I am a problem solver…by nature and by training. In fact, in high school one of my favorite electives was “Problem Solving”. Every week we were introduced to a fictitious scenario and were tasked to analyze the situation, evaluate options and their probable results, and recommend a resolution. I loved it! It gave me confidence that no matter how great the problem, no matter how hopeless the situation, it wasn’t anything a little time and careful evaluation couldn’t resolve. As a result, I had a steady attitude of hopefulness; confidence that whatever life brought my way, I could handle it. There was some pride that came along with the hope I placed in my problem solving skills. This was exacerbated by the fact that my skills often produced very favorable results. Even friends noticed my cool, calm, and confident response to the unexpected calamities of life.
Yes, I was the Princess of Problem Solving and there was peace and hope in my kingdom…for a time.
About 3 months before graduating from college I noticed that I hadn’t heard from any of the grad schools to which I applied. I thought it odd but decided to give it another week. After all, I diligently practiced one of the key principles of problem solving, preventive planning. I had thoroughly reviewed each application checklist three times. I provided pre-printed envelopes with extra postage to everyone supplying a reference letter. I even turned in my applications several weeks before the due dates and made multiple copies.
Two weeks came and went and still no word from any of the schools. I decided to follow-up. It took about a week and a half to get a firm response on my inquiries. The schools reported they never received my applications. No problem, I had copies. I offered to scan or fax it over. But they needed original signatures on some forms. No problem, FedEx was in walking distance, I could overnight it. But they also didn’t have a record of my original transcripts. No problem, I had friends in administration and could swing by to pick up sealed copies and include in the overnight shipment. After no further objections, I swung my plan in to action. The next day I received the delivery confirmation email from FedEx. It looked like everything was back on track. I felt hopeful and confident that everything would work out now. But the hope was short-lived after another series of follow-up calls revealed a shocking new issue; all of my applications were listed as incomplete. But why? Not one of my three sets of reference letters could be found. I was advised to apply again next year. I unleashed a barrage of pleas, persuasive tactics, and polite bribery but to no avail. The application period was closed. Disappointed but determined, I began job hunting. I had work experience, I had a resume, I had references, I had hope. And off I went, with 50 days to secure a job and a place to live by graduation.
On day 50 I graduated with honors and dual degrees from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. On day 51 I packed all my worldly possessions into my car and moved into the living room floor of a friend’s apartment that she was sharing with another roommate. On day 52 I started the only job I was offered as a receptionist making $8 per hour on a week-to-week contract.
The Princess had been dethroned.
My cool, calm, and confident demeanor was replaced with anxiety, weariness, and a lot of resentment. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was not at fault for anything. How did it all go wrong? Why was everyone and everything so unfair and unjust to me? Why had God abandoned me to this miserable and humiliating situation? I was dejected, disappointed, and fresh out of ideas to fix my problems. I was miserably hopeless.
As the weeks went by I sunk further into hopelessness. I could barely pray but I tried, repeating the same query over and over, “Where’s the hope?” Suddenly, it became clear. I hadn’t lost hope, I never had it. You see, I had been treating hope like something I could manufacture by doing all the right things at the right time. But that’s putting hope in myself which is no real hope at all. “So what’s hope, just wishing really hard for something?”, I thought cynically to myself. But I was asking the wrong question. It’s not a question of what is hope but who.
Psalm 39:7 reads:
But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.
My concept of hope had always been a product of confidence in my abilities to make certain outcomes happen. But when I learned that God is my hope, the concept of hope became a product of my confidence in God’s character and goodness towards me. With God as my hope I could see my circumstances and their outcomes through the lens of eternity and not just my temporal desires. My hope began to shift from seeking a new circumstance, to seeking God, a good and loving God, to be with me and guide me in my present circumstance.
After this revelation, I can’t say my circumstances changed for the better immediately, but I certainly did. I was now hopeless in my own abilities to change my situation but happy to have real hope in the One who would sustain and keep me, even if nothing changed but me.
Where do you place hope? When life’s calamities happen who or what do you go to first? What makes it hard for you to put hope in God alone?
Now that you have finished reading it’s time to SyncUP with God. Start by reviewing this week’s “SyncUP Guide” below. It provides 5 daily guides on scripture reading, reflection questions, life application steps, and prayers to help you have your own daily SyncUps with God for the rest of the week. DON’T FREAK OUT…if doing all 5 this week is overwhelming, set a goal of 2 or 3 and work your way up from there. Enjoy and God Bless!