Tastefully Trendy

A life and fashion blog by Sarah Beth

Tag: Christianity

Hope Deferred

There are a lot of really great reasons to have hope.
  • By focusing on the possible positive outcomes, you take your mind off the negative possibilities, relieving yourself of that worry and anxiety.
  • The expression “hope floats” demonstrates hope’s ability to keep us “buoyed” – our spirits are high when we are looking forward to something good.
  • Hope motivates us to action. When you’re believing in a positive outcome, you take steps toward making that happen. Just like a pregnant woman prepares her nursery in happy anticipation of her child’s arrival, hope enables us to take measures to prepare ourselves for the good things coming down the pike.

I think the main reason most of us don’t actively hope is fear. When you have been hurt or disappointed so many times, you want to “guard your heart”, as the Bible says. Only, I don’t think “guarding your heart” means exactly what we’ve often interpreted it to mean. I don’t think it means do whatever you can to keep pain out. Rather, it means surrounding yourself with those things that give life to your spirit, with people who encourage you, with Scripture that speaks truth, and with faith, hope, and love. In doing so, you will protect your heart – not from pain ever getting to it, but from being crushed under the weight of that pain.

But, I get that fear.

I have been very disappointed in one particular area over and over again, and that’s the area where I struggle to have hope. When I go shopping, I have no trouble hoping that I will find some cute clothes; my experience has taught me that is likely to happen. I also find it easy to hope that when I go out in downtown Nashville, I will hear good music and talk to interesting people. I’ve learned to have a confident expectation of that result.

But, what about those areas where I haven’t had good results? Where I have been rejected or overlooked or turned away time and again? Those areas that actually really matter to me, deep down? What about those hopes for each of us of getting married, or having a child, or being matched for an adoption, or getting a promotion, or passing the licensure exam, or fill in the blank… How do I have hope when everything seems to indicate I really should keep my expectations low?

Those are the times when hope is absolutely the hardest. But, those are also the times when we must have hope. We must fight for it, for all the reasons mentioned above, and so many more.

If a situation is certain, there is no reason to have hope. At that point, you’re essentially just stating a fact. Yes, I have hope every night that when I go to sleep, my bed won’t collapse; however, that’s never happened, and I know the wood in my bed is sturdy and assembled well. So, I’m really just assured of fact at that point.

I mentioned yesterday that there was one more definition of hope according to Merriam-Webster. Technically, I guess it’s a definition for the expression, “hope against hope”, but it says, “to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment”. Similarly, Romans 8:24-25 says, “…[H]ope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

We can’t wait until things look like they’re going in our favor to have hope. We must have hope now and confidently expect God to move on our behalf.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Many of you are probably familiar with this proverb. I’ve heard it a million times and always thought it meant that hope unfulfilled makes the heart sick. And, I think it does. But, I also think that it refers to putting off hope. By trying to protect ourselves from pain by delaying having hope, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re depriving ourselves of the peace and joy that comes from anticipating that God will move in our lives. We’re giving room to anxiety and worry and becoming pessimistic. And we are limiting the joy we can experience when something good does happen as a culmination of our hopes and dreams.

I think putting off hope also can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Earlier I mentioned how hope motivates us to action. The converse, though, is that if we don’t have hope, we are motivated to inaction. How many great things never happen because we’re too afraid they might not work out? By failing to act, we create the very scenario we were afraid of in the first place. You’re afraid the boss might find you too forward if you mention taking on more responsibility, so you stay silent; he assumes you aren’t interested in a promotion, and you get passed over. You’re afraid you might not be successful in that career, so you don’t pursue licensure and stay in a dead end job you don’t love. You think long-distance relationships seldom work, so you break up before you have a chance to try.

However, hope actually minimizes disappointments.

To use my earlier scenarios, I don’t lose hope if I shop and find nothing. I’m bummed, of course, because I like new clothes. But, I have the confident and happy expectation that the next time I shop, I’ll find something. If I go downtown and the band sounds terrible and no one talks to me, I might wish I’d stayed home and watched a movie instead, but I don’t assume I’ll never hear good music or meet interesting people again. And I certainly don’t think something is wrong with me. I just assume it was an off night and have hope that the next time I go, it will be better.

