Advent brings with it the anticipation of a celebration. The word “advent” means: “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” I did not grow up in a church that celebrated Advent or lit candles, so I am later in coming around to the traditions surrounding it. For those of you who may also wonder about the celebration of Advent, the season is ushered in the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and with it begins a spiritual countdown of sorts to Christmas Day: the arrival of Christ.
It is fitting, with the anticipation of Christ’s coming, that the Advent candle lit on the first Sunday of December symbolizes hope. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelite people had been waiting a L-O-N-G time for the Messiah to come. They had long carried hope for what had been promised to them by the prophets. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9: 6-7 ESV
700 years! That is a long time to wait for a promise. One generation passed their hope on to the next, verbally telling and retelling the old stories and prophecies. Generations died, and new ones were formed, and still they waited. Finally, the beginnings of change arrived in the form of small miracles foretelling the Messiah’s arrival:
The angel Gabriel appears (Luke 1:19, & 1:28)
A priest mysteriously goes mute (Luke 1:20)
A barren woman is suddenly with child (Luke 1:24)
A small baby leaps in the womb (Luke 1:41)
Angels are found singing in the sky (Luke 2:13)
These miracles were not broadly publicized. Most Israelites had no idea they had even occurred. After hundreds of years of waiting, baby Jesus arrived with little fanfare or celebration.
The chosen Messiah certainly did not come in the way that the Jewish people had expected. They had been waiting in hope for a Savior who, as Isaiah had prophesied, would come and set up his own government. They were living under Roman rule and felt oppressed. They wanted a strong leader to come and save them, not an innocent babe arriving practically unannounced. Their vision was too small. They wanted to be rid of Roman rule, and God had bigger plans. Jesus didn’t rid the Jews of Roman rule. Instead, He banished sin and death itself, providing salvation for all people. God’s ways of delivering on His promises often look very different from our expectations.
Advent is a time of reflecting on Christ’s arrival 2,000 years ago, but did you know that Advent also continues in the present? We are not just celebrating a past event, we are anticipating what is to come! Jesus has promised he is coming back again, and we can fervently await his coming. The hope of Advent continues today!
As I write about Advent this Christmas season, I want to make the experience multi-sensory. Advent is a time for meditation and worship, and using more of our senses enriches that experience. For this reason, I will be including a song in each Advent blog post that parallels with the week’s topic. Almost There, written by Michael W. Smith and sung by Amy Grant, is a beautiful song all about waiting in hope. Enjoy!
Pause: Take a moment to still and quiet your mind. Listen to the song above, then read Isaiah 9: 1-7. Allow yourself to slow down enough to really meditate on the words.
Renew: What are you waiting for this Christmas season? What does Hope mean to you this Advent? Take time to think, pray, or journal about how Christ’s coming has changed the world and how it has changed you.
Next: In the busyness of the Christmas season, it is sometimes difficult to focus on Christ. Think of ways that you can live out Hope this Christmas season. Maybe it will be in the form of beginning an Advent tradition with your family or perhaps in loving a neighbor who is grieving and has lost their own hope this Christmas. Pray and use your imagination!
Years ago, I felt the Lord whisper a promise in my soul. It was a sweet promise of a gift that would come. He did not tell me how. He did not tell me when. Somehow I just knew it was true though. I could feel it in my heart.
I prayed off and on for years over the matter. I prepared myself both in my spirit and in practical ways, waiting for the moment it would occur, but it never did. Just when I would begin to think I had made the whole thing up, somehow the Lord would confirm it to me again through Scripture or a sermon. One time, he even confirmed it through a conversation with a stranger while on vacation. Still, time passed, and nothing happened.
This month, during a vulnerable conversation with a friend I confided in her this promise the Lord had whispered. Rather than shaking her head in disbelief, she said, “I have a similar story,” and as she shared it, it really did seem that our stories aligned closely. Happily, her whispered promise is in the process of coming into fruition.
Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it anymore. I don’t even pray about it regularly. I know that, if it is to happen, the Lord will bring it about, and it probably will come about differently than I expect anyway.
This makes me think of Abraham. The Lord gave him and his wife a promise of something that seemed impossible: a baby in their sunset years. What seemed ridiculous at age 75 must have seemed unimaginable as he approached ages 80, 85, 90, and 95. Perhaps he thought he had imagined the whole thing. In fact, because the waiting was too hard, and his faith was so small, he and his wife set out to accomplish the Lord’s will in their own timing. Abraham had a son with his wife’s handmaid. We all know how that turned out. Trying to accomplish God’s will for Him is foolish indeed.
Finally, at age 100, Abraham’s promised son arrived. He was the beginning of a long-awaited line of chosen people, through whom the Lord would send His Son. He was worth the wait.
In Hebrews 6, the author references Abraham’s story as he writes about inheriting a promise. However, this time, a more permanent promise is spoken of using the language of hope:
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner…
Hebrews 6: 19 – 20a CSB
We have reason to hope. As believers, we have hope in a great promise that includes redemption, forgiveness, new bodies, and eternal life. Jesus has entered before us, and hope anchors our soul as we wait for what is coming. Hope is a beautiful thing. It rises up and holds our souls steady as we wait for the promise to be fulfilled.
Pause: Inhale and exhale slowly. Find a quiet space to read Hebrews 6: 13-20. Meditate on these verses. What stands out to you?
Renew: Think about hope as an anchor for the soul. What are you hoping for? Who are you hoping in? How is thinking about hope as an anchor for your soul reassuring?
Next: Hebrews encourages us to “seize the hope set before us.” How in your faith walk can you “seize hope” this week? Is it by clinging to a particular Scripture verse, by praying through a seemingly impossible situation, or by acting obediently on something the Lord has called you to do?
In the life of every believer come seasons of trial and hardship. In this episode, Cynthia shares her story of learning to “press in” to the Lord during one such season in her own life. She talks about “seeking the Lord in the heartache.”
Many passages of Scripture are spoken of in this interview:
On comforting others – II Corinthians 1: 3 – 4 ESV – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
On being content and cultivating faithfulness: Psalms 37: 3-5 NASB
Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and a]cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Cynthia’s long-term verses that she finds herself always going back to: Proverbs 3: 1 – 6
I am very grateful to Cynthia for sharing her story. I was really blessed by this interview, and I’m sure that many of you were too. Was there something in Cynthia’s story that spoke to you or encouraged you? If you would like to share your thoughts, join us on the PRN, Pause, Renew, Next, Facebook page. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.
Pause, Renew, Next!
Missy: Hi, I’m Missy, and you’re listening to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. A podcast about soul- care, Scripture, and stories of faith. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and tell your friends. Enjoy!
Ginny: Welcome to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The podcast. I’m Ginny Detweiler. I’m happy today to introduce you to one of my favorite people: Cynthia Simpson. I’ve known her for many years, and I’ve watched her faith firsthand. Cynthia, can you introduce yourself and tell a little bit about yourself to our listeners?
Cynthia: Yes, so I’m Cynthia, and I am a mom of three boys and my husband. We live in Greenville, South Carolina. We are very involved in our church family, but then also I just love to be outdoors with my boys. I’m waiting for them to get a bit older so I can take the mountain biking, and do all kinds of outdoorsy things. So right now we’re sticking to nature trails and biking around our neighborhood, but we’re gonna graduate someday.
Ginny: Awesome. So Cynthia and I actually went to college together, and for many, many years after college you were a house parent in group homes. Can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like?
