I certainly never want to go through lymphoma again, or another 625 hours of chemo. But I’d also never trade the intimacy with God I gained through that time. In the most genuine love, joy, and peace I’d ever experienced, he walked with me through it every day. As my physical strength decreased, and my occasional “brain-fog” increased, those steps were mercifully slow, slow enough for me to finally understand hope is far more than a wish to be successful, happy, or even healed. It isn’t a feeling that fluctuates with circumstances and people’s behavior. Hope is a reality, a mindset of knowing God is good no matter what I’m facing. Hope is the language through which he reveals who he wants to be for me in my present circumstances, and who I’m becoming in him through them.
Expectations can be the antithesis of hope. When your peace hinges on what others do or don’t do (and how they do or don’t do it), your expectations, and even your faith, can become rooted in anticipation of disappointment. That negative expectancy erodes peace, joy, and your capacity to give and receive love. Eventually you have to protect yourself with walls built from your growing fears of failure, loss, and rejection, walls you have to maintain with your own limited strength.
In 1 Kings 19, when Elijah ran away from Jezebel after winning the battle with her minions, I don’t believe it was because he was afraid of her, or even of dying. His fervent expectation was that everyone, including the king and queen, would repent after God demonstrated his power. Elijah’s disappointment at the queen’s reaction was overwhelming, and he just ran. In a cave, many miles and tears away, God showed him the difference between expectation and hope. A gale-force wind, an earthquake, and a wild fire manifested in front of him. All of them carried an expectation of power, but God’s presence wasn’t in any of their destructive force. Then Elijah heard a whisper. The Lord spoke to him in a gentle voice of hope, restoring Elijah’s heart and strength, and renewing his purpose. He commissioned Elijah for the next part of his life, giving him instructions on how to influence the political realm, and where to begin equipping the next generation spiritually.
The world is always in some kind of turmoil, and the same selfish arrogance that drove Jezebel can be found in every city and nation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negative thoughts being projected all around you, and let the fear and rage of broken-spirited people put cracks in your own. Losing your hope in God, and replacing it with an expectation people will suddenly see and think like you, can be devastating and debilitating. Among the many things God is doing in this world, I see religious expectation being exposed. When people don’t respond to God the way you think they should, religious expectation often turns into self-righteous indignation, pronouncing judgments and prophesying destruction. It wants to call down fire and prove itself right. You can either let that bitterness and cynicism take over your heart and mind, or you can respond to God’s still, small voice.
If you’ve been living in some kind of disappointment, I believe God is saying it’s time for your revival. Sometimes that wonderful word can come with religious baggage, so I try to use it sparingly, and purposefully. And it is a purposeful, and perfect, word when God whispers it to you—inviting you to an equipping, encouraging, and empowering time between you and Jesus. That’s what’s different about this kind of revival. It’s not about a series of meetings at a church, or large stadium events. Those can be powerful, and have their place. But what I’m seeing is millions of people so connected to who Jesus Christ is for them, they live each day in joyful agreement with his every whisper. They’re so attuned to his heart, they immediately recognize the difference between hope and expectation, and choose to live in, and freely give away, all the hope, healing, wisdom, righteousness, peace, joy, grace, blessing, and love needed to transform lives, cities, and nations.
The enemy is always angry and hateful. But the answer isn’t to react with a more powerful anger and call it righteous indignation. Nor is it to run away in frustration, and abandon what God has given you to steward. The answer is to be so in love with Jesus, so secure in who you are in him, and so determined to live in demonstration of his love, no amount of anger, fear, lies, rejection, and hate can have any effect.
Take some time in the cave with God. Give him any anger, fear, and pain, and let them pass away like the storm, earthquake, and fire. They’ve done damage, but he’s restoring you. Listen for his whisper. He’s healing your heart, focusing your mind, and reviving your purpose. You aren’t too old, too young, or too late. You’re not a failure, not insignificant, and you’re not a disappointment. You are wholly loved, joyfully celebrated, enthusiastically commissioned, and completely resourced for your life in God.
Listen for his whisper—when you wake up, when you look at your phone, and when you encounter anyone—those who already love you, and those who hate the God of love you represent. Keep letting him revive faith, hope, and love in you, then keep giving them away. Give them away without expectation, until your personal revival becomes a viral reformation.