A Hope Deferred

a-hope-deferred

At 38 weeks and 6 days I felt anxious to see my baby. Although most women don’t feel overdue until after their 40th week, this was my fourth child and in the three previous pregnancies the baby had come at 38 weeks. I had never made it to my due date in the past. So although I wasn’t even close to being “technically” past due, I felt that my due date had come and gone. And isn’t that what it all comes down to: experience and expectation?

My experience with pregnancy had told me that I should have a newborn at that point. The sleepless nights I experienced should have been due to middle of the night feedings instead of frequent trips to the restroom. The aches and pains were supposed to be those of recent delivery, and not the seemingly ceaseless contractions I was experiencing.

Experience and expectation had let me down. I was left, floating along, knowing that the outcome would be the same, but somehow different. I would still have a newborn child, but the situation was one I had not anticipated. What if I went past my actual due date? The waiting was unforeseen.

Six days might not seem like a lot of difference to some, but each one had passed with a thud for me. Each day was full of moments that caused me to think, Is that a sign that it’s time? Is something wrong? Should I be doing more to make it happen?

Not only was I left with a sense of frustration that things hadn’t worked out how I thought they would, I somehow felt like a failure. Like if I would have tried harder my experience and expectations would have been realized.

Something inside me whispered that this had to do with more than my eagerness to see my unborn child and be done with the discomfort of pregnancy.

Heartsick

We all have hopes of what God will do in our life. Many times these hopes and dreams are based on our previous experience of God and expectations of what He will do in our future.

I had hopes of seeing my newborn son by a certain date. I have other hopes though, relating to the future of my marriage, my ministry, my children’s lives and more. God doesn’t always play by our rules, in our timeframe, according to our expectations.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” That word deferred, it means in Hebrew to draw out, prolong, continue or to drag along. Here we go, trudging along our way, dragging our little bag of hopes behind us. It can weigh you down, wear on your spirit, and weaken your heart.

As silly as it sounds, I sometimes had the thought that my son would never come out. What if he stayed in there forever? Logically, I knew that this couldn’t happen, but there were moments when I felt that this was how it would be for eternity.

How much easier is it to believe that about other hopes we carry? My spouse will never change. That career I seek will never come. The spiritual growth I desire will never reach fruition in me. People laughed at me when I said I was stuck in the Never-ending Pregnancy, but how many people do we know who feel the same way about an area of their life? We don’t laugh at them, because we have those same fears.

How Long, Oh Lord?

David had those fears. In the Psalms there are numerous times where he cries out to God in frustration.

About physical needs:

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; heal me, Oh Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O Lord, “How long?” (Psalm 6:2-3)

About spiritual needs:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all day long? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

About relational needs:

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue my soul from their ravages, my only life from the lions. (Psalm 35:17)

Just like a child on a car trip with a parent, David wasn’t afraid to ask God, “How much longer? Are we there yet?”

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

It’s interesting the reactions people have when we voice our frustrations. Job was met with various reactions from his friends. Eliphaz told him that the innocent do not suffer and God is just. Bildad said God rewards the good. Zophar chose to rebuke Job for his words of frustration.

In my frustration with the timing of my son’s birth, I also experienced the full spectrum of responses. Some people felt it their duty to question my desires and impatience: “Don’t you want him to be healthy? You’re not even at your due date yet.” It’s like my eagerness to meet my son and be done with pregnancy offended them. This same reaction occurs with other hopes: “Don’t you want God’s timing and not your own? You should only desire His will for your life.”

Some offered advice and their own experience: “Drink castor oil. Eat spicy food. Walk. This worked for me.” Many times those people were being helpful, but sometimes it caused me to feel like it was a lack of trying on my part that had kept me in my present condition. Again, this correlates: “Are you praying about it? Fasting? Have you sought out God’s will for the situation?” All helpful suggestions, but usually when someone is heartsick they’ve tried everything they can.

Some reminded me that it could be worse: “At least you can get pregnant. Some woman would love to be feeling your discomfort.” I’m not negating the fact that I was blessed to be able to carry a healthy baby to term. However, the reminder that others have it worse than I do is only meant to make me feel guilty. There’s always someone who has it worse, that doesn’t mean that we’ll never get frustrated with our relationships, job, or situation in life.

Lastly, some expressed sympathy: “I’ve been there. This is a hard time. You’ll get through it. Hang in there.” Those words offered the most comfort. I was not alone. I could make it through.

Three days later, at 39 weeks and one day, my son Silas was born! Looking back now, six months later, those three days seem so small and insignificant. Isn’t that how it is with all our seasons of hoping and waiting? Once we’re out of the holding period, we forget the heartsickness of waiting.

We’ve all been on both sides of this situation. I know that I’ve been an Eliphaz, Bildad, and even Zophar to others going through a period of waiting. I’ve criticized, I’ve advised, and I’ve rebuked. As well-meaning as our intentions are in our responses to those feeling a hope deferred, the best option is to default to being what Job’s friends weren’t: an encourager.

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About

Melissa Brotherton lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Josh, and their four children: Elijah, Cora, Ezra, and Silas. In 2011, after returning from five years living in Southern California, Melissa stepped in to the position of children’s pastor and community life pastor at their new church. Although she currently finds herself in a place she never thought she’d be, God reminds her to continue to abide in Him. To wait, to rest, to trust. She writes about this and more on her personal blog, melissabrotherton.com. You can also find her on Twitter @melissa_rae


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A Hope Deferred

by Melissa Brotherton time to read: 5 min
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