Cynthia: Yeah, so I just felt like the Lord; just, you know, I always had a heart for missions but I never had a heart to go outside the country, and I quickly realized that the mission field in the United States is: it’s still the “orphan and the widow”, but our “orphan” in the United States is the foster care system. And so that’s where, you know, it’s kids, just, their families cannot take care of them, and so being in group homes you saw a lot of hurt, you saw a lot of brokenness. And so I think it was really hard to see that and to see that it was hard to fix. Like, you couldn’t just go in and fix it, but the flip-side was I saw Jesus fixed so much, in so many small areas where there were just victories and answered prayer, miracles: just amazing how God would just intervene in different lives of the different children and even adults that we were working with: just stories upon stories. And so, I did it, actually, for over ten years. I did it five years before I got married and then six years with my husband. And it’s just amazing the life stories that you hear and to see some of the kids that have grown up, you know, and are on their own now. And so it’s been a very neat journey. I loved it. It was a good job.
Ginny: Neat. I know that lately you’ve been walking through some hard things with your family, and I wondered if you would like to talk a little bit about that with us?
Cynthia: Sure. So basically my youngest son has been dealing with eczema for a little over two years, maybe closer to three, and, you know, initially it was just kind of a small eczema. When most people have eczema, you know, it’s just certain places on their body, and it’s not a big deal. In the last six months, it’s flared up to be 80 to 90% of his body, and we, in the past two years but especially the last six months, we’ve done a lot of just trying to figure it out, you know, and eczema is so tricky. But we have been to allergists. We’ve been to doctors. We’ve done testing, you know, skin testing, blood testing. We have done a lot of naturalists. We’ve done a lot of natural medicine. And to the point where it just really feels like we’re in the middle of it, and you just don’t see the answered prayer. And I think the hard thing too is it being my son, and he’s four now. But you know he has to wear mittens a lot, like all night, and then a lot of times during the day we have to keep mittens on him so that he’s not tearing up his skin. And it’s just really hard to see him struggling with, not only just being so itchy and scratchy and uncomfortable, but just like not feeling well. He literally will be lethargic and sad and just not interacting with his brothers. And so it’s kind of becoming, it’s a consuming thing because you can’t resolve it. And so we’ve done so much prayer, and you know there’s so many friends and family who are praying for us and praying for my son’s healing, and we haven’t seen it. And so then when you’re in a path like that for a long period of time, you start to say, “Oh, why are we not, like we’re doing everything right, we’re supposed to be doing. Why are we not seeing an answer?” And I think that we all face that at certain times of questioning: “Okay, Lord, your Word says this, but I don’t see it. Like I don’t see working.” And so I kind of saw a diagram one time of kind of like this hill, and when you first are saved and have your experiences with the Lord, you’re at the top of the hill. And then, as you walk with the Lord, at some point you’re gonna hit a valley. You know, and that valley is gonna be different things, and that valley can be different depths, but when you get in the valley you have a choice of either ignoring the struggle and pretending like it’s not there and going back up to the top. Or you can wrestle, and you can say, “Okay Lord, these are your promises. This is what you said, but I don’t see it.” You know, in like almost like arguing with the Lord, or…
Ginny: I think “wrestling” is a really good word for that.
Cynthia: Like wrestling, like it just, and you wrestle through it, and then as you wrestle through it, the Lord brings the healing or the breakthrough or whatever it is, and then you’re on a new higher hill where you’re stronger. And even a couple of weeks ago in church I remember the pastor saying, “You know you’re in a tough time when you can redefine ‘tough.'” Because two years ago I thought my son’s eczema was tough, and what I’ve been experiencing last six months makes two years ago look like a piece of cake. Like, I would love to go back to what it looked like before. And it’s just gotten even harder. So it’s like you know you’re in a rough season, when it’s being, when you’re a definition of rough is, is not, is harder than what your rough used to be. I guess kind of repeated myself.
Ginny: I completely understand what you’re trying to say.
Cynthia: But I think what I love about that is the pursuit, and that may be that, you know, most of us, you know, if we struggle for anything over a month, we’re just like, “Okay Lord, where are you at?” But then to talk to people who have been struggling with things for decades. You know, and for me like this six months to two years you know just depending on what I’m talking about as far as eczema and the wanting healing and not seeing it. It feels like forever when you’re dealing with it day in and day out, and it’s affecting your day-to-day life. It’s not like it’s something that just comes and goes. It’s something like hourly, and then even at nights, like when he is in his really bad flare-ups, you know, he’s up anywhere from an hour to three or four hours a night. Which means I’m not that much, and so then I’m not sleeping. And so that’s a really hard season to try to parent and love well and to walk well during the day on like four hours of sleep, when you’re a mom.
