Persevere in Hope When the Outcome is Uncertain

How to Persevere in Hope When the Outcome is Uncertain

We sat in silent disbelief, neither of us knowing what to say.  When my husband’s job was eliminated without warning, the news landed like a tidal wave:  completely unexpected and comprehensively devastating.  Then, as the wave receded, applications, interviews, and the thin hope that accompanies waiting seemed to set the agenda for our family’s unknown future.

This page from our family history demonstrates that holding on to hope without any evidence of a happy ending may be one of the most challenging disciplines of the following life. As immature Christians, we want to believe that the test for cancer will always come back negative, our kids will always win the scholarships, and our career paths will persistently follow a predictable upward trajectory.  Eventually, the realities of life confirm the Apostle Peter’s warning that we actually will have “to struggle in various trials,” giving us the opportunity to grow into the knowledge that we have access to hope, even when the outcome is still unclear.

Parker Palmer calls this place of uncertainty “the tragic gap,” and I’m writing about that today for Living By Design, a non-denominational, non-profit Christian ministry that delivers free Bible studies to inboxes around the world. You’re invited to the table, especially if you or someone you love have found yourselves standing in the space between what you desire and what you are holding in your hands.

Here’s your reminder that when you’re facing that tragic gap, God has promised to be your bridge. CLICK HERE for encouragement and words of hope.

On the balance scale, our suffering, our seasons of uncertainty, and all the tension of our unmet longings land like feathers when weighed against God’s great promises, secured for us by the death and resurrection of Christ.

And Now, Let’s Talk Books

The Scandal of Holiness

A book about books makes for dangerous reading material if you happen to suffer from a perpetually growing list of books you plan to read. Even so, The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson was well worth the risk. Writing on eight themes from the following life, Wilson employs characters from fiction to shed an angle of light on the nature of holiness and a life lived consciously in the presence of God.

Since I have already been catechized by the Reverend John Ames from Marilynne Robinson’s fiction and by various residents of Wendell Berry’s Port William membership, I am eager to have my imagination expanded again in new ways. How wonderful that sanctification can be encouraged by the good, the true, and the beautiful sifted from 20th century novels!

Wilson mingles the more familiar names of Flannery O’Connor, C.S. Lewis, and Walter Wangerin, Jr. with the less familiar work of Eugene Vodolazkin, Sigrid Undset, and George Bernanos (and many more!). Each chapter ends with a brief excerpt, a related scripture verse, a quotation from a saint, and a prayer, underscoring the author’s conviction that our reading choices are life-altering, for “a novel is… a way to travel through the human heart.”

I have been formed by a love for fictional characters who somehow speak more wisdom than they realize and by authors whose view of the world made me want to peer through the same lens they were using. By reading well, we become better equipped to read more skillfully our own narrative arc, to ask ourselves the probing questions that reveal our motives and sift our hypocrisy as we trust for grace to live well.

If you’re intrigued by the sound of The Scandal of Holiness, you also might enjoy On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior. CLICK HERE to read my review.

I’m grateful for the encouragement you provide by reading and sharing this post!

Holding you in the Light,

“A novel is… a way to travel through the human heart.” You’ll enjoy that journey via #TheScandalofHoliness @HootenWilson @BrazosPress

A New Free Resource…

Curiosity has been my strange companion since my recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, so I’ve created a resource to invite you into curiosity along with me! God is not some grumpy parent, silencing his children and condemning our questions. 

This line of thinking sent me on a biblical scavenger hunt for questions posed by the Bible’s authors. What were they asking and how should this affect the questions I’m asking and the way my curiosity is framed?

To receive your copy of “Half a Dozen Biblical Questions for Entering (and Enduring) Hard Times” simply enter your email and then click on the button below…

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I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Many thanks to Brazos Press and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

Photo by Nick Grappone on Unsplash

33 thoughts on “How to Persevere in Hope When the Outcome is Uncertain”

  1. I appreciated the truths you enumerated in this article. Every Christian has to face this gap at some point, when the circumstances don’t seem in keeping with what we thought was God’s will. Those situations test where our hope is and invite us to know our God better.