Disappointments always come. It’s a part of life, especially since while we know that God’s plans are best, we don’t always know what those best plans are. But, if we have hope, we can bounce back quicker from that disappointment. We can take things in stride, knowing that something else good is around the corner. God’s Word promises that since even human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, our Heavenly Father does even more. It also says that the righteous have never been forsaken or God’s children had to beg for bread (Ps. 37:25).

So, while we may not have, as M-W says, “any basis for expecting fulfillment” in our particular situation, we do have basis to expect God to do good things in our lives because that’s who He is, and He has before. Just like David knew God could equip him to kill Goliath because he’d killed the lion and the bear, so we can look back on our experiences and see the many ways God has worked in our lives, even in ways we didn’t anticipate or in circumstances that seemed, well, hopeless. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if He came through before, He will come through again – sometimes in the exact ways we’re hoping, sometimes in ways that exceed what we hoped for, and sometimes in ways that are completely different than what we imagined. But, He always comes through.

Where have you been deferring hope in your life? Have you put it off because you’re afraid of the disappointment? Think through the worst case scenario, and imagine what it will be like if you do have hope versus if you don’t. If the end result is going to be the same, won’t it be better to go into it hopeful, and then emerge still hopeful? And maybe, in the process, we will find what we were hoping for all along. But, as the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace said, EVEN IF we do not, we are able to still praise God because He is good, and so are His ways in our lives.

(Thank you to Joyce Meyer and her book, Get Your Hopes Up!, for inspiration on several of these points.)

(Part 2 of a 3-part series)

New Cities

Hey guys! This may be the only post I have time to write this week (and by may, I really mean 100% certainly will), but I wanted to say hi! The past two weeks have been so crazy with Labor Day travels, leaving a job, starting a new one, etc., but everything is going well. I feel very much back in my element in my new position, and I’m continually so grateful that God placed me in Nashville, the perfect city.

A friend of mine recently moved to another city, after giving Nashville a go for about 2 years. Why in the WORLD she didn’t absolutely love it here is beyond me, but she spent the past two years being miserable, much like I did in Georgia. Now that she’s been in her new home for all of about 3 days, she’s already making friends, taking in beautiful sunsets, exploring, and generally loving life. The dramatic shift in her circumstances and outlook is so similar to what I experienced when I moved to Nashville last October, that I can’t help but be excited for her to have finally found “home”. Sometimes, you’ve just got to find where you belong, even if that means taking a scary step in faith into the great unknown.

The point of my story is two-fold: one, it’s so important to not let fear hold you back from stepping out into something new. You just don’t know what will be on the other side, and it might be the very thing you’ve been hoping and praying for.

And two, joy really does come in the morning. I’m so grateful that God moves us in and out of seasons. Yes, the hard ones are important – for character building, if nothing else. But, there are also good ones on the horizon. So, if you’re in your own version of Georgia, don’t give up. Keeping moving forward, keep stepping out in faith, and one day soon, you’ll suddenly wake up and realize you’re in a new, beautiful, wonderful place that even 10 months later, still feels like a surreal vacation sometimes.

This outfit has nothing to do with any of that – or with much of anything else, for that matter. But, I like it, and my makeup game was on point that morning.

So, have a great rest of your week, everyone, and keep pressing on to the good!
1-black-and-white-and-turquoise

Even So, It is Well

I’ve been reflecting lately on entitlement in our spiritual lives. In recent sermons and readings, I’ve been impressed with the idea that we’re not guaranteed a perfect life – even as Americans, something pretty hard for my western, Millennial mind to grasp. Suffering is a part of life, and those verses that say, “in this world, you will have trouble”, actually  mean it.

I don’t mean this to be a depressing post, but maybe because I’m in my 30s now, I’ve just realized that life isn’t perfect. A lot of people go through a lot of hard things. And that doesn’t mean God isn’t good. It also doesn’t mean that I’m immune.