Ginny: Especially past the newborn stage: that is rough.
Cynthia: So I think just recognizing this season for what it is, and not giving up on the Lord, and not giving up on His promises. And that’s just, like I’ve had an opportunity to pray for other people for their breakthrough, and I’m like bawling because I want my breakthrough. Like I want to have breakthrough in our struggle. But at the same time, like, if we’re not seeing breakthrough, and we’re not seeing healing right now, it’s not because I need to learn a lesson. It’s because the Lord sees something bigger and something better. And like my son is so strong and just a little warrior. And so to see him be strengthened in this, and through him struggle with it, and for us to grow in it too. It’s just, you know, it’s been a walk.
Ginny: Yeah. So I know a lot of people can relate to struggling, but what is it like as a mom. Because I think when it’s in your own body is hard enough, but to watch your child is a different thing. What is that like?
Cynthia: It feels really hopeless. Because you can’t do anything. Then you’re doing everything you can. And you’re using all your own wisdom and all your understanding, and you’re still not getting it. And I think that’s just when I lean into the Lord. Like I write down scriptures, and I wrote down a scripture: it’s in my journal written down. And it says that, “I will give you understanding in everything” – second Timothy 2:7. And so, like, that’s a promise. Okay Lord, you said you’re gonna give me understanding in everything, so I stand on it. Like you don’t understand right now what’s going on, but healing is coming. And so you know like with our son, he wants to eat certain foods he can’t eat, and so I always tell him like, “Hey buddy, you can’t have right now, but someday you’re gonna be able to eat eggs, and you’re gonna be able to have milk.” And you know those kind of things where it’s not hard to cut that stuff out. There’s so many things that you can eat. It’s not hard to cut it out, but just to have the freedom again will be super nice. So we look forward to that.
Ginny: The words that you used with me when we talked about what it is that you wanted to share on this podcast were “to be able to press in during hard times.” So describe what you mean by “press in.” Because I think I know what you mean, and I think you even bringing up Scripture tells us, but can you describe what that looks like for you?
Cynthia: Well, I mean I think if you challenge anyone to look at when they’re struggling with something, like, if they have – if you have a relationship with the Lord, then when you’re struggling that pushes you closer to Him. And I hope that it does, and I think that the Lord allows us, things to come against us so that we will press into Him. And so for me, instead of just the whole thing of like when you get in the valley you can just give up and pretend like it’s not happening and pretend like life is hunky-dory and nothing’s wrong, or you can say, “This is a struggle, and I don’t know how to handle this, and I don’t know how to fix this, but here’s what Scripture says.” You know, and so pressing in for me is that I’m spending time with the Lord daily; I’m making it a priority. Because then when I get the unexpected phone call from the doctor, or my son wakes up, and it’s an awful day, and I can tell at 9 o’clock in the morning, you know, he’s gonna be wearing mittens all day, and you know I’m gonna be trying different techniques to try to calm him down and keep him distracted from his discomfort. You just lean into that, you know, and you sing praises. Because I think anytime that you’re focused on your circumstances, it gets very depressing, and so I just have try to remind myself, like turn on the praise music and worship the Lord. And you know because then the children start dancing and singing and having a good time too, and it turns into a really good dance party around breakfast time when we turn on praise music. But I think that’s pressing in. It’s seeking the Lord in the heartache. And like, okay, we’re dealing with this, but what can I learn? What can – how can I see you working? Like how can I see what you’re doing in this hardship? And so like for us, like, if Nolan’s having a good day, I’m just like, “Thank you Lord; thank you for today.” I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. You know we’ve tried different medicines and stuff, and so if the medicine works that’s great! Like, and I know in the back of my mind it’s a two-week medicine, and it’s in two weeks I’m gonna be back at square one, but I’m gonna be thankful for these two weeks. So just like being thankful every day.
