When Hope Seems Lost

Hope. It has become a heartbreaking word to me. Every time I meet someone and start dating and it doesn’t work out, my hopes are dashed. My hopes of one day being married have gradually faded to almost nothing. Once flourishing, they are now neglected and walled up in a corner of my heart that I rarely open, in fear of overwhelming disappointment.
People love to throw around brave phrases like ‘hope does not disappoint.’ It’s hard not to be accusatory toward God when hope goes unfulfilled. So I’ve taught myself to smother my hope for a mate, to say, “God desires something else for me, and because it is His plan, it must be better.” I work to keep my faith in God’s goodness intact and my hope minimally alive. Because I know God is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness, with the eternal part of my being than with my physical body.
But still, however difficult it may be, when my hopes are crushed, I have to reevaluate where my hope lies. Because God doesn’t lie. So if He says, “Those who hope in Me will not be put to shame,” and He is not a liar, somewhere my hope got sidetracked.
My heart has grown small in the hope for a husband. Just like when you go on a diet, and your stomach shrinks because you are eating less, so your appetite shrinks. My heart’s appetite has been become too small and self-centered to absorb what God has for it, and I’m wasting away because my hope is feeding on itself. I have to increase my heart’s appetite for hope. But what do I feed it?
This morning I read Romans 5: 1-5. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us.” (Romans 5: 1-5, NIV.)
There’s two things I am supposed to rejoice in: sufferings and the hope of the glory of God. Wow. This wrecks me. I don’t rejoice in suffering. I complain about it. But according to this passage, I’m not supposed to rejoice in sufferings only for their own sake, I’m to rejoice in them because of what they produce: perseverance, character, and hope. Hope of the glory of God.
That word for glory means the character, image, or reflection of. So if I hope and exult in God’s character being glorified and known by others, if I hope in God’s character being worked out in me, my hope will not disappoint me. In another passage, Paul talks about his suffering for the sake of the gospel. He goes on to say, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:15-18, NIV). Paul’s trials were certainly bigger than my momentary longing for a husband. And marriage, as wonderful as it is, is only temporary, for our time on earth; I am an eternal being.
Now if only my heart can grow enough to apprehend this truth, hope will bloom in every corner. If my joy is found in God being glorified, then my hope ought to be found there too. If, by my being single, God is glorified more than my being married, and if anyone is encouraged or strengthened in their faith, then bring it on. Because my joy is only going to increase.
It doesn’t mean that I’m unspiritual if my heart still aches over my unfulfilled desire. It just means that my main spiritual appetite has to be satisfied with the feast that the Lord has for me in Him. And if one day He chooses to bless me with the sweetness of marriage, like dessert after a great meal, then I will praise Him for it. But in the meantime, I am no less satisfied spiritually because I have all the richness of Christ to feast on.
I’m not going to stop hoping that one day I’ll be married. But that hope always has to be swallowed up by the hope and joy I find in God’s glory. If the lesser hope starts to choke out or efface the greater one, then I need to feed and stimulate the greater. Maybe that’s what David had in mind when he said, “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have enlarged my heart (Psalm 119:32).”