I recently had a conversation with a friend where we realized that, instead of feeding each other’s fears, we could be Hope Advocates for each other. I don’t always know how to do that, but I’ve had some lovely people model it for me.
Hope Advocates are people who, when I text them a disappointing update, text back with something like this text from a friend: “Praying for your sore and deflated heart to feel covered and comforted by Jesus today.” Or this one: “Lord, give us both babies!” Or, “Want to go for a walk?”
And when I send an update of possibility, she responds with something like this: “I’m sooo hopeful for you!!” Or, “I’m praying [x, y, z specifically] for you!” Or simply, “Love you so much.”
A Hope Advocate is not someone who tries to sweep my unfulfilled longing under the rug like an unsightly dust bunny. She doesn’t blithely say, “Smile! God’s got this!”
No, a Hope Advocate is someone who is in the trenches with you. She’s someone who weeps with you and rejoices with you. She’s someone who is strong in prayer, rejoicing in hope that God will hear the cries of his people.
I think it should be mentioned that Hope Advocates are people who have suffered (or young children, to whom hope and compassion sometimes seem to come effortlessly). A Hope Advocate doesn’t have to have walked through the same suffering that I am walking through, but hope is learned through suffering.
Those who haven’t suffered have had no reason to hope. Hope is meaningless to people who have always received everything they could possibly need or want without question. The waiting and longing involved in suffering therefore makes them uncomfortable.
But for those who are familiar with waiting and longing for something to be restored to shalom (that lovely word for an all-encompassing peacefulness and rightness in life), we can spur one another on.
In fact, we must spur one another on. Hope can quickly turn to despair. The Proverb is wise that says “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Hope Advocates don’t glibly say, “Romans 8:28! Be happy!” But they also don’t just weep when you’re weeping. That’s just one of the things they do. Hope Advocates also remind you of God’s character, of how He cares for the weak (Romans 8:26-27, which of course is what leads up to v. 28). They cover you with His mercies and strengthen you with grace.
Hope Advocates believe on your behalf when you are too tired and discouraged to believe that what you long for might possibly come true at some point in the future. When your faith is gone, they hold you up with their own deep faith. (It’s always easier to believe good things are coming for someone else than it is for yourself, isn’t it?) It’s not just your one little candle flame flickering in the dark, but a whole army of candles marching into the darkness for you, lighting the way.
But you can’t have Hope Advocates if you don’t share your suffering with trustworthy people. You can’t receive this if you hold tightly to your mask of perfectionism, your mask of “having it all together.”
Hope is built in and through community. It doesn’t have to be a big group. It might be just three or four people who are trustworthy to be your Hope Advocates. And not just any people, but friends who are mature Christ-followers, people who are deeply aware of the grace that has been given to them and are resting in Christ’s work on their behalf. And…
Hope Advocates are people who think you’re pretty awesome too.