Our home is filled with Christmas lights. And nightlights. We don’t have little kids anymore and I’m not afraid of the dark. So why all the nightlights? Well, because I’ve stubbed and broken my toes too many times stumbling around in the dark trying to find my way . . . to the bathroom.
Who doesn’t stumble around in the dark, trying to find their way?
This world can be a very dark place, full of broken hearts in need of a glimmer of hope. So where do we find hope and comfort and joy when all seems dark, when we fear we are lost?
Anna, our 23 year-old daughter, is a woman-child. Absolutely beautiful, no one would ever suspect she has disabilities. Even those who know, they don’t know because they don’t live with her. They don’t know that she’ll never drive a car—that she’ll never live independently—that her father and I may need to place her in a group home shortly because she’s not thriving in her assisted living apartment—that on top of all her cognitive disabilities, she had her first stay in a locked “behavioral health unit” (a.k.a. “psych ward”) last May because she lost her mind. One would never suspect. And we’re not inclined to tell folks in a Christmas letter.
Anna is just one of our three Russian gems, roughed up before they took their first breath, and then roughed up some more in an orphanage where they waited years for a family. Who recovers from such roughing up?
One would never suspect what my husband and I have been through, how hard it has been to persevere, how we have been broken—as individuals—as a couple—as a family. Only a precious few know our whole story. Some things just can’t be told to any except the absolutely trustworthy who refuse to presume, ever.
Some things break us apart so completely that even chemistry changes. Some are blessed with strong constitutions, where brains are abundant with serotonin and norepinephrine and dopamine. Other brains aren’t so well-endowed. Some need nothing but faith to get by. Others need faith and a good dose of medication to just make it through the day.
Some have suffered little. Some have suffered much. All have suffered some.
But some just break right in two when life becomes—too—much . . .
Too much pain. Too much blame. Too much assuming.
Too little questioning. Too little listening.
Too much and too little makes for a big, gaping hole in a heart crying for filling.
So when I write about hope? I’ve learned from hard knocks—and soft but persistent knocking (Revelation 3:20) . . .
Some things will not change no matter what we do. Crime and poverty and sickness and death and divorce and abuse and all sorts of brokenness will be part of our experience always, this side of heaven. Sometimes it all piles on a soul to such an extent that even minds break right along with hearts. And the grieving seems never-ending.
Heaven help us!
It is what it is. No philosophy, no political party, no human sympathy will completely fix all the sad realities.
Yet . . .
We who believe in Jesus—we who are held by Him, our Savior—we do not grieve like those without hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve, alright. But we do not grieve without hope. We live with the reality of brokenness and all the emotions that accompany. Yet we know that Jesus Christ—crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended, and coming again for all He loves—we have hope beyond the brokenness of our lives. No matter how broken.
Because Jesus IS hope. He is our hope.
Even when we can’t see Him, feel Him, hold onto Him, Jesus holds onto us and infuses us with Himself. Even when we bleed out and all within us thinks surely we will die from the pain—He transfuses us with Himself.
And we are born again, again.
When I was sixteen, I witnessed a miraculous healing of a woman so close to me I called her my surrogate mother. She died and came back to life, literally. Her entire body was infected with cancer that began in both breasts, Stage IV. On her last day, in her dying moment, she saw Jesus as her soul left her body. But He sent her back to finish the work He had planned for her. She woke up on her hospital bed and told medical staff she had seen Jesus and was healed. Multiple tests confirmed. Not a single cell of cancer was found anywhere in her body and she walked out of the hospital that day, never to return until she died of congestive heart failure forty-some years later. I was with her, reading Psalms to her, before she passed. When I was sixteen, she had been born again—again—and so had my hope.
Sometimes God heals this side of heaven. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
And sometimes God doesn’t heal this side of heaven—not in the way we want. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I have two good friends who both buried their daughters two years ago. Both were ravaged by breast cancer. Both left young children behind as well as many other loved ones. Both my friends told me they’ll never be the same. They told me then. They told me again just last week. And yet they are both strong believers. They grieve, still, years after the funerals and burials. Yet they still hope—not for their daughters coming back to life. They hope in the One who conquered the grave—who came into this world where there was no room for Him in the inn of the town or the shadows of many hearts.
There was a need and they cried out.
Jesus heard. Jesus hears.
And He came and made room for Himself in the dark of their hearts. He made His own room because they gave Him a chance. They invited Him into their dark space.
We can still have Hope while we grieve here. We can have the solid Hope that never shifts or disappears. And when we’re scared, we always have a Light in the night to help us find our way to Comfort and Joy.
His name is Jesus. He is Comfort. He is Joy.
And we can have all of Him.
But room must be made. Not just a room. Not just an inn.
Sometimes our greatest loss is our greatest blessing because when we lose what’s most dear, room is created in our hearts and minds and souls. What a grace that Christ loves us so much that He will not let our hearts settle on lesser hopes, thinking we can be full-filled by them.
Not even a child can full-fill. Not unless that child is the Christ child. Fully human/fully God. God with us. Always. Never leaving. Never forsaking. Transforming every tear into joy, eventually. Filling every dark crevice with His glorious Light of comfort and joy, right now, even if we are still grieving.
Do you still grieve your loss, Broken Heart?
Let Hope hold you.
Jesus is standing at the door of your heart, knocking. Will you invite Him into your dark place, today and every day? Will you let Him comfort you with the only solid hope that exists?
You can stop your search. You can stop your trial-and-error approach to this life.
He stands at the door and knocks, right now. Will you let Him wipe away your tears today and assure you that, because He has overcome the grave, He will one day wipe every—cause—of tears—away?
He will. He promised.
He who overcame the grave is able.
Christmas is all about Hope being born, again and again, every day.
Anna and I sat side-by-side in the soprano section Monday night. We rehearsed “Hope is Born Again”. I gazed at her soft, sweet profile as she sang the words—as she sang in her perfect-pitch voice—as she sang praises to our Lord—this broken brain who loves Him—this woman-child with cognitive disabilities who can’t read music but, miraculously, sings every line perfectly.
She is stable.
Because Jesus was born in a stable.
And the least of us shall be the greatest. Because those who have nothing but Jesus? We have everything.
Our hope has been born again and again. Because Jesus was born. Because Jesus lives.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
There is holly ‘round the doorway
There is cider on the stove,
And the sound of psalm will fill the air
As the family gathers close.
Lift your voices high and sing—
Grace has entered in
Praises to the infant King
Hope is born again.
From “Hope is Born Again” by Jim Brickman