The very thing that gets you through the hard times. And the very thing that seems to slip through your fingers in the hard times.
Grief can make hope feel unattainable. Because grief often involves death and death is permanent. Where is hope in that, right? Hope inherently is the belief that things will get better. That better things are coming. But with death? Death is final. Death is severance. What hope is there for it to “get better” when the object of your desire is no longer an option?
Hope can be painful. In the midst of tragedy, it can feel like you are trying to deny or minimize what you are feeling. And if you are in that stage, that’s okay. I was there. Some days, I still am. Hope can be scary. It can even feel like a betrayal.
During my marriage, I went through some very dark, very painful seasons. Seasons that challenged my will to live. Seasons that felt like a knife in my heart. Yet, I could never remember losing hope because I knew God would somehow heal the situation and my hurt. I also had confidence the testimony would be used by Him.
But when my husband died? Goodness, hope felt as far-fetched as a unicorn. Let’s be real. How could the situation be healed?
What hope was there in knowing he was gone from this earth forever? How will that get better? What testimony was there in the fact that his vibrant personality, always willing to bring God glory, was eliminated from continuing its work? How will that get better? What hope was there in recouping from this painful blow if for the rest of this earthly life I would never see him? How does that get better? Right!
This pain…was so….permanent. What bright side was there? What light?
I would hear the Scripture that says not to grieve as those who have no hope. And I scoffed. Oh, sure, I have the hope of seeing him again. I have the hope that he is with the Lord. But how does that help me NOW. That hope doesn’t change the pain here. It doesn’t change the adjustments here. I could accept the idea of hope after death. But the hope IN death? That, I struggled with.
I actually felt a great burden by the thought of a testimony coming from his death. Because the burden fell on me. I felt that if God was going to get any glory from his death, it would have to be because I somehow managed to handle the pain with grace and strength, without wavering in my faith. And I knew I couldn’t. All I felt was a storm. All I felt was betrayal. All I felt was anguish. All I felt was death of the life I knew.
I’m beginning to see that a testimony can be found in the fact that I am weak… and in my willingness to admit it.
I’m beginning to understand that hope can sprout even after the soul has been broken. The seed dies and is buried before it bursts to life again.
I’m beginning to see that hope is fluid. It doesn’t have to stay in the same shape or remain in one objective alone. It can flow to other facets of life. It may not lie in my husband coming back. But maybe it can dwell in another “something better”.
(I am not talking about the biblical definition of hope, which is solid rock, but the practical definition)
And even saying that makes me feel I am somehow making his life with me, our life together, his fatherhood to our kids, like an easily replaced part of my life, which of course, isn’t true. But holding on to a hope in the form of that which can never be, only makes the heart bitter. Hope must morph or it isn’t hope. Without hope, the soul is sick.
One of my FAVORITE portions of scripture is in Jeremiah. (I love a lot of Jeremiah, but this one is especially cool). The Valley of Dry Bones. Because every single part of it is an analogy of hope.
The prophet was shown a valley, full of a dead army. Not rotting corpses, no. Dry…very dry…bones. This army was beyond dead. Beyond decomposing. Beyond fresh death with hope of revival. There was no blood, no muscle. It was dry and dusty. Death had been in place for a while.
And yet, God asks the prophet a silly, unfathomable question. “Can these bones…..live?”
Umm, God…(cough, cough)… they’re dead….really, really…. dead.
Just like my hope. Just like my love. Just like my expectation in life. Just like my fiery passion I used to have for You.
And on and on my list could go. Dead. Dry. Dusty. Lifeless. Hopeless.
And in all my weakness and numbness and bitterness and questions and loneliness, God asks me the same question. “But can these dry bones live?”
Gulp. My answer is pretty much the same as Jeremiah’s. The prophet says, “Only you know Lord.”
So God says, “Prophesy to these bones.”
(Can I just stop and say, I love that line. I don’t know, maybe because there are just loads of anticipation and expectation hung in those words. I mean, when God tells you to do something, it’s because He’s planning something, right?)
So God said to Jeremiah that He would cause breath to enter those bones. The rattle. The movement. As joint to joint fuse with ligaments and tendons. And they would be covered together with flesh and skin. And He “will put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Can you imagine the sound as this great army takes a unanimous breath?
Now, let me stop. There is something about coming back from the dead. I’m not talking physical death. But emotional, mental and spiritual death. The life that comes after is….transformed. Deeper. Stronger. When breath is finally breathed back in, the new life is just so….new.
I have known many, including my husband, whose passion for God came after devastation. Devastation that brought them low. What was rebirthed was something fierce and strong. Is it the well-manicured tree that is strong? Catered to with an environment that easily supplies its needs? Or is it the tree that has risen in the wilderness, which has been broken and ripped down by the storm, whose new growth is natural, wild and bushy? The faith and hope borne out of darkness, simply grows with different potency.
And so, in my dark tunnel, where it is hard for me to see the light or even understand its existence somewhere out of my reach right now, I cling to the knowledge that this…this right here…is what God does. My hope hinges on the fact that God brings life from death. Even the death of hope.
And God said, “And they say, ‘our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people….And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you…and I will put My spirit in you and you shall live. Then, you shall know that I am the Lord.” (ESV)
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.” (ESV)
Do you feel the hope in these words? Hope is potential. Hope is death. Hope is grand resurrection. Even in life altering, never wanted or expected, earth shattering… pain.
My hope cannot be for my previous life to be returned. Unfortunately. But my hope can be for this life I have to grow, untamed, into something strong and beautiful, tested by fire, with something to offer the world. A new vision. A new life. A new purpose. A new…..