Where is your hope?

Last Modified: 1/22/2021


This post was written by Jana Vastbinder, chaplain, Parkview Health.

In the dictionary, the word “expectation” means, “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future,” or “a belief that someone will or should achieve something.” Many of us have been grieving our expectations for 2020. We believed last year would yield certain achievements. I expected my first year as a chaplain to be, in one phrase, “less complicated.” After starting at Parkview in December of 2019, I didn’t imagine I would have to relearn everything after three months.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have expectations. Some of us expected to have growth in our jobs, careers or pay stubs. Others expected to celebrate graduations or weddings with all their favorite people. Acknowledging milestones like the honoring of new life and the passing of lives well lived, looked different than ever before. We expected to have vacations, get-togethers, concerts or even just go to the movies or our favorite restaurant on occasion. We wanted to buy toilet paper! None of these things seemed like too much to ask. We hoped last year would have certain values and accomplishments that surprisingly became impossible to attain.

We may have had, or still have, expectations for 2021. Once the ball dropped on the new year, our problems were supposed to magically disappear. We wanted to see an end to the difficulties of 2020. We’re almost a month in, and some of us are already disappointed. We hoped for something else. In many ways, hope is similar to expectation. To expect is to assume, but hoping involves wishing or desiring certain outcomes.

As this last year brought unexpected circumstances, going into the new year I asked myself, “What am I putting my hope in?”

Have I been putting my hope in my job? In my health? In the people around me? In what I can and can’t do? As humans, we like to feel secure and in control. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we’re ultimately in control of our lives. In reality, most things are out of our control. And regardless of religious background, I think we can all admit we live in a hurting world full of imperfect people that will often let us down.

Hope is a good thing, but sometimes our preconceived ideas for how our lives might go get in the way of seeing growth, change and opportunity right in front of us. Assumptions block openness and creativity. Our expectations can hinder our view of unimaginable beauty.

While I’ve had to take time to acknowledge and grieve my expectations for the year, gratitude has also appeared as I reflected on what I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to grow in strength, resilience and perseverance. I didn’t expect to have time and space to reevaluate my priorities and how I spend my time. I didn’t expect to gain appreciation for the gifts of a good hug, coffee dates with friends, people-watching at the mall, and the energy of a crowd.

While I also didn’t expect to see such tragedy, stress, pain and hate, I valued the moments where I saw love, kindness, teamwork and generosity.

So, what are you putting your hope in? What can you put your hope in that won’t let you down this year? Or, can you shift your focus and, instead of worrying about all the things you can’t control, lean in to the things you can influence?

For example, I can choose to focus on what I’m grateful for today. I can view this period of time as a season, and just like seasons, these specific hardships won’t last forever. I can cherish the time I have with my loved ones, whether in person or through technology. I can embrace the opportunities for growth and hope these circumstances make us all a little stronger and kinder.

What can you put your hope in today?

Who can you put your hope in today?

Can you hope to grow in gratitude?

Can you hope to grow in humility as you acknowledge your lack of control?

Can you hope in being the person God called you to be, even if it’s not the person you planned to become?

Where is your hope?

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