Discouragement stands on my doorstep, relentlessly pounding to come in and invade my heart. I grip the handle with all my might and try to keep him out. But this week, for lots of varied reasons, fending off discouragement felt like a losing battle. These words that I wrote three years ago and read again this morning helped call me back to a place of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re fighting the battle against despair and discouragement, they’ll help you too.
About 24 years ago, my former pastor said “There’s no hope without waiting.” As a 24-year-old who’d just recently experienced my first major loss as an independent adult, those words sank deep into my heart and shaped my view of this faith journey. As I grew in faith and read the Bible more, especially passages like Lamentations 1-3, another truth dawned. Not only is there no hope without waiting, but there is no hope without pain. If we don’t experience pain, loss or need, we have no reason to hope. If we have every need met, every longing fulfilled, and every dream realized before even asking, we don’t experience hope. So, in my little mind, would life be better without a need for hope? Would life here be better without pain? Is that what heaven will be? We will live in the presence of every fulfillment so there will be no need to hope. What will that feel like? What replaces hope when there’s no need for it? Contentment? Fulfillment? Satisfaction? Peace?
I’m not sure. I’m just pondering. And, if I’m honest, I’m trying to hold on to hope in the midst of some hurts and fears. People betray and disappoint, uncertainty of the future rears its head, injustice seems unchecked and my heart and mind grow weary. But I want to live in a place of hope. I want to live as a person of hope.
There is pain and suffering and heart ache and the truth is, life can be hard. But I don’t want to live as if that’s all there is.
I want to be a person who lives and breathes and brings hope.
Back to Lamentations 1-3, if you read it, it’s painful. It’s about regrets, screw-ups, abandonment, disappointment and desertion. The writer despairs over his own people and their predicament. He despairs of his own life and feels alone in his suffering. He feels like everyone is letting him down and they (the nation of Israel) have let God down. There’s a sense of betrayal and bewilderment in his summary words:
The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Then, he follows with the oft-quoted words:
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
What would those beautiful words of hope be without the longing and despair that came before them? Hollow. Shallow. Trite. But because of his sense of loss, pain and longing for justice, the words are filled with trust and beauty. He writes his words in the midst of his burdens, not after them. He claims hope and salvation from the very place of his intense mental anguish.
The writer’s words–his faith–his hope–gives me hope for the day–hope right in the middle of confusion and hurt. How about you? What gives you hope for the day?