By Alison Hattan
In the midst of a normal day, in a normal kitchen, a realization hits me. I’m struck by the fact that the past few months have been pretty good. To be sure, they’ve had their ups and downs, but there has been substantial progress in many ways. I realize that it’s the most at ease I’ve felt for a long stretch of time in quite a while.
The thought is met with a feeling of plateauing.
I’m reminded of how much I don’t like that feeling.
I’m reminded of difficult, struggling times in the recent past and the deep intimacy and dependence on the Lord that resulted.
I find that I’m missing that.
A sense of longing begins to build within me, a desire for that close friendship with Jesus once again. It’s not that I’ve lost friendship or ceased to be learning from Him, but it is not the same. I don’t turn to Him with a keen awareness of just how much I need Him every moment.
The longing intertwines with dread.
Memories of restless nights, anxious days, unsettled relationships, feelings of hopelessness, and being ragged physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally flood my mind and it scares me to think of what asking for deeper intimacy with the Lord might bring.
I find myself settling in Psalm 130:
“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.
LORD, hear from my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If you, LORD, mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
The question of hope echoes in my mind throughout the week.
I think about so many longings, so many desires that I feel are God-given, and yet are not fulfilled in the way I picture them.
The Psalmist begins with a request that God hear his pleas.
I’m reminded of how God does value our desires and our cries to Him. I think of different longings and uncertainties I desire to be made clear. I begin to wonder if a right response to our unmet desires is not one of stifling them, which seems to be the common “letting go”, but rather an honest expression of them to our Father and a request that He do what He sees as best with these longings.
The words of a dear friend ring in my mind as I contemplate these things. In response to struggling with unmet desires, she reminds herself and me that if it was best for us to have already had that specific desire fulfilled, we would have. She reminds me that God is a good Father and that we can trust whatever He gives us.
Her process of moving from honest expression to thinking on the character of God reflects the Psalmist’s movement in Psalm 130.
He moves from plea, to reminder:
He reminds himself of who he is in light of a holy God: fallen and without hope.
But, that hopelessness is met with hope because of who God is.
He reminds himself of how God’s forgiveness is what allows relationship and how that is what establishes the fear of God.
In a fearful culture, with a fearful personality, it’s often easy to think of fear as a dread that comes from a lack of trust and the presence of uncertainty.
It’s descriptive of how I feel about what it could mean to ask for deeper intimacy with the Lord. It’s a darkness that comes from a lack of believing that God is good.
Funny how the author of the Psalm and the words of my friend agree with the articulation made by a sister. These words heard so often, seem fresh again:
“At the root of any struggle is a disbelief that God can be trusted.”
It seems, then, that a hesitancy to express our desires to the Lord comes from a lack of trusting Him to be good. Rather than attempting to “let them go” by stifling them, He desires us to bring them to Him.
The various unmet longings of myself and those around me come to mind. Those for community, overseas missions, healthy bodies, answers to questions, marriage, children, places to call home, relationships where there is full understanding, places to pour out, the living out of dreams, the salvation of friends and family.
All good things, and yet not always fulfilled.
The words of the Psalmist continue:
“I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.”
The Hebrew word for wait used here often carries with it a connotation of hope or expectancy. Out of the fourteen times it is used in the Psalms, it’s used to describe waiting on the Lord all but three times. It is different than our Americanized version of waiting, which can often seem apathetic and passive. Rather, it is expectant.
In the same way, as another friend recently pointed out, the hope spoken of in the Bible is not like we think of hope: it is not an uncertain wanting, but a certain knowing. The hope spoken of here is not a hoping for, but a hoping in.
That is the crux of the struggle of these unmet desires. They are not wrong, but they easily shift from what I’m hoping for to what I’m hoping in.
It’s so different from the expression of the Psalmist’s hope. His hope in the Lord is more than the hoping for of the night watchmen.
He further clarifies the surety of his hope:
O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with Him is abundant redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
The sureness of hope in the Lord is rooted in His character. True hope in Him stems not from what He can do for us, but rather, who He is.
So often, I find that my hope in God is not based in purely who He is, but what I think that He should or is doing for me.
I ask Him to show me what it looks like to hope in Him just because of His character.
And I wrestle with this idea because part of who He is results in action that He takes on our behalf. Where do His character and actions meet? What can I expect from Him and what becomes placing my hope in what He is doing?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but Psalm 130 paints a picture of struggle, longing, and hope that speaks to them. It shows a process that doesn’t necessitate a disappearance of longing. It seems to point to a perspective that recognizes and expresses longings, but rests in the trust of who God is. This will result in whatever action aligns with His character. But true hope is not founded in the action, but in the character behind it.
Hope in who God is speaks to my current situation. Worship of a never-changing God means that who He is brings perspective to my present and my future.
Because He is good and faithful and trustworthy, He can be trusted to continue to teach me when things seem good. And because He is good, He can be trusted when things get harder.
And when present or future circumstances seem incongruent with the goodness of God, I can trust that it is part of the larger picture of Him bringing all things into right standing with Himself, as a picture of who He is.
And so, may I embrace my longings as things which can draw me to Him. May I honestly communicate them to Him and then leave them in His hands to do with as He sees fit.
A God who is an abundant Redeemer is worth hoping in.