Hope hurts. It does! Especially when you bring it along an arduous journey with you. It’s like packing a silver candelabra to hike across the desert expecting to use it when you arrive to the promised palace at the end. The candelabra is your tangible hope for things unseen. It is the taste of the splendid promise to be fulfilled. But on a wearing trek through the desert it gets heavy. It gets dusty. It appears extravagant and wildly out of place. And the longer you go through the desert, the more it seems unnecessary; even inappropriate. It becomes a burden. The passionate excitement that moved you to include the candelabra on such a difficult path has now turned into a resolute decision to continue on with it one day more. Hope hurts.
That has been my experience with secondary infertility. My husband, my son, and I long for more children. Our desire is as appealing as a sumptuous palace after a battered journey. Sometimes the months pass by in clumps, barely noticed. Sometimes we are acutely aware of ever day in my cycle. And the months when there is a delay in that all-telling sign are the hardest. The “start date” comes in dread and passes without a hint. That’s when I remember my candelabra in my backpack. I tentatively go to sleep at the end of that first day, wondering if I should remind my husband of it – to remind him of hope. The next morning there is still no sign and I run to my backpack to check if I really do still have the candelabra with me or if it fell out during one of the unnoticed months. There it is! A tiny gleam of hope catches my eye! The first day with no sign that the heart wrenching journey will continue as it has is a day of cautious hope. I never fully unpack the candelabra. I’m just reminded that it (and my longing) are still with me.
The next day I race to get up and see if there is a reason to hope. Still no sign! I quietly mention it to my husband with the glint in my eye sliding down my cheek in a tear, painfully aware of other months like this. Hope hurts, after all. In his own private moment he will go and peak in the backpack to catch a glimpse of the promise.
But on that second day, at every hour my hope increases exponentially. By the end of the day I’ve retrieved the candelabra and am swinging it along the path with me happily. I’ve already calculated when the baby will come, how we’ll shout the announcement from the rooftops, what names to consider…
By the end of that day the spotting starts. It could be the egg attaching, I always tell myself, but I decide to tuck the candelabra back in the bag just to keep it safe. I leave the bag unzipped so that I can fix my gaze on it throughout the night.
The next morning, the third day. Nothing. Is it because my body was laying down or could I really finally be pregnant?! The hours seem longer that day and I’m terrified to even consider looking at the backpack because this is the day, in so many previous months throughout eight long years, that my heart is broken again. And at the end of that day I am once again weeping and grieving for the child we can’t have. I have to tell my husband and bring him back with me from whatever path of hope he had considered walking down.
Hope hurts. In those raw moments before the Lord I ask, “Why?!” Over and over and over and with unspeakable tenderness He answers me, “Oh, how I love you.” I despised that answer for a long time because it didn’t answer my question. When that was the only answer He would give me I decided to consider how maybe it did answer my question, and I was overwhelmingly satisfied. But that’s another story…
As I accepted His answer to me, I also decided to accept that we would never have any more children. I actually unpacked my candelabra from my backpack, buried it in the sand and walked away.
Three months later the Lord lovingly reminded me that He had not told me, “No.” I had simply grown tired of the burden of hope and given up. So I went back to where I had buried my hope, dug it up, slung it back in my bag (getting a little sand in my eyes in the process), and trudged on with hope. Resolute. Because hope hurts.
One morning, almost exactly one year later, I was jolted to life before I even finished half a cup of my morning wake-up juice (er… coffee…). The revelation I was given makes the words in the previous paragraph immensely sad to face.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that springs from THE HOPE THAT IS STORED UP FOR YOU IN HEAVEN and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” Colossians 1:3-6a
I am not responsible for creating my own hope! There are piles of it stored in heaven where nothing can damage it (Luke 12:32-34) – piles of hope that are mine for the taking! Of course! Just as His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24) because they come from Him, not me. There are more treasures stored in heaven, of which hope is just one. But I didn’t know until this morning that hope was one of them!
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is (found) in his unfailing love. Psalm 33:1-18
I ran to my backpack and yanked my burdensome hope out to inspect it. Sure enough, on the bottom of the stand was stamped in an uncouth font, “Manufactured by Babs.” I looked it over more carefully and realized that what I thought was precious metal was really flaking spray paint (probably lead based and poisonous) with my fingerprints all over it!
Why on earth had I gone through all the heartache of lugging this trashy impersonation of hope through all these years?! Of course that kind of hope hurts!
Now I want to run to all the descriptions of hope in the Bible and read them – no, immerse myself in them – in a new way without cynical eyes bruised from having carried a counterfeit hope around!
- Secure (Job 11:18)
- Will sprout again if cut down (Job 14:7)
- Joy (Proverbs 10:28, 2 Thessalonians 2:19)
- Renewed strength (Isaiah 57:10)
- The Lord’s goodness (Lamentations 3:25)
- A glad heart and a body at rest (Acts 2:26)
- Courage (Acts 26:6)
- Salvation (Romans 8:24)
- A calling (Ephesians 4:4)
- Dependence on God (1 Timothy 5:5)
- Abundant provision (1 Timothy 6:17)
- Drawing near to God (Hebrews 7:19)
- Faith and confidence (Hebrews 11:1)
- A gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4-6)
- Purity (1 John 3:2-4)
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19