by Kat Armstrong
After twelve years serving as the executive director of an organization helping women connect their work and faith, I was excited to shift roles and pass the baton. Our board of directors had spent two years transitioning planning to pass the day-to-day operation to the new director, but on the very first day of her new role: shelter-at-home orders were issued. Any hand-over would now have to take place on Zoom. Pivot. We had forty in-person events on the calendar, which disappeared overnight. Poof.
We were all scrambling. Training my successor via Zoom was not my preference, and when this is all over I hope to never again host another virtual meeting. Now when I see the Zoom alert that says, “Your internet connection is unstable,” I have to smile at what feels like a metaphor for life. Instability is our new reality, but we can still live up to our calling to stay hopeful in unpredictable times.
As paradoxical as it may sound, in my pursuit of hope I’m embracing two spiritual practices I usually try to avoid. Step one, I’ve been intentional to lament my losses. Step two, I’ve purposed to repent when I notice my lack of faith. Both these practices might seem counterintuitive, but lamenting and repenting are filling my life with unexplainable hope.
As a woman, I can be so practiced lifting everyone else around me, that I run the risk of not being honest when I feel low myself. Yet the scriptures had good news for me, showing great leaders crying out to God for help. When some of the godly leaders in the bible shook their fist to the sky and questioned God’s faithfulness and his plan, they were not met with rebuke but rather compassion. As I realized there were things I was resisting grieving, I brought that sorrow to Jesus, naming my disappointment at not being able to finish my job as I'd hoped to, and the sadness of canceling events I'd planned and looked forward to like the in-person events we had planned all over the nation. I believe lament is not an act of faithlessness; it is proof I have faith in God to turn my mourning into dancing. And that brings me great hope. When I am lamenting I found myself often turning to one of David's laments in Psalm 13:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I store up anxious concerns within me,
agony in my mind every day?...
Restore brightness to my eyes;
otherwise, I will sleep in death....
But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the Lord
because he has treated me generously. (Psalm 13:1–3, 5–6, csb)
In the midst of adjusting to the pandemic and being dizzy from all the pivoting at work, I realized I was not trusting God the way I had in the past. He’s never failed me. His character hasn’t changed. He remains unmoved by all the chaos in our lives as the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). But last year I was so practiced in disappointment I started to resist feelings of faith to try and protect myself from further discouragement.
Turns out, foreboding a bright future left me feeling hopeless instead of disappointment-free. I turned inward and started asking Jesus where I was lacking in faith. Sometimes that led to some heated discussion with my savior about what felt safe to hope for but ultimately, I’ve found that expressing my lack of faith is an act of faith. When I am repenting for a lack of faith that my future could and will be different, or that what feels like has been taken from me will never be restored, I often repeat the words of a grief-stricken father in Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” Repentance used to feel like a chore, like a call to raise a white flag in defeat. Turns out, surrender is liberating. Every time I identify and turn away from the belief that God has forgotten about me and my struggles, I find unexplainable hope.
Not even a global pandemic could mess with God’s timing and plans. The Polished Network, our organization, was perfectly positioned to share the gospel with professional women for such a time as this through a video series called Sheroes of the Faith.
What we had planned to be in-person events featuring female Bible scholars, theologians, pastors, authors, and licensed professional counselors morphed into online Zoom webinars and video recordings that ended up reaching over five thousand more women with the gospel than expected. I never could have imagined the global reach of those hope-filled online events. Which led me back to lament and repentance. I lamented not trusting God for the things I couldn’t imagine and repented from my lack of faith. By God’s grace he has forgiven me, commissioned me, and filled me with hope.
Kat Armstrong was born in Houston, Texas, where the humidity ruins her curls. She is a powerful voice in our generation as sought-after communicator. She is the cofounder of The Polished Network and holds a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the author of No More Holding Back and The In-Between Place. She and her husband, Aaron, have been married for eighteen years and live in Dallas, Texas, with their son, Caleb, and attend Dallas Bible Church, where Aaron serves as the lead pastor. You can connect with Kat on Instagram.