Ginny: Yeah, it’s a different mentality altogether.
Cynthia: Yeah, and it’s not always easy. Like, and you have good days and bad days, but I think it’s – the Lord’s really blessed me with strong friendships, and some friends who have walked through this before me. And so to be able to have their encouragement and shoulders to lean on has been really strong. So, I’m sure some day I’m gonna be on the other side, and I’m gonna call back from the mountaintop, you know, the people who were in the valley. And I read this in a book a while back. I think it’s Hannah Hurnard. And she was saying that when you’re on the mountaintop, after you’ve climbed out of the valley, you call back: “You can make it.” And so the people who are crawling in the valley, and trying to get up the mountain, and they can’t see the mountaintop, they can still hear your voice, and so you call back to them, and you say, “Hey, I made it. You can make it.” And so I think that’s what my friend is doing for me, and so then someday I’ll be able to do that for another mom who’s kind of struggling. Yeah.
Ginny: That’s in 2nd Corinthians, he says that we’ll be able to comfort others with the comfort that he’s given us. I think that’s so real, and I love that you have that support.
Cynthia: Yeah, it’s good.
Ginny: Can you talk about a time that the Lord really ministered to you, like, that you really felt His comfort during a hard time.
Cynthia: I mean, I think it’s been multiple different times in this whole situation because it’s been, like I said, almost three years long, and there’s been some really low valleys in those three years, and then there’s been, you know, times where it didn’t feel like, you know, it was just kind of life, and you just kind of deal with it: you don’t think about it being a valley. But I can remember one time when my son was really sick, and it was kind of related to his eczema, but it was separate. And he was just really not doing well, and thankfully he wasn’t admitted to a hospital, but he was just very sick at home. And I just remember saying, “God, you’ve got to do something, because if you don’t, if we keep going down this road, this road is death. Like, that’s where his body is going.” And so just like crying out to the Lord, and just like, “I need help.” And just feeling the Lord’s presence in the room of like, “I love your son more than you do, and I want him better more than you do.” And knowing that, and I think the Lord just keeps bringing it back to me so often. Like, “I love him. I have plans for him to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a hope and a future.” And so I just hold on to those, and I think the Lord speaks it to me, so many, like there’s like that one specific time on the couch I remember, but then it’s like the sweet Spirit of the Lord just keeps reminding me over and over again of that moment and of His love for my son and for me. So, you don’t want to, like, wish hardship on yourself ever. Sometimes like I just want life to be easier; I just wish life could be easier. But then I have to say, what if life was easier, would I be in the word as much as I am now? Would I be looking for His promises? Would I be writing down His promises and then going back over them and reading them to myself and reminding myself and reading it before I go to bed and, you know like, sticking it on my wall and making my kids memorize Scripture that they probably don’t want to memorize? Like would I really be pushing myself and the people around me closer to the Lord if I felt like I wasn’t struggling with something? I mean I might be bad. I shouldn’t need to struggle to press in.
Ginny: I think it’s human nature: that’s what it is. I think we’re all like that. And that’s really part of the reason I want to do this podcast, because as a counselor I hold a lot of stories for people, and I think as Christians, especially, we’re guaranteed in the Bible that we’ll go through trials, but not often do we go around talking about them. Especially not at church sometimes, which is a shame, and so there are a lot of people that need to hear those stories that can be encouraged when they’re in the heat of it.
Cynthia: And I think that’s something if we’re honest with our self everybody’s struggling with something. It’s just a different area, whether it’s self-esteem or family or finances or whatever, you know. And for us, like, you know, Nolan’s health is a huge struggle, and it’s in the forefront of our minds most days. But there’s other struggles in our life that are happening. You know, they just kind of get second rate because your son’s health is number one. But I think, you know, everybody’s struggling.
