Hope Stands in Defiance

Hope Stands in Defiance

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” Marcus Aurelius

The color of the sky shifts with the wind. One moment the sky is gray. The next minute it is blue. Last night I stood and stared at the post-sunset sky and marveled at the varying shades of gray. Great billowy white clouds had marked the day, but in the night they were more ominous as they punctuated a restless sky. As cooler winds chased away warmer temperatures, I search for the waxing crescent moon but instead found only a tapestry of cloud cover. Still, my hopeful heart was undaunted. I knew the moon and stars were only out of sight and not gone forever.

I have struggled in recent days to feel hopeful. Not unlike those heavy clouds, the stresses of life have been threatening. Events like the death of a good friend, deadlines at work and anxiety that causes restless nights. My would-be productive days are instead wrecked by exhaustion. I’m certain the dear reader could insert his or her own set of faltering circumstances. Beth Moore’s beloved bird dog was torn apart by coyotes. Others watch a child endure painful cancer treatments. Death looms. When it strikes it forces us to pause and grieve, but then we have to go on living.

Have you ever grown tired of your circumstances, thrown your hands into the air and said, “I’m done!”? I had a moment recently when disappointment fueled a sharp burst of anger and prompted me to collapse into my chair. My thoughts caved in like an avalanche, along with my steely resolve. I said to myself, “What am I doing here? I don’t like this place. It’s messy and uncomfortable. I want to leave!” I looked out of the window at a blue sky and was tempted to run. The problem is, I may be able to run away from my location but I can’t run away from myself.

Knowing that I should not physically run away at that point in time, my mind drifted to other “reliefs”. Wave after wave of wanting ice cream swept over me and I was overwhelmed with desire. I know in my mind, however, that ice cream will not fix my situation. And so I buckled myself into my uncomfortable seat and prayed, “God help me!” And when the feelings did not subsist, I turned to the walls around me, screaming in my mind for relief. Such was the weight on my shoulders that I wondered how I could possibly move forward and not give in.

The book of 2 Corinthians starts with, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…” I read and re-read those words. One could say I chewed on them. And, if I am to be totally candid, I held onto a cookie. I wanted to trust God to walk with me down the painful path but I needed the cookie too. I stood at the edge of an emotional cliff and knew I had to decide to stand firm or jump.

white castle shakeI know what jumping feels like and so I reviewed the many years I spent “jumping”. In the blink of an eye I saw myself lying in bed with M&M’s. I saw the White Castle chocolate shakes and romantic comedies. I saw Molly Ringwald, Eric Stolz, and Johnny Depp. They promised an escape which never came. I saw failed relationships on which I had hung so much hope. I saw sex and babies and the shiny new job that was so filled with promise. And that is when, with great determination, I turned away from the cliff.

The comfort spoken of in 2 Corinthians is real and true but it does not always relieve the physical agonies we face. The burden of depression and anxiety, for example, do not respond well to words written on a page. They argue back. And that is why this past Sunday morning I peeled myself from beneath my bed sheets and climbed aboard my bicycle rather than going to church. I needed medicine that would not be found among people. I find no guilt in resting on Sunday, even if the rest is only for my mind. I put on my favorite audible book and listened to the story of one of my heroes, Jim Elliott, and his singleness of purpose to live his life fully to the glory of God. When I lose hope it helps me to look to the encouraging stories of others who have persevered and pushed through.

Now maybe you are reading this and thinking that the Bible is not true and filled with inaccuracies. Or maybe you believe there is no God. And you might even think I’m a wacko that’s been brainwashed by cultish believers with an underlying agenda to undermine society at large. To this I would say that I am humbled and honored that you have read this far. Maybe you saw my picture and saw hope in my weight loss story. Maybe you are so far from hope that you are grasping at straws that you could ever find one ounce of strength to choose not to eat the ice cream. I write this with tears because I know how that feels. I feel it now. There is one reason and one reason only that I do not: Jesus.

Society swirls around me with all of its false hopes: Atkins, Keto, Hydroxycut, and a billion more. But the added agonies you may not be aware of are for people who lose the weight and still feel hopeless. That is when the temptations rush back in with their “promises” for relief. After all, if I’m going to feel like garbage in my heart and soul, why not eat the ice cream? (which is why I regained the weight after I lost it in 1999) That is why I cling to my love for Jesus. He is the One who opened my eyes and saved me from that cycle of addiction. He’s doing it still. He is the only reason I haven’t regained all the weight (again) and my only hope in the face of every adversity.

The world makes empty promises, but when the God of the Bible makes a promise, He keeps it.

Around 700 BC a man named Micah prophesized about a ruler that would be born in Bethlehem. He promised peace. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just as God promised. And, quite amazingly, He offers the hand of friendship and the peace that passes understanding to those who love him and follow him. That’s it. There is no hidden motive other than a relationship with God. Some people don’t want it and I understand and respect that decision. I only write in this venue to offer hope to those who are struggling—including myself. We are not alone in our struggles. There is hope and there is help.

I am frequently guilty of allowing my thoughts to be colored by the thundercloud grays that have lined the skies in recent days. My feelings have powerful sway over my body in this regard. But when I set my thoughts higher—when I focus my attention on the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (that’s me!)—I can’t swallow the false promises any longer. They don’t satisfy me. I need real promises.

Through the providence of God, I did not eat the ice cream and I threw my “emergency” cookie into the trash. (It was my favorite too–chocolate chip!) Hope stands in defiance of lesser things. Hope shines through the darkness when all the other lights have gone out. Hope pursues seemingly insignificant people like me and saves them from addiction, depression, suicide, and even guilt.

Today if you have lost hope, take heart. Hope in Jesus. He is easy to find.

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