Where do I start? Last week started with our 21 year old daughter being accosted in a parking lot and a police report being filed. The next day our 19 year old son stomped out with suitcase in hand because he was tired of our rules. (He came back shortly.) My husband was gone to Scout Camp with our 15 year old for the week. The house looks like a bomb went off—dirty clothes piled high, waiting for washing—clean clothes on sofa and tables, waiting for folding—dishes in dishwasher, waiting for unloading—pots and pans in sink, waiting for scrubbing—piles of paper, waiting for sorting—sticky floors. And that was just the inside.
Outside? How do gardens get so far gone when I’m gone for only one week? Quack grass ran rampant, infesting every bed. Thistles with hand-hurting prickly stems stood three feet high, some hiding out in the middle of perennials. Clover spread wide, weaving in and out of plants. Over grown grass that took two cuttings.
How is it that sometimes my external life mimics my internal life? Sometimes I feel just plain overwhelmed and tempted to throw in that dirty towel and quit. Where do I start?
Kids with special needs requiring more care than average. Friends suffering with cancer—and kids with special needs like ours—and divorce—and grief from adult kids who died—and inability to get jobs and—friendships and other relationships that have changed forever, it seems . . . .
Life is hard.
Where do I start to deal with the hard clay of life that won’t let a shovel penetrate though I try and pry it open with all my might? When I put all my weight into the difficult and find I just can’t cope with it all, even with all my strength? Do I despair? Do I give up?
I feel like it.
I feel like going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head and hiding from all the trouble. But it’s 85 degrees and humid and pulling the covers over my head isn’t all that comfortable either.
Where do I go?
I go to God. I pray. Sometimes my last step reminds me that He should have been my first step.
And isn’t this the beauty of brokenness? That when life piles up trouble, when the day-to-day oozes pain, it’s the pain that can propel us into the arms of God—the One who IS strong enough to carry us through?
In all my years of counseling, I’ve noticed that the most important thing which all hurting people seek is hope .
If people have hope, they can walk on.
If people have hope, they can carry on.
Because hope infuses with life when our sap runs dry and the weeds threaten to choke. Hope is what we have to hold onto in the dark.
But what if we can’t see hope in the dark?
What if I’m just too nearsighted or blind and so weak I can’t even hold hope?
God stands knocking.
Why do I wait so long to open the door? Because I want tangible. That’s why. And God often gives what we can hear and touch because . . .
God comes calling through others.
God comes calling through the heart and voice and hands of others who can hold hope for me when I can’t hold it for myself. This hope-holding is what good counselors do. It’s what good friends do. We hold hope for the hurting. And when I’m hurting, I need a good friend to hold hope and sometimes . . .
I just need a good friend to hold ME. A hug from someone who loves and isn’t afraid of a big burden and who can take just a piece of me and hold it for a moment. Even over the phone.
We did that last night, a good friend and I. We sat for an hour, exchanging stories of our week over the phone. Years ago, God brought this friend to me, and me to her. We relate. We have a similar situation that’s difficult for anyone else to understand. We listen and empathize and sometimes offer advice. But mostly we listen with nodding heads we can feel over the phone but can’t see. Sometimes we even laugh with understanding. And we know that, barring some miracle of God, our situation is not going to change much, if any, over the years to come. Sometimes life hands us difficulties that don’t change and so we must do the changing in response to our difficulties.
My friend and I, we have changed over the past eight years of knowing each other. Our faith has grown. Our ability to reach out and be comforted by others has grown. Our willingness to involve others who can offer some help has grown. Life has humbled us and softened us and that’s a good thing. But what’s best is knowing that, no matter what, God sees us through and never ever leaves us alone. He sees us through. Now we know, come what may, we may not know HOW God will pull us through, but we know He WILL.
God is our hope. When my back is up against the Red Sea of life circumstances that seem impossible, our God makes a way possible. What greater hope is there? The God who makes the seas can command them to do his bidding. God may not remove the sea of difficulty, but He always parts the sea and leads us through. ALWAYS.
Removing difficulties may not be God’s highest priority. Guiding us THROUGH the difficulties, allowing the high and rough waters to grow faith and hope and love—now THIS goal seems more in line with God’s priorities. Sometimes God withholds easy and gives us what’s best. Because, after all, is there anything better in life than the presence of God and the gift of love He gives through others? And it’s in the difficult, the tumultuous, the seemingly impossible, that we see the Great I AM—the One who holds all hope in His hand.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever. Psalm 146:5-6