by R.A. Reader
Where do you go when life is unbearable? See the possible in the impossible
|Promise of Hope
Starting my morning with Max Lucado's book Traveling Light, I opened to a chapter called "Howells and Whaddifs." Intrigued, I read on.
As I read, I feel a strong jolt of recognition in the words. They are speaking to me, about so many circumstances in my life and my family's life happening right now. And perhaps in yours as well...
My grandmother, always so vibrant and fun and one of my best friends, is now in hospice care with Alzheimer’s.She doesn't recognize me anymore, and has even become violent with her caretakers.
My son, away at college, struggles with classes in a way that, with his intelligence, he never imagined he would. And he also battles with another much more intense situation -- how to be the daddy he knows his one-year-old son needs while he continues his education three hours away.
My daughter, living with her boyfriend several states away. She worries about finding a job in her field of wildlife science; I worry about her wedding which my husband and I will need to finance in a little over a year.
My grandson, who is healthy and happy, but whom I am now unable to watch two days a week while his mother goes to college classes; I broke my heel and am on crutches and couch bound. My husband, who works so hard every day to support all of us, who never takes a break -- just returned from Texas last night, back at work with an ongoing cough that he's had for six weeks.
My niece, only 19, is in prison for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. My brother, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who is experiencing a messy and painful divorce. My mom, who is in the thick of it all in New Jersey with my brother and niece his young children. And as if that isn't enough, my mother's stepson, a 52-year-old alcoholic, is currently living with her and my stepfather.
And me. I haven't spoken to my father in months due to petty things that unconditional love should overcome. But we are both so stubborn. Dad is going on 70 now, and I don’t want to be separated from him in this way. According to him the ball is in my court and I owe him and his wife an apology for a list of things I hadn’t even realized offended them so deeply.
Back to what I read this morning...the point author Lucado makes is that all of our worrying and fear amounts to nothing, changes nothing. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:26-27) Yet how easy it is to give in to worry, which begets stress, which causes higher blood pressure and any number of ailments.
I look at the list of what I just finished sharing, and it is overwhelming. What a broad spectrum of situations! I wonder who will read what I write and nod, and say either "yes! I'm there now. I know. I'm worried sick." Or perhaps, "Yes. And I'm overcome with grief. I don't know where to turn."
Maybe someone else sees themselves in one of the people I've listed -- you are the alcoholic, the recovering drug addict, the prostitute desperate for her next fix. Maybe your situation is different, but the pain and helplessness is just as real…the husband or the wife working to support your family because your spouse is deployed, or sick, or not there at all. Maybe it is just you, alone and lonely and worried about what an empty looking future could hold for you. Or maybe I haven’t even touched on what your situation is. I know many are so much worse than I can even imagine.
I personally never planned to be spending so much time on a couch, ever. I'm always doing something, going somewhere. Not now. At least not for a while. Klutz that I am, and with poor night vision, I stepped in a ditch and fractured my heel. Extremely painful, yes. Discouraging, definitely. But nowhere near the pain and discouragement others are feeling. At least I know time will eventually heal me, even if I have to wait for a few months.
And the situations in my family I describe above? They have not been resolved. I'm not writing from the perspective of one who is "on top of it all" or one who has "conquered worry" or who has watched all the above circumstances suddenly become right. I'm where you are. (Or where you've been, or where you might be.) None of us can escape the misfortunes and horrible things that happen in this world. God (not a 'higher power', not 'positive energy',) but the one True God who created you for His purposes, in His image, wants you to tell Him about your situation, no matter what it is. Of course He already knows. But He wants you to talk to Him. Yell at Him, if you need to. He can take it! He's God! And not only can He take your yelling and anger at Him, but He's willing to take all of you. If you'll let Him. Only He can give you true peace, of heart and mind. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) Those are words spoken by Jesus. Words of encouragement and hope!
