For Lent I am giving up on a God who meets expectations.
For years I interpreted hope as “hoping for something better in the future.” I confused hope with expectation. And as a result, when I prayed in “hope”, I was confused when God did not answer as I thought God would or even should. This way of interpreting the meaning of hope made me attached to an outcome. I honestly thought this is what it meant to hope in God. In the wise words of Frank Ostaseski, “attachment to outcome posing as hope only generates anxiety.” Instead, he writes, we are better to see hope as:
…an optimizing force that moves us and all of life toward harmony. It doesn’t arrive from outside; rather it is an abiding state of being, a hidden wellspring within us.
What if to hope in God means to hope in who God is and not in what God might do?
This changes everything for me. And this is why I love SoulStream’s stated value of Hope:
We trust that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God will accomplish God’s loving and redeeming purposes toward the fulfillment of all things in Christ.
I confess it is not easy to maintain hope despite all evidence to the contrary. But when I can find a place of rest in God and not in circumstance, I sense a source of strength.
I once heard someone say, “God does not protect us from anything but sustains us in everything.” I remember feeling a release of tension when I heard that.
As I look back over the experiences of my life, more and more I see this as true. God has never protected me from heartbreak or loneliness or abuse or struggle or disappointment and loss, or a whole array of unfortunate circumstance. I confess for a while I gave up on intercessory prayer. Perhaps this was a necessary letting go for me. More recently, I have found ways to “pray for” people, ways that are less about begging God for outcomes than about settling into hope and praying from there.
So, for Lent, I am giving up on a God of Expectation and embracing a God of Hope.
How about you?
Being With Our Sorrow – Saturday March 28, 2020, St Lawrence Anglican, Calgary
Facilitators: Helen Barry and Pearl Nieuwenhuis
THE WAY OF COMPASSION: A Lenten Prayer Retreat