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    1. All the holes in my theology show up when God acts in ways that are unpredictable. Remembering his goodness alongside his sovereignty is crucial for me. I’m grateful for all the times he has stepped in with hope that has bridged the gap for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I happen to suffer from a perpetually growing list of books I plan to read – in no small part thanks to your wonderful reviews, Michele;)

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  3. Thinking of the song “Living Hope” as I read your words, Michele (we sang it at church this morning and as usual, it made me cry). More than once, I’ve found myself trusting in the outcome of a job search more than in the Giver of the job. When I start dictating to God what needs to happen next, that’s when I know my hope is misplaced. I love the Packer quote: “The Holy Spirit fixes our prayers on the way up.”

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  4. Ooooo Michele, a book about books… I love those kind 😊and am in need of a good fiction read so thank you!
    Also I seem to be doing something wrong in requesting your PDF… Any tips? I haven’t seen it in my inbox. What would the subject line be? Thx for offering it!

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  5. Huh, you know I never thought of it that way. We’ve domesticated hope, very thought provoking. Thanks for talking about the tragic gap and detailing this. May we seek to build bridges of hope through Him.

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  6. Living by Design sounds like an intriguing book. You write that the world has “domesticated the word hope” – I love the history of words – their evolution and devolution – and the culture is definitely trying to devolve hope. You are right – we need to put the power back in our Hope. You also write: “the screaming banshees in our heads (and in the culture) that want to make our disappointment, our discouragement, and our struggles the biggest thing in the room” – there is a difference when we put our Trust in God – maximizing Him, instead of letting our struggles have the spotlight. These two ideas caught my spirit this morning. Thank you for sharing your keen insight, my friend! ~ Maryleigh

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  7. What you described in the first paragraph happened to my husband at the beginning of this year. Without any warning whatsoever, he was let go from his job of nearly 25 years. We were stupefied. God did provide a new job and so much more, but it sure gave us an opportunity to stretch our faith and our willingness to go wherever he would lead. Great post!

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    1. Isn’t it amazing how we begin to imagine that it’s actually our JOB that’s providing for us? Sometimes, we need to be shaken to the core so we can be reminded who’s really our provider and protector. It’s never pleasant, but I’m so glad you and your husband had a happy ending.

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  8. I keep reminding myself that as believers in Christ, all will be well. And while I might prefer that to occur today, that’s not how God works. His ways are far beyond ours, His heart is kind. He is just and merciful. Thanks for that nudge heavenward, friend.

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    1. If you’re anything like me, the holes in our theology show up when God acts in ways we don’t expect. So crucial to catechize ourselves thoroughly in the truth about who God is and how he loves us.

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  9. I found myself whispering, “Oh yes!” and “AMEN!” and “That’s so true!” all through your article, Michele. And your words are all the more meaningful considering the trial you are currently enduring. So much wisdom and truth tucked into each paragraph! Just one of many nuggets I appreciated: to consistently put my hope in God will bring about a deeper awareness of the reality and presence of God. There is nothing more valuable to us in the throes of trouble than that reality! Thank you, Michele, for sharing your insight and for your example of grace under fire.

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  10. I’m sorry about your husband’s job. It is a huge blow, especially to men and even more so if it’s not performance related. It really brings up so much ‘stuff’. I hope you are all ok.

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    1. Oh, Lydia, thank you for your concern. The incident I was sharing happened a couple of years ago, and God used it to plunk my husband into a wonderful job surrounded by supportive colleagues–a very welcome change. Thanks so much for your concern!

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  11. Oh no. Apart from the gap of uncertainty, it’s also that shock when something comes out of the blue. I’ve just seen your comment to Lydia that your husband is now in a wonderful job. Thank goodness, and also a little signpost that shows what’s meant for us, will eventually come our way in some form or another. Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeam 🙂

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