‘“About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.’
…he was offering her a hope that she had long stopped believing could exist for her.
This interaction can be found in 2 Kings 4 between Elisha and a woman from Shunem. She had housed Elisha and to thank her Elisha asked what he could do for her. She was quite settled and didn’t need anything, but Elisha’s servant informed him that she was barren. When Elisha realized what she desired and how it was something only a sovereign God could do, he made a bold promise. In doing so he was offering her a hope that she had long stopped believing could exist for her. Her reaction is very human, and it’s one of fear. A similar reaction is seen in Sarai when she’s told she’ll have a son, only her disbelief is expressed in a mocking laughter. Both reactions are incredibly human, and while I’m not convinced these stories should be used solely to prove that God makes barren women capable of conceiving (though He certainly is able), I think we can all see a piece of ourselves in the women.
As I studied the story in Kings a little while ago I connected with the lack of hope these women had. I started to realize for so long that I saw hope as something that falls into the sphere of being positive. While some could continue to argue that, I am going to suggest that hope is deeper than just a positive way of thinking. This isn’t meant to sound negative, because hope is certainly not that either – hope is terrifying.
I used to think hope was made up of the things that would make me feel good.
It’s easier for us to write our own scenarios with sad endings than it is to write positive ones with happy endings. I know growing up I was always fantasizing about finding the perfect guy who was so romantic and thoughtful and extremely good looking. When I’d like a guy I’d dream about long walks on the beach at sunset and our wedding day and the home we’d build together. Usually I’d have our life planned before he even knew I was interested. I used to think that was hope. I used to think hope was made up of the things that would make me feel good. However, I started to learn that fantasizing wasn’t a good way to live, and it actually held me back from being myself around the guys I was attracted to.
As the fantasizing died away, my response when I liked a guy turned into never letting myself hope things would work out – because in my mind hoping to be with him was synonymous with being with him. Instead, what I would do is tell myself to not dream of a future with the guy because he’d never be interested in me. I’d tell myself I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t ambitious enough, wasn’t hard working enough, wasn’t worthy of him, wasn’t this, wasn’t that… All the “wasn’ts” I could think of I listed off with ease. Why? Because if hoping was fantasizing, and fantasizing was wrong, then the opposite was to talk myself out of something so that if something did happen I would just pleasantly surprised.
Anybody else know what I’m talking about?
…it’s easier not to paint a picture of your future anymore.
Maybe you haven’t done this with another person in mind. Maybe you’ve done it for a job and you’re wondering if all of your efforts were worth it, so it’s easier to tell yourself to settle than to work harder. You’re in a marriage and things aren’t as smooth as you thought they’d be so it’s easier to prepare yourself for a hard blow than to see how your mindset needs to shift a little. Maybe you’ve done this like Sarai or the woman from Shunem – you’ve wanted to be a mother but after trying all sorts of different ways it’s easier not to paint a picture of your future anymore.
I don’t think hope is painting imaginary happy pictures, nor is it preparing yourself for the worst. So then, what is hope? I think hope is looking at Jesus. No, really. I think it is. That sounds cliché, but consider Hebrews 11:1, which may be one of the more famous Bible verses, when it says, “Now faith is the assurance of what’s hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) Faith is what happens when you hope for something. Hope is a necessary part of having faith. If hope is looking to Jesus then faith is believing Jesus will take action in some form on your behalf.
If hope is the first step to having faith then I need to hope.
Hope is terrifying because usually we want things to work out a certain way. But shouldn’t we, as believers, want things to work out Jesus’ way? Real talk – I don’t have a lot of faith Jesus will bring me a husband who will help me compromise (in a healthy way) on all of the dreams I have for my future – but I do have hope. If hope is the first step to having faith then I need to hope. It’s always going to be easier to laugh and tell God to not mislead us. But it’s always way more worth it to hope. Hope doesn’t give us the answer or take away the shock of something good. Hope is always still surprising, because good things from Jesus are always a joy to behold.
I want you to try hoping. Hope a little more, and you’ll find your fears don’t grow but they fade away. I’m sure you’ll find true hope doesn’t disappoint, because true hope redirects your gaze to Jesus and allows you to see your life through Him and the lavish love He has for you.
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