You can find so many more words of hope in plain sight if you only look in the right place. Here is an amazing true story I personally find inspiring when I am swamped by life: A group of men (they happened to be the disciples of Jesus) were in their boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had gone off to pray and told them He would meet them on the other side of the great body of water. While the disciples were in their boat, quite a distance from shore, the wind increased and so had the size of the waves around them. We are told that "shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the water." Well, the men were terrified! I mean, seeing a person walking through the waves is not an everyday occurrence, right? Jesus spoke to them to allay their fears, and told them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Peter, the most impulsive of the disciples, "immediately" asked Jesus to tell him to walk out to Him on the water. So Jesus said, "Come." Peter got down out of the boat, and walked on the water himself toward Jesus! Very important to remember here that we aren't referring to Jesus the prophet, or Jesus the good man, or Jesus the lunatic as some prefer to believe. This is a true story about Jesus, the Son of God. So initially Peter walked on the water himself. But then he took his eyes off of Jesus, the very One who was enabling him to walk on the water in the first place, and instead looked at the waves around him and felt the coldness of the wind and the water. When Peter did this, fear overtook him and he started to sink. Even though he was afraid, he still called out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!" And the Bible tells us that "immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him." -- my paraphrase of Matthew 14:28-31, everything in quotes coming directly from the Bible, New International Version.
What's the moral of that story, you might ask? Once you have given yourself to God, He won't let go of you. You may let go of Him, but He will still have you in the palm of His hand. Keep your eyes on Him, on Jesus, not on your sorrow, your grief, your pain, your addiction, your loneliness, your fear. He will hold you through it all.
God doesn't have to be a distant deity, or a vague higher power. (But we do have to remember that, as one preacher I knew once said, "God is not your butler in the sky.") Your answers may not be the ones you expect. The answers may not be ones you even like or understand. But God always answers those who truly seek Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Words of hope, promises made by God Himself, who always keeps His promises. That doesn't mean you will be free of all of your suffering. It does mean you don't have to go through it alone.
Have you picked up a Bible lately? You don't even have to go to a bookstore. You can find a Bible online, through your cell phone, your computer, your Nook or Kindle. Even in a hotel room, you'll find one in a drawer. In prison, you should not be denied a Bible if you request one. Most prisons have a library of sorts. You might be surprised at what you find in those pages. Different types of Bibles are available to help you better understand God's Word. When I received a Life Application Bible in the New International Version (NIV), it made all the difference in my own faith journey. Life Application Bibles explain the Jewish/Hebrew context of what is written as well as showing how what is written applies to our lives today. There is also a version of the Bible called The Message; it is written in everyday language, using a very informal writing style, so that reading it would be like reading an adventure novel written by a current author. Just because there are different "versions" of the Bible does NOT mean they all say something different. They all say the same powerful words of one Almighty God, written in ways to make understanding those words and how to apply them to our lives today easier for the individuals who read them.
I used to be one of the people (and I know there are many of you still out there) who believed that much of the Bible is outdated and can't apply to life today. I had to reach the lowest point in my life before I looked up, and knew that I literally couldn't survive without God. He is the only One who offers us true peace, and true hope. When I committed myself to a relationship with God through His Son Jesus, He opened my eyes so that I could see how wrong my beliefs were, and how to understand and apply the truths of His Word to life today. Truth does not change. Ever. We can't run away from it or ignore it. We aren't given that choice. And with that Truth, comes Hope. I am alive and thriving and living out that Truth and Hope each day of my life.
God desperately wants a relationship with you. Yes, you read that correctly! And you were created for a relationship with Him! Until you have said “yes” to God’s Son Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins that distance you from the very One who created you, you will always have and feel an emptiness inside. Sometimes we don't even realize we are missing something. However, each one of us consistently tries to satisfy ourselves with something, be it money, shopping, sex, activities, friends, pets, alcohol, drugs, food -- with anything but a relationship with our Creator, the only One who loves us more than we can ever imagine. Some of the aforementioned worldly things may seem good for a time, but none will truly satisfy and fill the space that is meant for God alone. Let these words of hope permeate your soul: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Hope is within your grasp! Even with all the difficult scenarios still playing out in my family's life and my own personal struggles, I can wake each day with the comfort of knowing in who my Hope lives. As long as my focus is upon
Jesus Christ, the waves of worry for my children and my mother, the tsunami of fear for my niece and brother, my sadness for my nieces and nephew involved in the divorce, in addition to the rise of tidal frustration and grief over my current separation from my father and stepmother, and my own personal physical pain cannot wash over me.
Why not pick up a Bible and begin reading about the Hope and Love that God has to offer you? Start with the Gospel of John, in the New Testament. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Worth a try, don’t you think?