What is the most awful sound in the world? My heart was very saddened when I heard this particular answer: it is the sound of silence in an orphanage. Silence means the babies have given up crying. Why would babies give up crying; isn’t that what they do? Its because they have lost all hope that anyone will hear their cries and attend to their needs. (1)
I got to musing about this because I have a two year old in my home again (her siblings are 15 & 13). I’ve never before thought about the sound of crying actually being the sound of hope. But it is. When Anna was a newborn and cried during the night from a hungry tummy, she was hopeful I would come quickly to nurse her. As a two year old, she might now cry over some injustice or maybe because she is hurt. Her crying indicates her hopeful heart: that I will attend to her needs. And, I do…. And, therefore, she keeps crying.
I realized that at times I have been like the babies in the silent orphanage. At one particular point in my life, I felt utterly hopeless.
During that hopeless season, I remember buying one of those decorative metal signs that simply read, “Hope.” Though I didn’t feel any hope at that time and was struggling with what hope even meant, I bought it…Besides, it was a really cute decoration.
On my 40th birthday, I clearly recall sitting on my front porch in the beautiful autumn air with a cup of cappuccino, just enjoying the stunning view of Pikes Peak. It was on that momentous birthday that I decided to begin crying again. I called out to God and told Him I wanted things to be different in my life. Though I cannot say I was filled with a sudden burst of hope, I did begin to cry. And that crying was the first step to God’s miraculous healing in my life. Hope is like that, it can be birthed within you as a tiny seed even with just a small step or goal that is in front of you.
When babies cry, they have to wait. But, it isn’t a passive waiting. It is a passionate, anticipating knowing. The connection between hope and waiting is beautifully expressed by Jacob on his death bed, as he gave blessings to each of his 12 children. After Dan’s blessing, Jacob interrupts his blessings and exclaims, “For your salvation I wait, O LORD.” (2) If you could read the text in Hebrew, you would understand that Jacob is saying, “For your salvation (Jesus) I hope, O LORD. (3) The idea is that Jacob was passionately waiting for God to send His salvation because he knew it was a for sure thing that he desired to see even in his own day. This kind of hope is not “a passive waiting, as if waiting for the bus to arrive. It is an ache for (Messiah’s) coming. We pine away for Him like a young betrothed virgin longs for the return of her fiancé from a foreign land.” (4)
From Jacob we learn that we cannot just wait around without acting. Hope is not lazy…. it takes effort to cry. Nor is hope wishful thinking or a naive false desire. It isn’t crossing your fingers either. The psychologist C.R. Snyder linked hope to the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal. (5) When I sat on my porch that birthday and began crying out to God, I had a very determined plan for reaching my goal. I knew I couldn’t just sit around waiting for something to change.
Just a few days later, I took another step and went to a Women of Faith conference where I was introduced to Andy Andrews, whose books God used to get me out of the depression and hopelessness I was mired in. From there, it was “baby step” after “baby step” of obeying, fasting, praying and showing up, especially when I didn’t feel like it.
When babies cry, they put everything they’ve got into making sure you hear them. Then, they hope, and they actively wait (usually with more wailing!). When they’ve waited so long that exhaustion takes over repeatedly, they will lose hope and give up the effort of crying. This type of waiting/hope is not so with God. We can be assured that He will keep His promises. Because of this, we can keep crying out to Him, knowing He hears us and trusting that when the time is exactly right, He will take care of it.
One more thing that is different with God than with us human beings: the sound of crying in His ears is not irritating. It is the sound He longs to hear from us. I’ve begun thinking differently about my two year old when I hear her crying. Instead of being annoyed or exasperated, I remind myself that crying is the sound of hopeful expectation. If I, though being evil, can hear her cries and do something about her distress, how much more so will my Father Who is in Heaven.
The “Hope” sign that I bought many years ago is a reminder to me. It reminds me of a hopeless time in my life and how I can now maintain hope when things get rough. It’d be kind of weird if I put up a sign that said, “Cry!” but it would mean the same thing.
When is the last time your Father heard your wails of hope? Or have you, like the babies in a silent orphanage, forgotten Who your Father is and given up crying?