[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]L[/mk_dropcaps]ast Monday my housemates and I put up our Christmas decorations. While I am usually excited and eager to get in the spirit of the season, this time was not the case. Lately I have felt incredible excitement but also intimidation. Have you ever felt a change coming but with no tangible evidence? Like a planted seed, buried; transitioning below the surface before becoming the tree it was created to be. Currently, in my impatience to see the sprout coming to the surface, I am fighting thoughts that no growth has happened at all. I feel as though I’ve repeated the same mistakes and am right back where I used to be. I feel tangled in disappointments and frustrations. My heart knows that this is a feeling, not a fact. And yet, the feelings are so potent that they are disorienting. Maybe you, like me, are fighting the thought that this year was just like a hamster running in a wheel. A lot of effort with no real progress. I want to encourage you with this small but pivotal question. I guarantee the answer will deflate the disappointments every time.
“What have you anchored your hope to?”
When we anchor our hope to God, His power and presence will un-tether us from our expectations. In Hebrews 6:18-19 it says,
[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.[/mk_blockquote]
In my own strength, I do not know how to remain optimistic. I am more emotionally driven than I would like to admit. Yet, when God is my focus, I am at peace beyond my understanding. I have joy that is not dependent on my circumstances. I did not know that such peace and joy existed until God forcefully and lovingly interrupted my life in 2009.
Truthfully, the holiday season is both beautiful and challenging for me. This time of year, more than any other, stirs up disappointments and frustrations of unmet expectations. Loneliness is amplified in the areas in which we lack relationship. Personally, I am acutely aware of all the areas where I have fallen short or where I have lack. Most prominent is the loss of my father. During this season, everyone around seems to speak in the language of “joy” and “cheer”. With such frequency I sometimes feel forced into behaving the same, even if I fake it. I put on my “it’s all good” mask. The other day, while taking out some time to evaluate the year, God hit me with this revelation: “How can you fully move forward into the next year if you can not perceive what I (God) have been doing in this year?”
That is another way of putting the question I asked before: “What is your hope anchored to?” For me, that was my resolution and the expectation I had made in my heart at the onset of 2014. My hope was split between trusting and leaning on God. I’d attached my hope to the fulfillment of my expectations. It is time to un-tether from self-imposed expectations, the parasites of resolutions.
God is not one who wants to compete for our affections. When we anchor our hope to the fulfillment of any certain expectations or resolutions, in essence, we have given them part of our heart. This is not a healthy way for us to operate, nor is it pleasing to God. Let the story of Admiral James Stockdale be a prime example of the power of an anchored hope. Stockdale was held as a prisoner of war for almost 8 years during the Vietnam War, and underwent numerous interrogations and torture. Jim Collins, in His book “Good to Great,” interviewed Stockdale. In that interview, Stockdale shared what kept him alive throughout the years. While others succumbed to the discouragement or fear of the situation, Stockdale held onto his faith. In the midst of life and death moments, Stockdale courageously faced the brutal reality of his current circumstances but still held onto faith and hope that he would be set free. He never attached his hope to an expected timeline of his release, unlike those around him.
If Admiral Stockdale could remain anchored to hope in such an intense situation, that shows me the power of the human character to squash with ease the discouragement of the daily disappointments. We have been given authority to choose to trust God, knowing that He is bigger than anything we face in the moment. On the other side of whatever season, situation, or circumstance you face, lies resolution. Trusting in that certainty means we let go of our agenda and our expected timeline. Fulfillment of God’s promises happens on His timeline. If God promised it, He will bring it to pass. Our disappointments are God-appointments to see His authority remain, regardless of our current situation. Every time we face a disappointment, there lies an opportunity to “dis” the negativity of that appointment and instead look up to our God. Choose to trust Him in the midst of your struggle. That may be a silly way of unpacking the word but you get what I’m saying. Anchor your hope in God, not in the fleeting feelings of the situation which so easily entangle us.
The more I seek to see what God is doing NOW, the less room I have for those feelings of lack and disappointment. The outcome: I am the un-tethered from them and freed up to see the new thing God is doing. Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to embrace our need be loved and to spread love, even though we fall short and even though we are not where we want to be. However, by the help of God, we are all advancing. That is worthy of spreading joy and cheer. The beauty of Christmas is the reminder that we can fill our unfulfilled resolutions with God’s unfailing love. The strength of human nature is our capacity to be broken and still love fearlessly. Where we are weak, He is strong. If more of us had this perspective shift in this season, imagine how things would change?! It can and will. This change starts with the small shift of un-tethering from resolutions and shifting our hope to be anchored in God.