There is a darkness and coldness and loneliness that invades my spirit this time of year. The multifaceted nature of my self – my body, my mind, my heart, my spirit – remembers and experiences the compounded and complex grief of hard moments and heartaches that happened in years past. Years ago, I realized how fitting it was for my darkest season to fall during the darkest days of the year. The darkness seems to be at home in the darkness, and hopelessness howls out lies that haunt. My soul longs for the light and fights to hold on to Him who is Hope. The Light of the world has come, His light lives in me through His indwelt Spirit, and He is coming again. The darkness exists – but it does not win.
So how do we survive our darkest days (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, literally)?
We watch for the light. We remember and expect God’s promises. We live with expectant hearts.
This year for Advent I’m reading the book Watch for the Light (you can find it here). My favorite piece so far has been one written by Henri Nouwen called “Waiting for God.”
His piece is about expectation, and he articulates so eloquently what God has taught me about hope: hope is waiting in eager expectation of God’s promises being fulfilled. I used to place my hope in favorable outcomes. But God shifted my understanding of hope and in doing so continually saves me.
I appreciate how Nouwen differentiates between “wishes” and “hope” in his piece. I spent too many years wishing and, in doing so, missing God, experiencing a weakening of faith, and lacking the unwavering hope that was central to the well-being of my soul.
How are you waiting? Are you wishing or hoping?
Here’s what Henri Nouwen writes in his piece, “Waiting for God”:
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us… Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her.”
“But there is more. Waiting is open-ended…. Much of our waiting is filled with wishes… We are full of wishes, and our waiting easily gets entangled in those wishes. For this reason a lot of our waiting is not open-ended. Instead, our waiting is a way of controlling the future. We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disappointed and can even slip into despair…”
“But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended.”
“….we can live with courage, trusting there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony around us. We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment… We need to wait together to keep each other at home spiritually…”
Let’s wait well together. Let’s speak reminders of His faithfulness to each other. Let’s affirm our expectations of God’s work according to His promises.
Do you know God’s promises? I created a free downloadable PDF called Hold on to Hope: Discover God’s Promises that you can print to help you remember and expect them. Grab your copy here.
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