I wish someone had told me.
Looking back now, I wish an older lady had sat me down and told me, “Most of life is waiting, Jani. Learn to wait in hope, not fear.”
You see, I grew up believing a lie — a lie I carried with me into adulthood. I believed that happiness would be mine when my dreams finally came true. And so I worked hard — really hard — to gather around me all that my heart longed for.
The Tyranny of Fear
But then, as I found myself beginning to attain some of my desires, I started fearing I might lose them. What a hard taskmaster fear was! It paralyzed me within a web of doubt and self-absorption, and robbed me of my joy.
I feared the vulnerability of marriage, and I feared the lonesome ache of singleness. I feared the pressure of success, and I feared the shame of failure. I feared infertility, and I feared pregnancy. I feared the responsibility of raising children, and I feared the emptiness of a childless home. I feared the stress of working outside my home, and I feared the isolation of staying at home full-time. I feared appearing immature and I feared growing old. What didn’t I fear? Very little.
I hated being so fearful. I hated what those fears did to me and those I loved. I tried to out-reason and out-perform them, which only brought me to the frightening, flashing neon-sign type of realization that finally got my attention, “Jani, you are not in control. And you never will be.”
I saw that I feared my circumstances more than I feared God. I had lost sight of the reality that both trials and triumphs are part of the good story God is writing through me. I didn’t treasure the truth that he is equally with us in our laughter and our tears, our celebrations and our sufferings.
Sometimes life seems very bleak and unfairly harsh. It seems that way, because it is. We find ourselves waiting for that special man to call for a date, or to finally land that dream job, or for the lab tests to verify our longed-for “all clear.” And it is hard to keep waiting in hope, because, “What if . . . ?”
The Remedy for Our Fears
What can calm our fears? The remedy for fear is not withdrawal, or more self-control, or even drumming up more courage. The remedy for our fears is hope— hope in a God who is more than a match for anything we fear this side of heaven, a God who promises his very presence to be near and real:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Real Hope Is a Person
Hold your fears loosely. Bring them to God and offer them to him with open hands, asking him to replace your fears with hope. Let go of your fears and hold on to him. As we leave our fears with him, he will quiet us by his love (Zephaniah 3:17), helping us to ask ourselves, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5).
And what does that hope look like? It looks as satisfying and secure as God himself, because real hope is a person. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” When we hold on to the God of hope, what we have then is not a psychological uplift but God himself as our ally for every doubt and danger.
How do you hold on to God? Well, you need to get close to him. You need to get to know him better. How do you get to know God better? The same way you get to know anyone — by spending time together. What helps me most get to know the God of hope is spending time with him — intentionally and consistently coming to meet with him over the pages of the Bible. Much has changed in the world since Bible times. But God hasn’t changed. The God of hope we see on the pages of the Bible is the God we’re meeting with.
Hope Is a Choice
Hope is a choice. What guides that choice, flavors it, feeds it? Daily opening our Bibles and meditating on the God of hope. My mother-in-law, Anne Ortlund, taught me to take a passage of Scripture and, as I read, ask the same two questions that Saul did during his first encounter with Christ, “Who are you, Lord?” and “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:8, 10). Any woman, with an open Bible, can find God there and grow stronger in hope by asking these two questions.
Let’s be women who settle into God’s goodness. Let’s relish his wise care over every minute detail in his universe. Let’s hold those demands for our happiness, those dreams we can’t live without, with open hands before our King. Let’s choose hope. Then we will be able to say with David, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).