We all go through hardships at some point in life. If we aren’t careful, those times can lead to feelings of hopelessness. On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast, I chatted with Julie Holmquist about how to maintain hope in the midst of hardship or difficulties. If you missed it, you can listen to it here (Hope in the Midst of Hardship – Episode 80). Julie and her family have experienced some difficult times, especially recently. So I asked Julie to share here seven ways to keep hope in the midst of unwanted transition.
7 Ways to Keep Hope in the Midst of Unwanted Transition
by Julie Holmquist
A couple years ago, my husband had unexpectedly lost his job, and there weren’t any promising prospects on the horizon. We were living in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the time and didn’t want to move. It became painfully obvious, however, that there were no jobs for him there. After receiving dozens of rejection letters, we reluctantly expanded our job search outside our current city.
When my husband told me the ministry he had applied to work at in Charlotte, North Carolina was flying him out for a face-to-face interview, I cried (and not the good kind of tears). My boys cried. It was getting serious. Suddenly, we were faced with the very real possibility of uprooting our family from a city we not only loved but felt God had called us to just a few years earlier.
I felt like a child caught up in an exciting neighborhood game who was being called to come home for dinner. “But Dad…we just started playing this game. We haven’t even gotten to the fun part yet. Do I have to leave?”
Have you been there? Inevitable change is coming, but you want to shut your eyes and pretend like it isn’t?
Even though we had lived there for six years, it seemed like we had just gotten there, and life was just beginning to pick up momentum. Surely, we hadn’t fulfilled our reason for being there yet!
But when God says move, you move.
So there I was navigating an unwanted transition to a city I didn’t want to be in while trying to stay upbeat for my boys. How would I be able to move forward in what God had for us in Charlotte when I didn’t want to be there?
Would I ever feel at home?
Could I trust my heart and all of its hopes and dreams with Him again? After all, we moved to Colorado Springs with big dreams we felt He gave to us.
The answer to all those questions is a resounding YES!
Here are seven ways God taught me to keep hope alive during that season of unwanted transition:
1. Rehearse facets of God’s character that you KNOW to be true — not the ones you know about, but the ones you have come to know personally.
I don’t consider my experience with this relocation to be anywhere near on par with Job’s devastating life circumstances. But something he said has stuck with me the past couple years:
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
Something amazing happens when what you have heard about God suddenly becomes something you experience yourself. Head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. I knew in my head that God was good, but now I’ve experienced it. I knew in my head that He had plans and purposes for me, but now I’ve experienced them. I’ve not only heard about God’s faithfulness, but I’ve experienced it again and again.
When we rehearse facets of God’s character that we know to be true, that we’ve experienced in the past, we can trust Him for our future.
2. Sow seeds of hope into your future: Do things to keep hope alive in your heart. Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” As a nation, the Israelites were carried away into Babylonian captivity and were dealing with an unwanted transition, too.
Through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29), God assured them He had plans and purposes for them. Meanwhile, while they were in captivity, He encouraged them to build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce. He told them to marry and have sons and daughters, and give their sons and daughters in marriage so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number; do not decrease.
Everything God had told them to do was sowing seeds of hope into their future. When we find ourselves in an unwanted transition, we can sow seeds of hope into the future our good Father has for us, too.
We may never return to Colorado Springs like the Israelites went back to Jerusalem. But we still entrust our future to a good God whose hope for us is far more glorious than anything this life could offer.
We recently purchased a home and are sowing seeds of hope into our future in Charlotte. And when the boys ask us how long we will live here, we tell them, “We will live here until God moves us on.” We are teaching them to live a life of adventure with God and to not only survive this life but to thrive in whatever soil He places them.
Sowing seeds of hope into our future keeps hope alive in our hearts.
3. Beware of envy, jealousy and coveteousness. Scrolling through social media during this new season proved to be detrimental. In tiny little squares on my phone, I saw the perfectly planned out and seamlessly executed lives of others. I was jealous. “That was supposed to be my life, God.” But God had other plans.
Would I let go of what my plans were in order to wholeheartedly embrace His plans even if I didn’t know what they were? Could I trust a God Who wasn’t required to explain His actions to me? These were critical questions that required answers if I was to be firmly planted where He put me. Unless I let go of the plans I had for our lives, I would never be able to receive the ones He had.
Do away with envy, jealousy, and covetousness, so that He can infuse you with gratitude for where He has you and what your future holds.
4. Journal your feelings. An enormous task for anyone else, God took my emotional tangled up mess of disappointment and began the process of unraveling it. Initially, I vomited all my negative feelings of disappointment and confusion to my husband. He would offer his shoulder to cry on and his ear to listen, but he couldn’t fix it. All he could do was encourage me that we were supposed to be in Charlotte. I couldn’t live on his faith though. I had to wrestle with God, and make it my own. Journaling gave me the strength and courage to trust God and step into a future He called good, but I couldn’t see how it could be yet.
As you journal your feelings, you will see that the negative feelings have a chance to heal, and his peace, joy, and hope have room to take over.
5. Keep your heart pliable. When I first got to Charlotte, my heart was anything but pliable. The bitterness of disappointment stole my joy and my hope. My heart became hardened, and the bitterness affected everyone around me. I would cry when I saw my friends post pictures of their many Colorado adventures. My kids weren’t able to move forward either because their mom wasn’t able to. And with each minor mishap and little annoyance the mountain of evidence as to why moving to Charlotte was not a good idea grew.
Traffic jam? See, we weren’t supposed to move here.
School bus was late? I knew we weren’t supposed to be here.
It’s hot and humid? We didn’t have humidity in Colorado Springs.
When we will keep our heart pliable to the will, way, and timing of God, hope will arise.
6. Intentionally put the past in proper perspective. “Do not say, “’Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
I was lamenting the past. And even though I didn’t love everything about Colorado Springs, I had conveniently forgotten about the things I didn’t like. All I could think about was everything we were missing and what we left behind.
When we will look at the past as God’s good preparation for our future, our hope has room to grow.
7. Let your roots grow deeply in Christ, not in another person, place or thing. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
When your roots grow deep in Christ, if you have to endure another unwanted transition in life, and you will, you won’t feel so uprooted. You won’t experience shock from being transplanted. Your roots will continually be nourished and able to send nutrients to the rest of your life, producing fruit for others to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
When I finally surrendered and let God change me instead of my circumstances, I noticed my husband wasn’t as burdened. My kids started to see ways they loved in their new home and community. Because I’m firmly rooted in Christ, I know I can do hard things. I can enjoy looking at pictures and celebrating with friends their adventures without feeling a pang in my heart. Instead, I celebrate what was, enjoy what is, and look forward to what will be.
How do you keep hope in the midst of unwanted transition? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.