Learning to Hope Out Loud

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claire-colvin-hope4I’ve been following along with Ann Voskamp’s advent writing and something she said a few days ago just won’t leave me alone, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”

Did you exhale when you read that? I did.

It’s such a reminder that God isn’t good because God gives me what I want, or fixes my stupid mistakes, or balances the budget when there’s nothing left. God is good because that is the nature of God. God is good in the middle of the story when it feels like there’s no way out, when there isn’t enough, when the harsh words can’t be taken back.

This is what I’m pausing to notice, again, this advent season. God is a long, long list of the very things I need in the deepest and most tender places of my heart. I don’t understand it, but somehow the God who paints stars and sets the tides, also sits right beside me. God—who exists outside of time—is patient with me when I am not patient at all.

It is so easy to slip into a faith that equates the goodness of God with my current level of comfort. If things are great, so is God, and if things are not so good, well maybe God needs to start paying attention. It’s so like me to recreate God in my own image, to put myself at the centre of the universe. But the very good news for all of us is that God is just as magnificent on the days when it’s all falling apart as God is on the days of our greatest joy.

I don’t know what 2016 has been like for you. I know that for me there has been a lot of uncertainty. I look toward 2017 and the stories in the news do not fill my heart with hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Some days that justice seems a long way off. But faith thanks God in the middle of the story, before the answers come, so I pause again and remember who anchors my hope.

Faith cries out, “God I need you” and “I believe that you are coming” all in the same breath. I want faith like that, now in this Christmas season and in the unknown months that will spool out into 2017.

Hope is powerful stuff, and sometimes it feels dangerous, like fire. I worry about hoping too much, about getting my hopes up and having them dashed. If I believe a thing is going to happen and it doesn’t, I’ll feel foolish. Living with less hope feels safer, but I think it is a mistake.

When I don’t hold a space for hope in my heart, worry fills the gap instead. And that’s dangerous for me because I am a champion worrier. I imagine terrible, awful things. I don’t mean to. My mind can find a thousand dark and terrible roads to run down. But when I’m focused on hope, it’s harder for the darkness to creep in.

As I write this I’m waiting on a phone call and am I struggling to sit with hope. If the decision goes my way the result of this call would be a game changer. And if it doesn’t, it will be hard to have come so close and not reach the goal.

I tend to hope quietly. I was planning to keep this phone call mostly to myself. If there turns out to be something to celebrate, I’ll share it and if not, the pain can be just mine. But that decision was taken out of my hands when someone I told announced the news at a dinner party. Suddenly the whole room knew and I wanted to gather the words up and stuff them down into the bottom of my purse. I wanted the hope to be small and manageable. But it was too late for that. To my surprise, it wasn’t awful. Everyone was happy for me, and they hoped with me. There was such comfort in hoping together.

Hope takes courage. But it often doesn’t feel like courage, it feels like risk, like walking a tightrope or riding a unicycle. But here’s the secret: life without hope isn’t safer, it’s just lonelier. So, here I am thanking God in the middle of the story. I am choosing hope, even if I have to remind myself to choose it again a hundred times today

Here’s the truth that I have to remember: we are always in the middle of the story. In victory and in defeat, in the endless days and the ones that zip by far too quickly, it’s all still the middle of the story. So, the time to thank God is now, today, because God is at work in all circumstances until we draw our last breath. And even then the promise of heaven reminds us, the story is just getting started.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin
  • Every word of this could have been written just for me, because when I’m struggling through an unknown, I have a tendency to forget everything I ever knew about God. And the sad thing is that even when things are going well, I’ve folded some funky, pagan superstition into my thinking that’s always waiting for “the other boot to drop.” (Who was it that said, “Don’t worry. God only has one boot.”?)

    I love reading words that out my faulty thinking and give me a reason to plant my feet more firmly in the Truth. May we find grace to choose hope in the “middle” that (here on the ground) we are calling 2017!

