Waiting and Longing, Hoping Against Hope

Joy's poem
Joy Lenton – Shared by Permission

As I gazed at the bare, dead-looking trees, an ache squeezed my heart so hard it hurt. Oh, how I long for spring when new life springs forth embracing my heart with hope again. But I have to wait and let winter play its important role…

Waiting… How difficult it must have been in the Bible days to have to wait for the Hope of salvation to be born. How discouraged people must have felt at times waiting and longing, hoping against hope,

When an angel came to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, there had been 400 years of silence from prophets. The last one who prophesied the Savior was Malachi. And it was 300 years before that when Isaiah prophesied:

“All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign.
Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son and will call Him
Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

Can you imagine the anguish of waiting? Some didn’t even see it happen in this lifetime. What faith they needed to believe He would yet come to be their Savior, too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of Immanuel – God With Us. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy. The Savior was to be born from Mary!

We are so blessed to already know He has come. But sometimes there can still be longing, aching, waiting times for Christ. Sometimes wondering where He is in our lives. Sometimes aching for His presence – to truly feel Him. Sometimes waiting for unmet longings.

When Jacob was running for his life from his enraged brother Esau, he stopped at Bethel and used a rock as his pillow. He dreamed of a ladder stretching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending it and the Lord Himself at the top. When he woke up, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

Isn’t that what often happens with us? The Lord is ever faithful with His presence. It’s we who are not always aware of it. He was still there when there was 400 years of silence, and He is still here when we feel darkness surrounding us within and without. His fulfillment of His promise is just as steadfast whether it’s night or day. Whether we can “feel” Him or not.

Winters in nature are necessary. Trees look dead without leaves, but the truth is they are alive and growing underneath the surface as long as the ground isn’t too frozen. The nutrients empower the roots in the barren times. The roots grow down deeper and stronger, preparing them for what is to come, more able to suffer times of heat and drought. Longing and waiting for the signs of life again makes us value spring even more.

That’s how it is with spiritual waiting times, too. Our roots need to grow deeper into Christ and His ever-sure promises that He is here even when we can’t “feel” Him. And after the times of longing, waiting, and hoping against hope, we become more alert and aware of the evidences of His presence and the fulfillment to His promises and we appreciate those signs of new life so much more.

“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

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“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
~ Sung by Barlow Girl

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Anguished Tunes Turn to Hope-Filled Melodies

hopesun Do you have days when your heart weighs you down in sadness, and you try and try to cling to the promises, but gloom just keeps threatening to swallow you whole? You try to concentrate on all your blessings, but a disappointment or an unmet longing steals your joy? You are not alone. Even the Psalmists sometimes started out with loss of hope, crying out to the Lord from a sinking pit of desperate need. And many prophets dealt with gloom and doom like Micah in chapter 7. Their writings overflow with tunes of anguished tears, but then a melody of hope rings through. They will still hope. They will still wait. They will still believe in a Savior who redeems, revives, and restores.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

Crying From the Depths

Gloom Dark despair
Seeping into our hearts
Snuffing out Any light Of hope.

No reviving to life
No rescue in sight
No receiving of light.

Lies thrashing us
Like thorny whips
Slashing away hope,
Nobody cares about you
Even if they act like it,
God doesn’t really care
Even if He says He does,
You are not worth it
Even if God says you are.

Where are You, God?
Do You not care? Do You not see?
Do You not know?

O God, please
Rescue me from this pit
Of inky gloom
Of drooping despair
Of extinguished joy.

I want to cry
I want to scream
I want to die.

YET I will hang on
YET I will watch for You
YET I will wait for You.

I will open my heart
And remember
Past mercies, so evident
Present gifts, so loving
Future glory, so sure.

A Child's Trust

God Whispers

Cling to Me, My Child
Don’t let Satan
And his lies
Snuff out
The light of hope
Within you.

Hang on to My hand
I will never reject you
I will never betray you
I will never leave you.

Open your heart
Believe and receive
The blood I shed
Also for you.
Let it wash you
And make you whole.

And remember
I am not dead,
I am alive.
Chains of death cannot keep me,
Graves of darkness cannot hold me,
Mountains of doubts cannot stop Me.

Yesterday and today
Forever you are
My chosen, so priceless
My beloved, so treasured
My redeemed, paid in full.

Sometimes I keep silent
To give you growth
To strengthen your trust
To deepen your love.

Hold on
Even in the dark,
I am still here
Right beside you,
Reach out your hand,
Slip it into Mine
And never let go.

If strength fails
And you can’t hold on,
Do not fear.
I have you
In My Grip
So passionate
So powerful
So protective.
You can never
Sink away
From My sight
From My grace
From My love.

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Trusting God Loves Cracked Pots and He Will Heal In His Time and Way

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I was trying to take a risk in spite of my fear – go to church. We hadn’t been going for a while again, because my sensitive airways reject cold air. But it was going to be warmer, so on Saturday night I thought I could try it again. But the cold isn’t the only thing keeping me away.

When I woke up on Sunday, fear consumed me. I kept pleading with God, “O God, help me, please. I am so afraid. Please be with me.”

I tried to read from His promises that He will always be with me. And He whispered, “Stay with Me. Let Me stay with you.

I thought I was all set. What time I am afraid, I will trust in YOU, O God.

But I was helpless with what my mind and body were doing. My identity was splitting again. It’s hard to explain, but I guess they call it disassociating. I disconnect from my thoughts, feelings, and who I really am. It’s so hard to describe what it feels like. Kind of like I’m two people… My true identity gets shoved into the garbage disposal. A different person takes over, one who listlessly rides along in life like a puppet on strings, one with emotions shut off so I won’t feel pain. It’s how I coped at the time of abuse, and sometimes it comes back when memories get triggered.

