Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hoping Expectantly

I was praying this morning about what word or phrase God wanted me to hold onto this year. A theme of sorts that He wanted me to remember as I approach this year. After some prayer and time in the Word, the words, "Eager Expectation" kept coming up. I prayed through it more and felt like God said He wants me to hope with an expectant heart this year.

I knew this was from the Lord because I noticed myself losing a lot of hope as we sat in the "mess" of last year. Time and time again we saw things we had prayed for go unmet and dealt with heartache after heartache. South Sudan continues to be messy and conflict left unresolved, the loss of our first pregnancy, many stories of friends dealing with deep grief and loss. It all felt too hard to make sense of, so I started to lose hope. I started to tighten my grip on the things I could control and felt numb and indifferent to the things I couldn't. 

Romans 8:23 says, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 

This verse has been encouraging to Will and I this year because it has reminded us that there is a place for groaning inwardly, but we do it while we are waiting eagerly.  We acknowledge the loss, pain, unmet desires, but all-the-while wait with expectant hearts that the story is not over yet. 

So, as I approach this new year, here are some ways I am leaning in with an expectant hope.

For South Sudan: As we sit in the wake of war, with seemingly no end in sight, I am holding onto the hope that 1. South Sudan's story is not over and 2. God can and is answering the prayers of the people on behalf of those who are in such desperate need. 

Their story is not over. We know Who ultimately has the victory in the end and it is NOT evil. If the only tangible thing I can do on behalf of the people right now is believe FOR them that their story is not over and God is still working on their behalf, then that is what I will do. I am eager to hear accounts of how God provided "manna-like" experiences for them while they were in hiding. I am trusting that His provision is good even if I can't see the result of it yet. 

For Others: Will and I are surrounded by friends who are facing great losses and great pain. It seems like the older I get and the more friends I accumulate, the more stories I hear of great suffering and long seasons of waiting and of disappointment. I'm learning that the greatest thing we can do for those around us who are suffering is to 1. Be present and listen well and 2. Hope well on their behalf. When we are in seasons of suffering, we need to feel heard, but we also need advocates who will hope when we are unable to do so ourselves. We need friends who will plead on our behalf when we don't have energy left for the same prayers we've prayed for years. 

For all of my friends who are suffering the emotional pain of miscarriages, infertility, and the death of loved ones, I'm hoping for you that the story is not over. I pray for you all often and ask God to meet you in the pain and to bring you hope in the midst of what seems so hopeless. For those of you who are suffering from anxiety, depression, etc. I am praying for a renewed sense of God's presence in the midst of the loneliness and fear. In all of these things (and the many, many other struggles those close to us are dealing with), I am hoping with all of you for miracles. I pray often for the provision of babies to those who have longed for them for so long. I pray for healing from the mental battles that bog us down so easily. I hope not only that God would provide answers to these longings, bus also that His Spirit would be tangible in the process and that all of these struggles would make us even more aware of His greatness and His power. 

For Ourselves: My hope for Will and I this year is that  we would have the faith to say, "YES!" to God even when our circumstances are extremely difficult and not what we has planned. Will and I learned a lot about disappointment this year and the main thing we learned is that we are wimps in the face of it. We spent the majority of our time shocked by the suffering we were dealt this year rather than eager to be obedient and trust, even when suffering hit. As we enter a year with a lot more unknowns (and a baby that is going to be thrown into the mix of all of it!), my eager hope for us is that God would teach us to fix our eyes on Him above all other things and that we would not be shaken by the storms around us. I pray also that when we are shaken (because we're human), that we would have the grace to shake it off, repent, and move on with obedient hearts yet again. 

For Christmas this year, one of my gifts from Will was a small tambourine. This was a reference to what I have been learning about Miriam and her tambourine from the Old Testament. To read more about that read this entry. I love this gift in light of God's challenge for me to "hope expectantly" this year. The tambourine is a reminder that even if the prayers I'm praying now don't seem like they have an answer in sight, there WILL be a time to praise in the future. It reminds me of the eagerness I have to rejoice. So, I will hope expectantly that there will be many times of tambourine-playing and rejoicing coming up this year.

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed" Romans 8:19