Ginny: How would you encourage other women who are in a difficult situation or who are waiting on the Lord?
Cynthia: I would just say don’t give up. Have hope. You know God is a God of hope, and so no one, you know, I guess that I have friends who speak into my life, and I’ve been blessed in that way. But I heard someone say one time, “If you can’t hear God, you can read God.” If you’re in that season of waiting and struggling you better be in the Word, because that’s the only thing that’s going to get you through, is reading the Word and putting it in your spirit. Proverbs 3 says – it’s talking about the Lord’s commandments and His Word – it says, “Don’t let them leave you. Bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart.” And I think to be intentional about being in the Word is so important because in seasons of my life, especially in that newborn baby season, it’s really easy to drop your Bible reading. But I’ve had other seasons where running in the mornings took precedence over my reading my Bible, and so I was giving up my Bible time to run. So I was praying, and I was, you know, maybe meditating, maybe, while I was running, but I wasn’t in the Word, and I think it really slowed me down as far as my relationship with the Lord. And so I love to run, and I’ll pick it up again someday, but never again will I pick it up at the expense of reading the Bible – like my Bible time – because I’ve just recognized how important that is.
Ginny: That is good and a really important reminder for all of us to do that. I think it’s hard as busy women to sometimes make that a priority. I loved what you said about hope, and the Bible says that hope will not put us to shame. And I recently wrote a blog post about that, so friends if you want to go back and read my blog post about that, please feel free to do that on my website! Hope is like one of the most important things. So to close out our podcast, I have a couple of more fun questions for you because you’ve been talking about some hard stuff. So who is somebody who inspires you?
Cynthia: You know this is kind of funny. I think obviously my parents play a huge role in my inspiration, in my dedication to my family, and to the Lord, but it’s gotta be my grandma. Like, she passed away like three years ago, but, oh my goodness, we’re so much alike, and so I love her, and I love to think about her, and just the things that she’s taught me has been really neat. And so she’s always an inspiration. So I always try to think about how would she do this, or you know “I just stuck my foot in my mouth.” Uh, yep, grandma did that a lot too.
Ginny: Do you have a favorite quote of hers or something that she would tell you?
Cynthia: No, I just remember like her laugh. It’s just – her shoulders would shake, and she would kinda go, I can’t describe it, but I just love her laugh, and so I don’t know. She’s just a neat woman and just her legacy. I think that’s one thing that as I get older… like I’m not that old. I’m only 36, right? You starte to think about legacy, and I look at her legacy and I say, “Wow.” Her legacy was amazing, and that’s what I want because we’re guaranteed to die so what am I living for? I’m living to pass along the love of Scripture, the love for Jesus, the love of worship and praise, and giving thanks, like to be a thankful person, and to be a person who’s creative, and can handle things, so yeah. I mean she’s just an inspiration as far as how much she did.
Ginny: To close us out, what is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Cynthia: Okay, so I kind of, I have a really hard time when people ask me that question because just the whole Bible is good, right? And I’ve never had like a life verse like some people do, so my favorite Scripture verse is usually the one that’s speaking to me right now.
Ginny: Girl, we’re so much alike, because I’m the same way.
Cynthia: Well, I feel like… This is my thoughts on the matter, is that: if you’re trying to live in the past, or you’re stuck on a Scripture from the past, then it’s not a fresh revelation, and it’s good, but it’s living on the past. It’s like old stale bread. So I want something that’s for this season.
Ginny: So let me ask it a different way. What is your favorite Bible verse of the moment?
Cynthia: Yes. Thank you. Okay, so this is a really good one. I have two, so I’m just gonna have to read all of them. Okay so the first one is Psalms 37 and it’s 3 – 5: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” And I think that’s for me huge. It’s just being content where I’m at and cultivating faithfulness with the Lord. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in him, and he will do it.” So as I walk this road of, you know, just things going on in our life in general, but then also my son’s health. Just trusting him and committing our way to him and knowing that the Lord has plans that we just need to walk day in and day out and be in touch with Him. But then kind of one that’s more long-term – that’s kind of like my first of the week – more of my long-term, I just keep going back to this Scripture verse, that actually my children are memorizing it right now, and so we’ve added like little hand motions to it, and it’s really fun: “My son do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commands. For a length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart so you will find favor and a good repute in the side of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” and I just love all this – the whole thing.