I kept crying to God. My heart was ready to place my trust in Him. I left the bedroom with brave intentions. My heart was going to plow forward and conquer this fear, because God is with me. Yet I became so confused, because my mind and body weren’t cooperating. I hate that feeling of when my mind and body disconnect. Sometimes I can process it, reason with myself, and come back to “earth,” but sometimes it doesn’t help until I remove myself from the situation and feel “safe” again.

I was out of the zone of reality, the here and now. Without thinking, I would get up with my cup of tea in my hands, pace, then sit in a different spot, and look out the window or try to converse.

My ever-protective, observant husband said, “You look uncomfortable. You’re troubled. Are you afraid someone is going to hurt you again?”

“I don’t knooow…”

I got my coat on and was ready to go out the door, and he stopped me. “You’re trembling.”

“No, I’m not… HOW can you see that?” I thought my trembling was only on the inside.

“Yes, you are. Even your jaw is quivering. I am not going, because you are NOT ready.”

I broke down and sobbed, “But how will I ever get past my fears if I don’t face them? Why can’t I stop being afraid? Do I have no faith?”

After more tears and hugs, I had to admit my husband was right. I was going more because I thought I was keeping him away from it (since he won’t go without me). And for approval from Christians who believe going to church is the right thing to do… If I’m honest with myself, the times I do go are more out of obligation than desire or need. And when I do have the courage to go, the gloom of depression sinks me down, often during the entire week or longer.

For many, going to church is not a problem, because they grew up in a nurturing church with a supportive community. Not me. “Church” is bad memories of spiritual, emotional, mental and sexual abuse.

When I shared the truth of my story many years later with friends, they deserted me.  They were willing to believe I was guilty of leading a “poor man of God” astray, but they were not willing to accept the truth – that I was victimized and deeply wounded.

We were hurt again at a couple of other churches since then, so we became even more guarded. I also still hear stories of other hurting souls who are not believed or supported in some churches. Even where perpetrators are more supported and prayed for than the victims are.

Anyway, I am trying to make sense of what happens to me, and I still don’t know. Questions roar and tumble in my mind: Should I just forget about trying to go to church anymore? Should I stop pushing myself? When will all these memory triggers stop? Why do they seem to be getting worse the older I get? Where is my faith?

A few months ago, in a non-denominational Bible study I attend when I am able to, there was a discussion about attending a church. Some concluded that faithful church attendance is not a requirement for salvation, but not going means we are missing out on the blessings of community. My heart cringed and curled up into a fetal position, ashamed and inadequate. I didn’t dare to tell even this safe, nonjudgmental community of beautiful women that I don’t go to church. I reasoned: If I tell them, they won’t understand anyway, they will look differently at me, they won’t like me anymore, they will “preach” at me and hurt me with words, etc.

This is also why I have been struggling whether or not to openly tell you on this blog post. In the corner of my mind, I keep seeing former friends who rejected me shake their heads at me and look at me like I’m a lost cause. But I want to be “real” here, and hopefully I will learn to share it someday at Bible study as well, no matter what the reaction.

As I write this, God is helping me to process my confusion. I beat myself up with – If you really trusted God, you could do this… Satan scoffs me with “Where is your God and His power?” That old legalism still has a condemning “do this or else” hold on me, but I must learn the Spirit gives life, not condemnation and death. It’s not about how many times I go to church. It’s about my relationship with Jesus. God is not confined to four walls. I can worship Him anywhere. The “church” is not a building but the indwelling of Jesus in the hearts of His people all over this world.

Yesterday I read how the disciples were in a room with the doors locked out of fear. Did Jesus walk away because the doors were locked, because they were afraid? No, nothing stops Him from loving His own unconditionally. He entered in and spoke peace to their trembling hearts. The doors were still locked… I still struggle with fear because of past trauma, but Jesus still will never turn His back on me. Even when fear locks the door to my heart, even though my faith is weak, Jesus still chooses to enter and dwell in my heart.

What happened on Sunday is turning out to be a blessing. A lesson in trust… Trusting in God doesn’t always mean taking a risk out of my comfort zone. Trust can mean to wait patiently and allow time for God’s complete healing.

To trust that Jesus will heal me in His time and His way.

To trust Him even though my mind and body react to memory triggers that bind me and limit me.

To trust that maybe He has more use for me in my woundedness than in my being of strong faith.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.”
(Habakkuk 2:3 NLT)

I am not perfect, but He loves me anyway. I am not going to keep forcing myself to go to church. I have to let it go for now. I have to quit heaping more guilt on myself for not going, no matter what I hear people say. I have to shake loose from those legalistic shackles and rest in the life and liberty of Jesus. I will not find peace in a building. I will only find peace in Jesus. Jesus understands and doesn’t condemn me for it, so why should I? Instead I will continue to worship Him wherever I am and to seek a closer and more intimate relationship with my Lord and my Redeemer.

I will try to be more gentle on myself and more patient with the healing process. Each day, hour, moment, I will try to lay this cross at the feet of Jesus. Layer by layer, God will heal me, if not here, in the hereafter. Someday all the shackles of fear and shame will disintegrate in the power of God’s saving and healing grace. Meanwhile, I want to accept my brokenness as beautiful in His sight. He can still use this battered, cracked pot.

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Are you sometimes impatient with the healing process? Do you beat yourself up because you can’t always do what you think you should be able to if you trusted God enough? Or maybe people condemn you for not being able to move forward more quickly? Be more gentle with yourself. No matter what, Jesus understands. He never condemns. He hurts when we hurt. We don’t have to be completely healed to be used by Him. Sometimes He may have more use for us in our woundedness. God sees our cracks as beautiful!

The Cracked Pot from Neepa Sharma

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Your Cross