Its such a simple concept, but one that can change a life. Its presence can keep us afloat—or its absence can drown us in our own despair.
Can hope be found in pain? When your body and your mind are telling you it’s hopeless—can something else give you the assurance that it’s not? That you are never without hope?
These questions swirled around in my head as I curled up on the floor outside my dorm, tears leaking through the fingers that covered my face. My shaking hands clenched a phone that had just made one of the hardest calls of my life. I’d told my parents to come pick me up—that I couldn’t handle college any longer. My body hurt too much.
Can I find hope in this?
So much of my life I’d spent waiting for this moment. For the chance to be someplace where I could find purpose pursuing my dreams—and make lasting friendships. Where I wouldn’t be alone. I’d been alone so often.
Now, I’d never felt more desolate.
How can this be for a hope? For a future?
As the daughter of missionaries, I grew up in the jungles of Papua New Guinea—a small island located above Australia. I spent sixteen years there, watching as His light illuminated a tribe of people trapped in the darkness of an animistic worldview. People who’d lived in fear for so long. I witnessed first hand as their despair was transformed into a hope that could not be shaken because of the One it was founded in. The God-man who spent his own blood for them.
And for me.
He had been with me through the years that stretched on, often times lonely as I was the only English-speaking girl in our tribe. In the constant moves, in the goodbyes and the uncertainties.
He had brought me this far, to this moment, and he wouldn’t just let me fall.
As I sat outside my dorm, having only been able to survive college for three weeks before the symptoms of my disease had grown too overwhelming to function, I clung to that truth. He won’t let me go…He won’t let me go.
That college experience had promised so much more than just a career doing what I loved, it had promised that I would finally not be alone. That I would be surrounded by those my age.
Instead, it turned into another painful goodbye to the fast friends I’d made in that short time. I’d said so many goodbyes, but as I lay in the back of my parent’s van as we drove away from the campus, I realized those goodbyes never grew easier. If anything, they grew worse.
How can I find hope in this?
Dreams shattered. Body broken. Heart torn.
But my soul? My soul still lived.
He has gotten me this far, He has always been my hope—and will continue to be.
Days turned into months, and while my symptoms receded to a steady plateau, they didn’t change enough for me to function normally. Lyme Disease, a sickness received from a tick bite, was very little-known. No clear cure.
But, while my chances of being well enough to return to college the following year dissolved, I began to realize something.
I couldn’t control Lyme Disease anymore than I could control the loneliness I’d felt while in the tribe. I couldn’t control the circumstances that had shaken my plans.
But, that was okay. It had to be okay.
You see, I began to realize that my hope couldn’t be founded in a sense of happiness. If I could only find joy when I felt well, I’d never smile. No, my hope had to be founded in something so much deeper, just as it had been during that stint of loneliness.
That hope had to be rooted in the one who formed me before time, who knew every step and every heartache. Who had wrapped his arms around me when I’d felt alone—and who gave me the strength to rise every morning from bed when my bones felt like they were on fire.
He was my focus. My hope.
The reason I was alive. The reason I had enough brain capacity to write, if nothing else. He was my reason for life—whether or not I ever was cured of Lyme disease.
Because, it’s not about me. It never has been. If my only purpose in life was my own happiness, I’d never be satisfied. It would never be enough. But with Him? With Him I can have a peace that transcends understanding. I can laugh in the pain and stand through the rain. I can trust that every emotional and physical trial is going to be used to bring Him glory. Just as the countless martyred saints in his Word brought Him glory, even in their deaths.
When my focus shifted, no longer on myself but on how I could use my story and my pain for His glory, things began to change. Not all at once, but changing none the less. I was able to relate to those who struggled, because I’d fought that battle. Fight it every day.
Again and again, I saw Him working small, glorious miracles in my life. From the energy needed to volunteer at a week long camp for abused foster kids—to being able to hold a part time job working for an editor, or attending writers’ conferences. You see, even in this waiting period, He had continued to provide ways for me to strive for my dreams. To make a difference. To impact people.
And on the days when it feels to hard to bear, when I want to curl up and cry like that night at College—I remember. I remember that I am not alone. Never have been alone. That my life is a living reminder of His goodness. That my pain could be that salving balm to someone else’s shattered life. That my joy and my happiness isn’t dependent on how I feel. Because His grace is so much greater than that.
I can smile through the tears, because I know that He is continuing to sustain and use me in ways I can’t imagine. That He will give me the strength. He always does.
Because He is my hope.