Ginny: Great. I love that you said that, and I love that it’s on this podcast, because that is one of the 3 S’s: soul-care, Scripture, and stories so I love that. Thank you for sharing. Well friends if you’re listening, if you have any thoughts or comments about what you heard today about what Cynthia said or anything that relates to your own experience, join me on my Facebook page PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. to join in the conversation or feel free to comment on the website pauserenewnext.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and spread the word to others who you think would enjoy it as well. You can find PRN on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and can find the podcast on our website, pauserenewnext.com, on iTunes, Google Play, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. New podcasts are released each Tuesday and a new blog post each Friday. This is Ginny Detweiler with PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The Podcast. May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.
This week, with one phone call, I brought to a close a four year season in the life of our family. Some decisions are difficult, and this was one of them. My husband and I both knew it was the right decision, but sometimes knowing and having peace about a decision doesn’t take away all of the sadness that comes with it. A door has been closed that may never be reopened, and I am left grieving.
I am grieving many aspects of this closure, but the greatest is my own unmet expectations. I believed wholeheartedly that I would see a result that has not come to fruition. I am helpless to make it happen by my own willpower. Only God can see it through, and He will one day if He so chooses. Only now, it will not come in the way that I expected.
Grief has many faces. As a counselor, I have supported people experiencing many different forms of grief: grieving love ones who have died, grieving broken marriages, grieving their own poor choices, or grieving hard transitions in life. Grief is a normal reaction to loss, and losses are a constant part of life here on planet Earth. Some losses are unfathomably painful, such as the loss of a loved one. Some are common and expected, such as the loss of childhood that accompanies graduating from high school.
One rarely discussed form of grief is that of unmet expectations: grieving the life you thought you’d have. Maybe your health has taken a turn for the worse, and your future looks less active and more painful than you envisioned. Maybe you have a special needs child, and parenting is much more complicated than you ever imagined. Maybe you have experienced divorce or widowhood, and singleness was never in your plan. Maybe you struggle with infertility, and it’s too difficult to go to baby showers and show support while your womb remains empty.
These losses are valid and completely worth grieving. In fact, if we cannot grieve them, we may find the repressed feelings becoming a wellspring of stress, a root of bitterness, or a blanket of depression which isolates and keeps us distanced from others.
There is so much beauty in the Gospel: salvation, rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, and growth. However, before the new can come, the old must be buried, which is often accompanied by mourning. Jesus died, was buried, and then raised to life, which in turn gave us new life. Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25 ESV
For believers, the incredibly hopeful thing about grieving expectations is that we’re not just laying something to rest. We’re exchanging it for something better. Our loving Father has a plan much greater than you or I can know. So, when we grieve what we so desperately wanted, but did not receive, we can look ahead with hope for what is coming. It may still be on the horizon. If not, eternity is the final destination, and we will lack for absolutely nothing there. We will not be lonely. Our health will be phenomenal. We will be radiant. Then, we will have new perspective and will be incredibly grateful that the Lord exchanged our paltry plans for His own.
So, I will grieve my own vision and expectation and place it in the hand of the Father, where He will exchange it for His plan.
Pause: Take a deep breath and quiet your soul. Read Romans 5:3-5. In this passage, Paul begins writing about suffering and ends with hope. How does this spiritual progression work?
Renew: Take stock of your own life. Is there an area in your life where there is an unmet expectation or a recent loss that you need to grieve? If so, give yourself permission to grieve. Cry, journal, pray, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor, and work through it.
Next: Reflect this week about times that the Lord has exchanged your own plans for His. How did it work out? What did you learn in the process?
May the God of All Comfort embrace you and fill you with hope for the future!