    • Amy Hunt

      Head nodding over here . . . with every single bit. So grateful for the encouragement to accept what is, and to hope it’s sufficient as it is for what’s purposed because of it.

      • “and hope that it is sufficient” oh that’s a great way to put it! There’s a song by Jon Guerra that we’ve been singing at church lately that I love. It says,

        “When the boat is tossed upon the waves
        when I wonder if you’ll keep me safe
        Even in the storms, I’ll follow You…

        When I see the wicked prospering
        When I feel I have no voice to sing
        Even in the want, I’ll follow You
        Even in the want, I’ll follow You”

        That phrase “even in the want I’ll follow you” gets me in the stomach every time. God is not unaware of what I need. You can hear the song here:

    • Michele, I’m so glad to hear that this was for you too, it was definitely something I needed to remind myself. I too, tend to forget what I know about God when things go sideways. God shows up anyway.

  • Helene Burns

    Claire – your words always land deep in my heart and bring hope. I love that as you are expectant with hope which is costly for you, you invest it so graciously and generously into the hearts of others. You’re a very special treasure and I love and appreciate you greatly. xo

    • Thanks Helen! When I was thinking about what I what I wanted to write I kept thinking, “I want to be a hope-bringer” and I got this picture in my head of people walking into an arena – like at the beginning of the Olympics where everyone has their flags and asked myself, “what flag do I want to carry?” and it was hope.

      • Helene Burns

        What a powerful picture – ‘what flag do I want to carry?”. I think I will be using that concept as a tool in my life in the future. That’s gold!

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Oh Claire, I need this. I need your hope to spill over into my life.

    I love you. I love your words.

  • Yes. Your words are so true. Thanks for the hope and reminder that we are in the middle of the story. Always in the middle.

    • It’s so important to remember that we’re in the middle. A “no” is not a no to everything for all time. It’s a no to this particular thing or that particular road. I often forget that.

  • Katie

    Oh, Claire, thanks for writing this. I am waiting and hoping, too, and afraid to say anything out loud. Thank you for for being so honest!

    • Katie, I am hoping out loud with you. Isn’t it good to know we’re not alone? The phone call I was waiting on was from an interview. After the meeting I bought a delicate blown glass Christmas tree ornament of a hot air balloon. I felt so hopeful that day, and I wanted to remember that feeling, whether this was the one or not. It’s hanging on my tree now, a daily reminder that hope can fill us and lift us.

  • Trudie Hopgood

    Wow! So much on offer here Claire but I just can’t go past “I don’t understand it, but somehow the God who paints stars and sets the tides, also sits right beside me.” That’s enough right there!

    • Thanks Trudie! it blows my mind to think that God knows our names.

  • I think hope is needed, too, to keep us living toward that which we believe in and know to be true. Without hope it’s easier to slunk away and hide and end up in self-preservation mode. Hope keeps us loving our neighbors, I think. Thanks for these words after a ridiculous year. I think we need all the help we can get in keeping our eyes up. Thank you!

    • “Hope keeps us loving our neighbours” ooh that feels like a sermon, in the best way. I, too, need to remind myself to hope after this year. Hope as a driving force is a beautiful image.

  • Megan Gahan

    I love this. Thank you for breathing hope into this season. xx

    • Thank you for always standing with me Megan. You are a gift.

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    Claire thank you for these gentle words. I tend to be quiet in hope too and just last night someone blew the lid off my tightly held ‘hope’ project. 😬 And, like you, I realized it’s not so terrible. It actually added hope and excitement to my own. Hope is contagious.

    Sending love … and hope for every good thing to you in the year to come!

  • Jamie

    This is lovely. I keep my hopes to myself too… I totally understand this impulse, but you’re so right, it’s comforting to hope together.

    • I think it’s a protective behaviour but it ends up being isolating. I’ve never had someone say, “Well I can’t believe you hoped for that, you idiot” but for some reason that’s the very thing I’m afraid of, that I’m hoping above my station that my dreams are too big. I think our dreams are almost always too small but we’re afraid of them anyway. I’m hoping with you.