I’ve always imagined that I would fall in love; have a good marriage with well-behaved, smart children; and live the proverbial happily ever after. And maybe I will. But, God doesn’t owe me that. He doesn’t owe me anything. He gave me life and salvation, and if that’s all He ever did, it would still be an astounding grace.

Of course, that’s not all He’s done for me (see Wednesday’s somewhat silly post about jewelry and clothing). But, He doesn’t owe me anything. Just because I was born in America instead of an Indian slum, I have special privileges. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born middle-class white, I have a lot of opportunities. But, they aren’t owed to me. Just because I was born a woman who would like to be married and have children, I have a hope that one day, I’ll get what I’ve always wanted. But, it isn’t owed to me.

So, while I work on my attitude and expectations that a Holy God cater to my whims, I continue to pray that He will give me “the desires of my heart.” But, in case that’s not what that verse actually means…or, in case that desire remains unfulfilled until I’m 82, I’m also working on making the words of the old hymn true for me, as well:

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, EVEN SO, it is well with my soul.

Maybe you can relate to a hope deferred. Maybe you can relate to feeling entitled. Maybe you can’t, but you understand what it’s like to go through challenges and still see that God is good. Regardless, I hope that everyone will be able to come to a place where they too can say, “even so, it is well.”

And, I hope that you will wear sequins. Because as my shirt (which, ironically, has no sequins on it) says – life is short. And no matter what our circumstances, we all can look for a reason to celebrate. 1 - sequins and leopard

New Year’s Resolutions

Even though January is nearly over (does that make anyone else feel super old??), I’ve been feeling for some time that I needed to do a year-end reflection and commentary on 2016.  I suppose being only 1/12 of the way through the year when I do so is not too bad…

2015 started off very rough for me. I was living in a town that I hated, working a job that was a poor fit for me, I had almost no friends, and there was no sign of change in sight. I actually went to a counselor a few times in December 2014 because I could feel genuine depression beginning to set in and my personality starting to change and it scared me. I cried pretty much every day and was generally miserable – but, I didn’t want to stay that way.

A friend sent me a book called the Happiness Advantage for Christmas, and starved for happiness as I was, I devoured it.  None of it was revelatory new information; most of it was quite practical, and while written as a secular book, reflected principles I’d long heard in Christian circles.  But, it was the little boost of hope that I needed to believe that happiness was possible again and that there was something I could actively do to obtain it.

So, armed with several of the book’s mantras – the most significant being to write down each day things that you’re grateful for/make you happy (specific to that day), as well as positive expectations for the day ahead – I began an attempt to retrain my brain to look for the good, instead of only seeing the negative that was very obviously in front of me.

To that end, I declared January, “Joyful January”, and made an effort to post a picture on Instagram every day of something (even if it was just a memory) that made me happy.  That effort, combined with writing down things I was thankful for (combined with a wonderful birthday weekend in Nashville), got me out of the dangerous slump I was in. I believe that hope builds on hope – I had enough hope by the end of January that I could look for the light at the end of the tunnel and keep walking towards it, rather than despair in the darkness around me.

Fast forward to September, and I began another Instagram challenge – this one world-wide – of 100 Happy Days. In this challenge, participants are to post a picture every day of something happy about that day (so memories would not be included).  It was hard, but I think I made it for about 85 of my 100 days, even if most of those pictures weren’t that aesthetically pleasing…

I’ve never been a huge proponent of pop psychology, but honestly, knowing that I “had” to post something happy each day, I really did begin to look for the good, and my perspective changed in both instances.

Every year, I like to choose a word to serve as theme for the year. This seems to be a lot more beneficial to me than New Year’s resolutions, as I’m much better at focusing on one word than a bunch of goals I might not keep. My word for 2015 was “joy” because I needed it so badly, and I’m grateful to say that I found joy, even in the midst of hard times (i.e., being miserable, losing my job, moving, etc.).

