I recently began a bible study for the Advent season. The study opens with the theme of Hope. God’s people were weary and they were holding onto hope during their time of despair. God’s people were weary at this time because they felt God was silent, a feeling of abandonment. It was the Intertestamental Period, the time between when the Old Testament ends and the New Testament begins, and it spanned 400 years.

As he always does, God had a plan. Romans 8:18-25 was referenced as evidencing God was “frustrating” his people to create the sense of Hope within them. That way, the Joy of Jesus’ birth would be much greater since they had grown weary.

For reflection, the study wanted the reader to take time during Advent to consider their own season of feeling abandoned and then recognize what God’s plan was and what Joy was revealed. One situation immediately jumped out in my head. Coincidentally (or maybe not), it was the time of my son’s birth. Here is the story of when I felt abandoned:

My son was born in August 2006. I had passed my due date by a week and went to the doctor early on a Monday morning. She decided to send me straight to the hospital to be induced. I quickly went home and got my things and off my husband and I went to the hospital. It was about 10:00 am that Monday when they started my inducement. I had some sort of reaction to the Pitocin and began vomiting within the hour. Bless the nurse whose duty was to stand and hold my bucket for hours. Things did not move along quickly at all. My parents (they lived about 20 minutes away) stopped by that evening but since nothing was really happening yet they decided to go get supper and go home. Later that night my doctor broke my water and things started to move along a little quicker after that. I was in hard labor by about 4:00 am (still vomiting). After about 5 hours of hard labor, my blood pressure was going down rapidly (it is naturally low anyways) and my son was basically stuck (I am 5’2” and he was over 9 pounds). So, the doctors decided to do a C-section. The C-section went according to plan and a beautiful, healthy baby boy was born. However, my blood pressure was dangerously low after the surgery. My husband and son were taken away and I was taken to another room. While it remained very low, it came up enough to no longer be considered dangerous and I was moved to a recovery room. I had this “suit” that they put me in that helped my circulation and I remained on IVs. It was later Tuesday afternoon before I went to my recovery room and my husband and son were there waiting on me. My mom stopped by once I was in my room and got to meet her first (and only) grandchild. The nurses ran everyone out after a short visit  since I was still in rough shape and had not even been allowed to stand or walk yet because of my blood pressure.

On Wednesday morning, I was still in my “suit” and still on IVs and had developed a chest cold (thank goodness it only became bronchitis and not pneumonia). My blood pressure was more stable, although still quite low. I felt like I had been hit by a bus but my husband and I were so overjoyed with our beautiful son that I didn’t even focus on how weak I truly was. My parents stopped by mid morning and that is when my joyful heart was broken. My dad walked in with a stack of paperwork (I was the CPA for the family business) and sat it down on my bed and told my husband that there were FedEx envelopes included so he could drop the paperwork out when I was finished with it. Remember, I haven’t even been allowed to stand and walk yet! My husband had a look of “you’ve got to be kidding me” on his face but neither of us said a word. My husband was holding my son when they walked in and my mom took him and held him. As I thumbed through the paperwork, I noticed my dad was just sitting quietly but seemed very anxious. “Do you want to hold him, dad?” I asked. I will never forget the response as long as I live. “No, not now. Susan, we’ve got to get going.” I looked up at my mom and said “where are you in such a hurry to go? You just got here.” “Ahh, Monterey for the race” she replied in a tone that I should have known her answer. “You are still going to the race the day after your grandchild was born and with me in this bad of shape?” “You’re fine and I have first class seats that I am not giving up. Plus, I need some retail therapy and the shopping there is great.” And my parents just walked out the door and left. I could see how angry my husband was but he knew I didn’t need to hear his opinion and he simply just held my hand and said “I’m sorry.”

I’ve never had such an overwhelming range of emotions. On one hand I had the joy of being a new mom! The joy of experiencing a love unlike any love I had ever known. And that love made it so hard for me to fathom how my own parents could just abandon me during this time. Why didn’t they want to spend this time with their grandson? Mentally, I just couldn’t process it. I had always seen my friend’s moms being right there the whole time. Helping in any way they could; laundry, cooking dinner, walking the dog, etc. Why was a race, and first class tickets, and shopping more important than the birth of their grandson? Being physically sick just made it all the more difficult.

As I have reflected over the years, I have asked why so many times. I think God’s plan for me from this abandonment was to recognize my own family, my husband and my son, as my greatest love and priority. Even though I was married, I had continued to live under-thumb of my parents and had not made a separation for my own family. Since I worked in the family business and had always been one to just fulfill the expectations of others, nothing had changed in the family dynamic once I was married. I still lived day in and day out doing as my parents wanted and expected rather than truly creating and focusing on my own family. It was time for my family to be first. I had a new job in life of being a mom and my priorities and my love were now focused on my son and husband.

My time of despair was much shorter than 400 years even though it didn’t feel that way at the time. When you feel abandoned, you question the love. Is there actually genuine love? When you don’t know the answer to a question like that it is definitely a feeling of despair. And in despair, we grasp to Hope. Hope is a desire for a certain thing to happen. My Hope at this time was to feel loved and wanted and important. And just like the advent season, my season of despair and Hope turned to a season, a much longer and still continuing season, of Love and Joy! The love of my boys became a more powerful emotion than I ever thought possible. God let me feel abandoned so I could recognize and focus on the love of my own family.

If you are currently in a season of despair, be faithful in your Hope. Be faithful in God’s plan for you. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”