Hope is such a strange thing.  Theoretically, I think of hope as being life-giving, but what it more often feels like is a current agony of waiting.  I can tell you right now that you’ll be seeing frequent thoughts along the themes of hope, waiting, and longing on this blog because they are an integral part of my journey in the last few years.

I once heard a sermon entitled “The Agony of Hope,” and I thought, “Wow, that is a very fitting phrase.” About six months before this sermon, we started trying to get pregnant.  We’d had no success.  One month before the sermon, my husband had parted ways with a company where he’d been treated terribly.  He had yet to be paid his commissions, or even his last paycheck. We had decided that he should go back to school full-time to complete his half-finished Masters degree, meaning we would live off my {administrative assistant in education} paycheck until he finished and was able to find a job.

Since I wasn’t getting pregnant, I would also finish up my own Masters degree.  But what I would do with it was hazy at best.  I was just finishing it because I couldn’t depend on or control what I hoped for – that I would have a child within a year.  Hope felt far-off.

We’re still in a season of barrenness, two and a half years after that sermon was preached.  We both graduated in May 2016, yet despite Nagib’s best attempts, he doesn’t yet have a full-time job.  And despite our multiple attempts at fertility treatment, we haven’t gotten pregnant.

We often find ourselves saying, “How long, o Lord?  Will you forget us forever?  You said to be fruitful and multiply, but you are the one who opens the womb! You put man in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it, and you are the one who told us to subdue the earth and wisely rule it!  How can we keep your commands if you don’t let us?!” (Psalm 13Genesis 1:28Genesis 30:22Genesis 2:15)

I want God to do it now – I’m so tired of waiting.  It has been a long and painful journey.  But I have to say that hope feels more real now than it did two and a half years ago, mostly because in the midst of our longing, I feel confident that this season of barrenness is just that – a season.  I know, deep down, that we will have children, one way or another.  And not because I’m gonna make it happen, damn it, but because I sense the Lord’s desire for us to have children.  And I know, deep down, that the Lord desires for Nagib to have fruitful work. So if this is just a season, then we’re two and a half years closer to fruition than we were when I heard that sermon preached.

But still, #thestruggleisreal.  Romans has proven to be a book of hope for me in this journey, unlooked for from such a theological treatise.  Romans 5 says

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And in Romans 8 (Becca paraphrase of the ESV):

Hope that is seen isn’t hope.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we don’t see/have, we wait for it with patience.

This is the agony of hope.  We don’t hope for something we already have.  No, by definition hope is something for which we long.

And yet, Paul talks about the object of our hope as something certain.  “If we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it patiently.”  Unlike the world’s hope, which is a sort of wishful thinking, the hope of God is something we can bank on.  After producing stamina and character in us, hope that is born out of suffering doesn’t disappoint us.

We don’t have to be ashamed to hope.  It is birthed through suffering but founded in love.  We hope because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit – God’s own Spirit has been given to us.

On my good days, my stated goal is to push back against the curse of the Fall with the power of the resurrected Christ in me.  But I have bad days too, days when the weight of the wait is too much to bear.  On days when my heart is torn to pieces with longing for our lives to be fruitful, this all sounds like esoteric theological excuse-making.

Paul goes on to say,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

The Holy Spirit is the demonstration of God’s love in the midst of our suffering, not just because God has given Him to us (a great gift indeed!), but also because He intercedes for us.

We are not alone as we wait, patiently or impatiently, for the redemption of our bodies.  We are not alone as we ask God to make us fruitful now, whether that be fruit of the womb or fruit of our work or fruit of love in other relationships.  We are not alone in our attempts to push back against the sin in our hearts and the groaning brokenness of our world.  We have God’s Spirit, empowering us to hope in redemption, showing us beauty in the midst of pain, bringing us to maturity in Christ.

On the days when I am disheartened, agonizing in the hope of an unknown future, longing for the dream set before me of children, for fruitful work for my husband, for the ultimate redemption of our bodies, for all to be made right – on those days, sometimes I have a hard time remembering all these whispers of hopeful promise.

But the promises are there.  He is intimately here.  We are not alone.  And He lifts my eyes to even more glorious hopes, to the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or crying or pain, and we will eat from the Tree of Life that brings healing for the nations, and the curse will be fully removed.

This is why I write, to remind myself of His character and love, of His promises and power.  It helps me to hold on to hope.