Several years ago I experienced something that completely shook my foundation of faith. While I hadn’t always managed to find a silver lining for situations that were hard or messy or hurtful, I had kept my grasp firm on my hope that eventually, at some point, things would get better.
Up to that point, I had never doubted that God was good and loving and in control.
Then something new occurred, and I lost my grip. As a writer who appreciates a good metaphor, I keep wanting to tell you my hope became like sand, slipping through my fingers. But the thing about sand is that, though nearly impossible to keep hold of, it also is quite difficult to get rid of. Anyone who’s ever gone to the beach (or allowed kids to play in a sandbox) knows that for days after walking in sand, you keep on finding it — on the floor, in your clothes, between the cushions of the couch. Sand might be slippery, but it does not disappear (even when you want it to).
So my hope wasn’t like sand, but it also wasn’t something I could access, much less hold onto anymore. At every turn, every revelation, every wound that came with the situation I’d never expected but could not avoid, I wondered why and how God would allow something so horrible.
I began questioning everything I’d held dear for a lifetime. I began fearing that I’d gotten it all wrong and that things would, in fact, never get better.
It all sounds quite dramatic now, but in the moment it was devastating. I wanted to hope, but I forgot how. And when I looked around for any signs of my hope I’d previously taken for granted, it could not be found. Hope was not like sand at all.
Throughout that season God never abandoned me. Though I couldn’t see Him, He was still there. I know because eventually my heart began to heal, and my perspective began to shift, and bit by bit I found hope again. I slowly began to steady and started seeing signs of Him all around. He hadn’t gone anywhere; I just hadn’t been able to find Him — or my hope in Him.
I’d love to tell you that was the end of my struggles to hope, but it was actually just the beginning. Over the last few years, since that catalyzing event, I’ve experienced and witnessed several other things that have rocked me to my core. Like so many of us, I’ve practically heard the play-by-play commentator shouting, “And the hits just! keep! coming!”
But unlike that first season of hopelessness, I have learned one thing: When our hope goes missing, we have to become detectives and look for it.
Just like a mom relentlessly tracking down every grain of sand her children’s hands and feet have left behind, so we must be committed to looking in every nook and cranny for hope.
Sometimes hope is big and bold and right in front of our faces. I think of the morning my daughter got baptized or the afternoon my husband and I started counseling. I think of time spent in Psalms or simply meditating on a favorite passage, like Lamentations 3:22-24, that reminds me of God’s new mercies given freely every day. I think of a clean bill of health, a job offer, a particularly inspiring Sunday morning service. Sometimes my hope is so tangible and familiar that I truly feel I can wrap my arms around it. I trust without a doubt — no matter what might be happening in the world, at home, or in my heart — that God is good, that He loves me, and that He has a good plan He will see through for my life.
But other times, hope is like those tiny grains of sand — or clues in a tricky mystery. Rather than believe it is not present or does not exist if we do not spot it easily, we must determine to pull out our magnifying glass and search for it.
Where? Well, each of us will likely find signs of hope — clues that God is still good and still loves us and is still in control — in different places. However, you might try looking for people doing good or people helping others, for flowers or vegetable gardens sprouting after a cold winter. Look for puppy videos. God didn’t have to make puppies, but He did! (Which might be a clue that He is good.) And if you aren’t a dog person, try otters. Otters holding hands — it gets me every time!
Look for sunsets and sunrises and wispy clouds and blanket clouds and skies that look so much like paintings that they actually take your breath away. Look for little kids giggling and old people dancing. Look for memes that so thoroughly capture the human experience that you can’t believe you didn’t think of them yourself.
Listen to music. Listen to the water. Listen to the cars passing by. Pay attention to the prime parking space you snagged at the last minute and the friend who texted just when you needed a kind word. Take a moment to notice the satisfaction of a finished project or a good book or a freshly vacuumed carpet.
Remember a kind word from the past, a gift that delighted you, a relationship reconciled, a scene from a movie that made you laugh out loud. Think back to the last time you were so moved by gratitude or appreciation that you clapped or shouted or simply uttered, “Thank you.”
Even when we begin to believe that our hope is gone, it’s not. We might just need to put on our detective’s hat and look for the clues.
Where have you found hope recently?