A Story of a Hopeless Heart
Words by Courtney Gilliam // Image by Emily Magers
Hope is frightening. It is by far one of the most frightening things we’re asked to hold on to as Christians. It is often met by pain and disappointment and is one of the biggest risks we are asked to consistently take. Hoping for a husband in the midst of a long season of singleness. Hoping for financial provision that seems all too impossible. Hoping for the salvation of a family member who wants nothing to do with God.
So why hope? Why is the Bible filled with both faith and hope, two necessary factors in walking with Jesus? Why must we choose hope time and time again?
I had been dating a guy since last September, and at the end of January he broke up with me. A guy who I was willing to fight for, to push through not-so-pretty seasons with, told me that he wasn’t sure I was “it.” This hope to get married—this hope that I had finally found what I’d been waiting for—it was gone in an instant as he let out an “I’m so sorry.”
My heart retreated, broken and angry. That was it. I had had my chance for love and somehow I had ruined it. So somewhere in the following months, I abandoned hope. I let go of any thought of getting married. I stopped believing for the best. I numbed myself to dreaming. And my heart became sick.
The pain that came from having expectations, only to see them shattered or unmet, was too much. So I retreated back to my own personal limits, my own well-kept yard of not risking. And my heart began to wither. I let go of dreams, desires, expectations—and the vibrant life in my heart began to dull. I couldn’t feel God and I couldn’t hear him clearly. I felt abandoned and dry, like I would die of hunger for him.
Hope was too risky. And keeping my heart safe within its walls was surely the way to keep it unharmed. Right?
God, concerned for the health of my heart, pressed on it ever-so-consistently. I felt everything I didn’t want to feel as he drew my heart to hope again.
Cynical, I filled my world with busyness and activities. I ran myself weak. He continued to press.
Why love? Why hope for the impossible best? Why hold on to dreams that are so far out of reach? My heart fought back to him.
Eventually, he found me at my breaking point—weary, anxious, desperate. He breathed into my heart and truth began to surface: Faith sees, and hope feels. Faith sees where there is nothing to see yet (Heb. 11:1). It sees the invisible and looks past impossibility. Whereas hope—hope feels it coming. It’s that lurch in your soul: I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know when, but I feel it coming. Something better is coming. I feel the provision. I feel the longing in me and I will not numb it with doubt. I will let the longing deepen. When I choose not to hope that there is the best in store for me, my heart becomes sick. And hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12). That must mean choosing to hope gives my heart life. Choose hope, Courtney. Believe the best. Believe that he is that good.
And I gasped for air. Alive. My heart began pumping again.
Undone by my sudden lightness, I became aware of the necessity of hope. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how many times I had been disappointed, regardless of the impossibilities that stood before me or the lack of visible breakthrough, I had to decide to choose hope, even when it hurt.
That’s the thing about hope; it’s painful many more times than it’s not. And many times we are tempted to block out the thing that hurts, insisting that our life would be better without the pain. The reality is that yes, hope is painful, but it keeps us alive. We can’t numb the hunger pains and the desires for the best to come along.
Abraham is known as the forerunner of hope, yet the Bible says in his lifetime he never received what had been promised to him. However, time and time again in the Word, he is honored for his life that was marked by the hope for promises that seemed impossible. “In hope he believed against hope…” (Rom. 4:18). Abraham believed against the hope of sound reasoning and logic. When his faith in the natural ran dry, his faith in the supernatural provision of God rushed in.
It wasn’t only because of his faith that he received the blessing and favor of God. His promises of descendants that came long after he was gone were credited to him beyond the grave because he had lived a life of both faith and hope. You see, faith says, “I believe God can do it.” Hope says, “I trust he actually will.” Even when I haven’t seen it. Even when there’s no evidence. The hope in me will grow and deepen and develop a deep and longing hunger in my chest because I haven’t seen the fulfillment yet.
So I will keep hoping. I won’t numb the hunger pain. I will let it grow, creating a crater in me that can only be satisfied by my God and his promises. I will choose hope that is not swayed by situations or circumstances—but hope that is founded on the truth and goodness of The Most Holy One.