Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

When hope hurts, here’s what you need to do

I know, it happens every year.

I see the photos in my feeds, too: rings and flowers and first looks and all the trappings of idyllic wedding days. I can’t keep track of all the #bestdayever captions, the gorgeous honeymoon photos, or the engagement announcements.

As Jessica Faith says, “It can seem like all social media is conspiring against as we see photo after photo, status after status, announcing everyone’s dreams coming true and prayers being answered but our own.”

I’ve experienced this more often than I care to admit. But I’m also aware my own posts (like when I’ve posted about my marriage) can add to another’s ache. I’m sorry. I try to be conscious of your heart when I write or post on social media. It hasn’t been long since my own heart ached with loneliness when I saw others’ joy.

When one of my best friends got engaged, I got a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to drown my sorrows (cliché, right?). Then, there was the night I came home bone-weary from a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. I’d wept with joy watching my friend say her vows; I wept with loneliness in the bathtub that night.

Maybe it’s not about weddings and loneliness for you, but the child you long to hold in your arms. You just want to be a mama, but for some reason, you’re not there yet. You’ve endured the terrible loss of a baby, or are wrestling in the dark of infertility, or you’re waiting for the adoption to come through. Regardless, it’s the pain of unfulfilled longing.

Regardless of what we’re waiting for — love, motherhood, a promotion, a book deal, reconciled relationships — waiting is tough. When the desires of our heart take their sweet time coming, it makes us feel sick in our souls.

In the in-between, we know we should cling to hope. But sometimes, hope hurts and it’s difficult to believe. Our waiting isn’t always confident, cheerful, and strong.

We’ve heard hope is an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast. Still, an anchor can’t stop a storm. It won’t erase the ache or stop the waves. Instead, it keeps us from being driven along and dashed against the rocks.

Though hope may keep us from being driven by despair, there’s still tension. We’re suspended between believing in the desired future and accepting the here and now with all its highs and lows. So what do we do?

What to do when hope hurts

      1. Let it hurt. It’s okay to be honest about the pain of unfulfilled dreams. We don’t need to feel guilty or beat ourselves up for hurting. Denying pain and stuffing it down doesn’t bring healing or happiness.
      1. Remember good things. What seemed like it would never happen? How have good things surprised us? When I remember times that turned out well, I realize that tough times don’t last forever and that, even in the waiting, joy can surprise me.
      1. Realize we aren’t alone. No matter what we hope for, someone else longs for the same thing. It’s so easy to feel like the only one with delayed hope, but maybe others are just waiting for someone to be brave speak up. Whether we find those others at work, at church, or in a Facebook group, sharing the struggle is both needed and healing.
      1. Don’t let it consume us. There are times it seems all we think about is what we don’t have. The thing we’re waiting for can fill our thoughts, attention, and all our conversations. That’s the time to shift our attention to something we love about our lives right now. It could be hiking, hanging out with friends, painting, or a hundred other things. Our lives are big and beautiful now, so let’s not miss them.
    1. Look for beauty. When my heart aches with longing, I need to remember what’s good and kind and lovely in the world. Even if I only notice small things – sunlight on leaves, the quiet of the early morning, the colors of a sunset – my attention shifts to what is right and present in my life, instead of what feels wrong and missing.

Finally, cultivate joy.

Much of our lives is spent waiting; so far, mine has been. Waiting for the chance to travel, for a job I loved, for deep friendships, for wholeness, for love, for marriage, for kids…it never stops. Sometimes, it’s harder than others, like when everyone else seems to get the one thing we’re hoping for.

I’ve learned we can dig and draw from wells of joy in any season. Knowing where to find it, even in hard moments, will buoy hope like nothing else. I promise you, the effort is worth it. And it will make seasons when hope hurts that much brighter.

10 Replies

  1. Enjoyed Sarah, many people overlook hope yet may be be constantly depressed, or worse, suicidal. I believe you are at the end of your storage of ‘hope’, if you want to give up your life. If there was more sharing re hope in any art form, I think those who are down, thinking of giving up their lives, might reengage and find the hope they need. Thank you.

    1. It’s true, losing hope is a huge factor in depression and suicide. I’ve been there myself. Thank you for stopping by and for the kind words!

  2. So true, Sarah!
    The more active (and effective) we LOOK FOR BEAUTY every single day, we discover contentment. Not that it drowns dreams. To the contrary. It helps keep us healthy, enable us to keep dreaming and take steps to realize those dreams. At least some of them … Action is needed.

    1. It’s tough to remember, but it makes all the difference. Thanks, Danie!

  3. Mandi110207

    Well, it’s New Year’s Day and minus the holiday and the past year…. the past 20 yrs have absolutely sucked! I’ve never felt more alone today than the entirety of the yrs I’ve felt this emptiness inside. I’ve always felt I wasn’t meant to be on earth at this time…ive never felt like others if that makes sense. The depression has become manic and I’m overwhelmed with the circumstances surrounding my life… Most I’m the only one to blame. I have to deal and pay for the self destructive consequences I’ve caused due to my own selfish and some, unintentional actions I’ve caused. I’ve never hurt anyone else, just myself and have no answers as to why other than the loniness I’ve endured for way too long. The only thing preventing me from plunging and plummeting into my final destination is my mom… She’s unstable and can’t bare being the reason she hurts herself or drinks herself into a slow, unnecessary death.

    I relate to so many of your posts and must say your words help immensely and I am grateful for discovering your website. Thank you for your words and as I’ve ways tried to stay positive through all the crud in life and will continue to use some of the techniques and suggestions you’ve stated. Blessings to all those struggling right now and for them to see the light no matter how dim it may seem and to you Sarah, thank you again for graciously helping so many others!

  4. Angie

    Thank you for your honesty and sensitivity. There have been many times when I felt like I was never going to get back out of the pit I was in. It helps to remember that eventually, I will climb back out into the light. I think your first point above, to give yourself permission to let it hurt, has been a hard one for me. I tend to want to push through, push it down, push it aside, do anything but actually sit in the moment and FEEL it. I guess I’m always afraid that if I allow myself to start crying, I’ll never stop, and the tenuous hold I have on continuing to function will crumble away. Faking my way through the hard times has never really worked.

  5. CoolZoneFly

    I would like to thank you all for your posts. These writings have been helpful for me. God bless, and peace to all….

  6. Kenni

    Thank you for this message. It brought peace to me and helped me recognize I can get through this. While hope is what is getting me through this time, it’s also my biggest source of pain. It’s helpful to know that all is not lost…

  7. Horacio Conejo

    Sorry, but what a load of BS. Can you say honestly that any of those vapid recommendations actually helped you at your darkest, loneliest hours? I’ve heard this advice before: after the pain is over because you finally found someone, you recommend that others do what you could not do: find solace in allowing ourselves to feel; and just be happy. The advice is an insult to people who are truly in pain that they cannot escape.

  8. lindsay_jones

    (Glad to win my (Ex) back)…….

    Thank you ❤️

    VIA_________________DR_M A C K @YA H O O… CO M,,,,,,,

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