Hope in the Midst of Disappointment

This Valentine’s Day marks the end of yet another Singles Awareness season. How was this one for you? Did you enjoy the season or suffer through it? Or was it a combination of both? I definitely had a combo platter of emotion. I keep picturing my single life as a roller coaster: up with giddiness and excitement one moment and down with disappointment the next. Roller coasters would lose their appeal if you had to stay on them ad nauseum. The downside in the ups and downs of dating bring me to the same outcome.

For longer than I care to remember, I have dreamed, imagined, wished, prayed, prepared for, and awaited Mr. Right’s appearance into my life. At some point, however, my expectations have mellowed out. It’s not that I have stopped dreaming, imagining, wishing, praying, preparing and awaiting. It’s just that the constant output of my hopes and dreams with no input to show for it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. I call it numbified hope.

The Bible says that: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Well, maybe that’s why I feel a little numb this year. My hope has been deferred for decades; there have been innumerable stops and starts. Nowadays my hope needs to take occasional naps to temper my desires amidst my present reality of boyfriendlessness.

I decided to read a Bible commentary to see if there was more I could learn from good ole Proverbs 13:12. The Asbury Bible Commentary says, “the satisfaction of hope or its frustration affects one’s mental and physical well-being. A fool, however, refuses to give up a desire, which in the end means disaster.” At first read, I understood it to say that I am stupid to keep hoping for something that has not happened. The reason I heard it that way is because that thought had been introduced to me before by a dream killing voice whispering in my ear a time or two or fifteen. Thankfully that’s not what the commentary means. I am not a fool for believing in an unfulfilled desire; the foolishness is when the desire is unwise and yet I continue to pursue it.

Even so, my desires matched with wise choices can all still feel like foolishness when I can’t seem to find anyone who wants to date me or when I start dating, I accumulate breakup after breakup. Sometimes I feel like one sandwich short of a picnic for keeping hope alive. I hear self-defeating thoughts like “Let’s be real here. If it hasn’t happened by now….” And when the thoughts get that low, I remember that nothing good can come from this place and I remind myself that I am the boss of my thought life, not the other way around. If it’s foolish to pursue an unhealthy desire, it’s just as dangerous to entertain unhealthy thoughts that cause me to believe the wrong things about my life. “If only I were more ____________, I would have someone.” “Nobody sees me.” “I’m just unlucky in love.” These thoughts don’t define me but they’re just significant enough to keep me wondering and before you know it, I’m off track trying to find my way back to my healthy thought life.

We have all dreams and beliefs living inside us about what our life should look like. And then the holidays came along (as they do every year) and viscerally heightened our awareness of that which we long for but do not have. Mistletoe may seem harmless and fun. Having a date for Valentine’s Day can seem to be an innocent wish. But if those wishes produce subconscious thoughts like “I wish I had someone to kiss” or “I wish I had someone to send flowers to/give me flowers”, it becomes a mini contribution to our pile of unfulfilled desire. And suddenly the silent weight of it all overshadows those hopes and dreams that used to be so bright in us.

My goal is to live a life unaffected by my disappointments. But how do I go about getting my disappointments to stop choking the life out of my hope?! Keeping hope alive is a real thing and I like what Pastor Rick Warren recently had to say about it:

In order to reach your goals, you have to figure out how to maintain your enthusiasm over the long haul. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” I believe that with all of my heart.  (But) how do you do that? How do you stay enthusiastic day after day in spite of delays and difficulties and dead ends and problems and pressures and criticisms? How do you stay enthusiastic for years?

Positive thinking is not enough. Pulling yourself up by your psychological bootstraps is not enough. Talking yourself into optimism is not enough. The way you stay enthusiastic for a lifetime is found in the word “enthusiasm.” The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek phrase en theos. En is the Greek word for the English word “in.” Theos is the Greek word for “God.” So en theos means to be “in God.” When you get in God, you will be enthusiastic.

In college, we had an annual rally called My Reality, Your Perception which was a socio-political attempt to help people stay woke. God’s attempts to get us to maintain hopeful hearts would be called ‘God Reality, Human Perception.’ One of my biggest challenges in life is for me to believe God is exactly who He says He is and will do exactly what He said He will do. That gentle voice of reassurance inside me that I call the Holy Spirit reminds me quite often to keep hope alive. Somewhere along the way I just stopped listening and therein lies my hope & enthusiasm problem; I listen to my circumstances more closely than I listen to God.

I’m going to reverse that order. God first, circumstances second. I’m going to see hope rise and despair crash & burn because I am determined to resuscitate the numbness in my heart into an expectant, vibrant hope. Life is too short for it to suck; it just can’t. It just can’t.

 

Dear Single People: let us enthusiastically keep hope alive.