchor to hold to hope.

That sick heart resonates to your bones. It's that pit so deep in your stomach. It's that physical sense of anxiety that you cannot shake, it torments you. Your sleep is disrupted, your joy is hindered. You feel like you are in a dark cave and you can't find the exit, disoriented and lost.

We've all experienced it, but we each react to it in our own way. For many it stalls you at first. You don't know where to move. The birth of the hope is usually a painful thing, it comes from some form of bad news. She's sick. They're separated. The bill comes due and the money isn't there. In that moment you just stop, it's like a blow.

I remember one particular occasion I took a hit like that. We were about 2 1/2 years into the adoption process with Ethan. Something came up in his records that forced us to go back and try to track down another possible birth father. We thought we were on the downward slope and finally getting close to being finalized and then this came up and our hope for that was deferred, put off. Then when we found the young man he stated his intentions to try to take Ethan back. He wanted to take out 2 1/2 year old son, who we had been with every day for those 2 1/2 years and remove him from our family. And there was a very real possibility that he would be able to do so. Hope deferred.

That day is forever etched in my mind. I was completely stalled. I fell apart, I called Neal on the phone at work and we just cried. I called my mom and cried, I called my praying friends and cried. I was overwhelmed with fear and hopelessness.

Then something rose up in me. FAITH. I stopped and purposely turned my eyes away from my circumstance and focused them directly on my God. The same God who had answered my prayer for motherhood in Jacob, fulfilled the personal promise He's made to me about a daughter in Victoria and the same God who had given me Ethan's name before we ever knew what a battle we would face in making him a part of our family.

When the Lord gave me the name of our adopted child it came very clearly to me. His middle name was a family name, appropriate, I felt, for an adopted child, although uncharacteristic of me to do so. I had never considered the name "Ethan" until it blared across my computer screen. It jumped off at me and I knew it was his name before I even knew he was a he. When I looked up the name it said it meant, "permanent." How perfect for an adopted son, and as it turned out, it became a promise to hold to on many difficult days.

Later that day I picked Jake up from school and took the kids to see Neal. It was obvious he had been crying all day long, hope deferred, fear taking grip. I brought his brood to him and let them hug him and love on him. Our shared words of fear earlier in the day were now only his, I spoke words of faith, but Neal was "heartsick."

After I brought the kids home I was in my room and when I walked out into the fall I found 10 year old Jake kneeling on the floor, weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he cried that he didn't want to lose his little brother. I remember standing him up and speaking words of faith, the gift of faith God had restored to me. I reminded him of God's promise over Ethan, I reminded him of God's fulfilled promise in Victoria, I reminded him we were not to look at our circumstance, but we were to look at our God. I watched the faith rise up in my son.

Later when Neal came home he was still heavy hearted, he decided he just wanted to get away from the house with his kids. He was in the front yard setting up the trailer for a bike ride when my mom stopped by. She was worried about us because last she had talked to me I was still in despair. As we all stood in the driveway Neal began to cry and expressed his fear of losing his little boy. Jacob was nearby and he heard him. My heart was full as I watched my young son come over and remind his father of God's faithfulness and provision with conviction.

I've really gone off on a tangent here, but this was such a profound experience in my life, it's one of those moments that I look back at and I know all the struggle was of value. The whole process of what we went through was of great value. I know to the depth of my soul that it was a time in my life that my faith grew deeper, as did Neal's, and so did Jacob's. I also know it was a time that my marriage grew stronger, we became more committed to one another and to our family, and more importantly we realized how deep God's commitment was to us. Not everyone realizes that "third cord" in their marriage. For me it made it even more real to me how important the commitment we made to each other was. It's in stressful seasons like that marriages can be made or broken.

Clearly God proved His faithfulness and commitment to our family through this experience. In April it will be five wonderful years since the day we signed the papers to finalize Ethan's adoption. What a glorious day that was. That's where the 2nd half of Proverbs 13:12 comes in...

"...But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12b

Have you ever waited and waited for something to come, for an answer to prayer? It's like a light comes on in your whole world. There is life and light and hope. There is a joy unspeakable. Oh that we could live our lives in that joy unspeakable, but alas the hope deferred is far more prevalent in these days, in this world.

That is perhaps the greatest of the hopes deferred, the hope of our salvation.

1 Peter 1:3-8 says...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

As Christians, we have hope, and it is sure, our salvation is to come, but in the meantime we remain here, in a fallen world, waiting, suffering in our own trials, in watching the hurt of others, hope is deferred time and again. So we must have anchors of faith, Him to hold on to, so that as we ride out the sickness of our hearts, we remind ourselves of God's faithfulness and goodness and that the time will come not "yet again" but gloriously, eventually, once and for all time.

Jesus, come quickly now, in the grief of the various trials, in the diagnoses, the brokenness, in the hurt, and yet also, come once and for all and take us to the glorious hope that is in Your eternal presence.

Are you hurting today? Are you "heart sick" in your suffering or loss, or in your waiting? Jesus desires to have you know Him even more intimately, that His faith may rise up in you and help you to press through the difficult times. But more importantly to remember that this is but a season, that we are not home, these circumstances are not our truth, they are not final, nor even our reality, but rather it is a time to grow, to stretch and to know Him better the One who has called you and purposed You for His eternal plan. Remember, He is with you and for you, and working through you and on your behalf.

Find the anchor to hold to that reminds you of His goodness, remember the things He has done for you, hold to them, hold to Him, as your hope is deferred for when it comes it is indeed the tree of life.

Be blessed in Jesus name.


JJones said...

Good word, sister.

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