I realize that my circumstances changed quite a bit at the end of 2015, and I’m beginning 2016 filled with optimism as a result.  But, I can’t help but wonder if my experience here in Nashville would still be quite as positive, had I not already begun the process of learning to look for the happy.

I don’t have a word for 2016 really.  The only word that came to me as I was thinking about it was “success”, which sounds stupid, but maybe I’ll go with it anyway.  Of course, I don’t mean success like making money, because Lord knows my job is not making me rich, as much as I love it.  But, more like life success: growing in my relationship with the Lord; getting rooted in a church and friend community here in Nashville; taking care of myself and my home better… No specific goals, because then I can’t beat myself up about falling short some days, but long-term plans for success in personal growth.

Have you taken time to reflect on 2015? If you chose a word/resolutions, how did they go?  Can you see a theme for the year, or have you picked one for 2016? I’m so hopeful about this year, and if you’re discouraged in any way, I wish so much that you’d join with me in renewing your hope. I’d encourage you to find ways like I did to retrain your brain to begin to look for and see the good, as well as to expect positive things each day, and throughout the whole year. Let’s all join together in making the year ahead a wonderful, joyful, successful one.

Much Love,

SB

Who Am I?

To round out the week of Tim Tebow, here is one last blog post based on his message (since it’s a good point and since I don’t ever want to forget anything he said).

How do you define yourself and find your value?

I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve struggled with for years.  I know the Christian answer is, “I’m a child of God,” and value comes from knowing who you are in God’s eyes.  And I believe that is where we should find it, but it has always seemed so abstract to me.  What does that really mean and look like?

I think the answer of how we define ourselves varies for each person.  If you’re single, perhaps you define yourself by how many dates you go on, if you’re in a relationship, or even how many Tinder matches you get (guilty on all counts).  If you’re married, maybe its by how strong your relationship with your spouse seems to be on any given day.  Maybe you place all your value in your work performance (I had a college professor flat out tell me once I needed to define myself by more than just my grades, as I cried in his office over (an unfairly) low test score), or your friend network, or your fashion sense…  (I’ve shared before that I feel completely inadequate to write a fashion blog, so the value I place in myself based on that goes up and down like a roller coaster).

Tim gave an example of his own life where he was, in the same year, voted one of the most popular athletes in America and cut from his team.  Obviously, that had the potential to put him on the aforementioned proverbial roller coaster.  If he derived his value and meaning as an individual from those outside forces, he would have faced an identity crisis that year, as he was forced to choose which definition of himself to believe – that he was a beloved athlete, or that he just wasn’t good enough.

However, Tim doesn’t define himself by how other people see him.  Instead, he is confident in who he is in the Lord, knowing that God has a special purpose for his life, no matter what others may say, think, or do.  And that’s true of all of us.  Whether we are promoted or fired, His plans for us are good, to give us a future and a hope.  No matter if we have 5 facebook friends or 5,000, He promises He will never leave us or forsake us.  If our fashion taste is lauded by InStyle magazine, or bemoaned by Stacy London, God still enjoys our creativity.  And even if every Saturday night is spent at home alone watching Netflix with nary a text message alert, His opinion of us is still that we are lovely.

How are you defining yourself?  This is a journey that I am still on; even as recently as a few weeks ago, one of my friends kindly commented on my (above-average) need for validation, drawing my attention to the fact that I still have a long way to go in understanding God’s love and what that really means for my life.  But, I’m working on it.  I don’t want to be defined any more by outside forces that change with the wind.  Rather, I want to have that peace that comes from knowing you are deeply loved by a God who never changes and knows absolutely everything about you, yet still calls you His own.

Is this something you struggle with?  If so, what are some of the steps you can take to define yourself in a healthy way?  If not currently, but you’ve dealt with this in the past, what were some of the ways you learned to define yourself according to what God says, rather than what the world says?  What is your favorite promise from the Lord about how much He values you and who you are in Him?

Let’s celebrate ourselves today!  Have a good weekend everyone!

1 - patterned dress nude heels(This outfit is completely unrelated to anything else in this post.  I just wanted to have another fashion-related post this week, and I felt like this one needed a picture.)

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