Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

I cry for those in heaven when really, they are the lucky ones. I’m more aware now, maybe more than I ever have been, that this place is not our home, and that’s why everything feels all wrong sometimes.

March and April, you have been cruel. Poison raining from the sky. Twin babies, lifeless in their father’s arms in a photo on the news. Our little cousin, set on a two-year treatment plan for childhood leukemia. A friend doing battle with her own body, even as it fails her. Churchgoers in Egypt being blown up on Palm Sunday. Since I first sat down to write this, the list has grown. On and on it goes.

Life can be equally beautiful and painful, alternating waves of change coming one right after the other, and I find myself having to fight hard for the joy that is promised, for light on the days that seem dark.

Thank God we haven’t been left powerless to fight for it on our own.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

—2 Corinthians 12:9

I know this is true. It’s only the matter of not allowing myself to forget.

It’s written that Jesus wept, too. His dear friend fell ill and died, and Jesus wept. I feel sad thinking about Jesus’ sadness, yet it comforts me to know there is someone who understands our hurt—in fact, He is more familiar with it than we can ever comprehend.

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. 

—John 11:32-38 (emphasis mine)

Jesus, the Man of Sorrows. He knew grief well. He bore all of ours.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
he was despised, and we didn’t value him.
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.

—Isaiah 53:3-5 


Today I sit in the backyard, mid-afternoon this time, and feel the hot sun on my face and watch butterflies chase each other around the lantana shrubs. My library book sits ignored and unopened on the arm of the formerly green, now sun-bleached plastic adirondack chair I bought on a whim from the grocery store last year. I want to finish reading, but something prompts me to let my brain rest a minute.

The grass needs mowing and I resentfully eye the weeds sprouting up that are surely the cause of my relentless stuffy nose. There was a huge brush fire east of here the other day that firefighters are still doing battle to contain, and I’m getting whiffs of smoke every so often. In my ears, songs of promise flow from earbuds. It’s a playlist I’d seen someone share on Twitter back in November, appropriately titled “post-election mourning and hope.” I’d saved the link but never listened, and—it’s all grace—the app suggested it today. I don’t know all of these songs, but they’re somehow perfect right now.

I’m thinking music has incredibly healing capabilities, breaking me to pieces and then putting me back together. I sit still, observing the creativity of harmonies, melodies, and rhythms while I search the sky, and I think about the truth of the lyrics, and I worship.

We worship. Perhaps that’s a piece of the answer, part of the healing.

We grieve, and we take our time—Jesus did that, too—and we worship. And there, we remember hope.

Because this world is wrecked and can feel like a terrible, hopeless place, but we are not without hope because God is good and He will mend it, someday. The hurt forces us to remember that this is not our home.

We lament the brokenness and pain; we choose to trust and keep taking steps forward.

We keep loving each other and collapsing into the arms of Jesus when it feels too hard, knowing He’s been there before and is strong to hold us up—and knowing that in the end, there will be no more cancer, no more bombs, no more disappointment, no more suffering.

It’s not time yet though. There is still work to be done here.

So we keep our eyes open and our feet ready and our hearts grateful for the good things.

And we’re able to unearth that real, bubbling-up-from-the-inside joy, even when it’s dark, because Resurrection Day is coming.

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