Hope Never Comes From a Leprechaun

Lucky Charms, hope, leprechaun

 

Hope is not something we naturally think about building. We can find or lose hope. Hope can be destroyed or recovered. But hope is usually built. And that is precisely the problem.

We believe hope is akin to treasure at the end of a rainbow, as if some mythical munchkin will say, “Fresh out of gold. How ’bout some hope instead?” Hope must be built if we intend to retain it in our lives.

Understanding What Hope Really Is

Part of the reason we expect hope to come like a winning lottery ticket is because we misunderstand what hope actually is. Hope in its purest form is a Christian concept. It is described best in Romans 5:5 –

Hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Hope is grounded in the love of God for us. We have the proof of God’s love in the person of the Holy Spirit within us. There are moments in our life when we understand afresh that the Creator of this complex and enormous universe loves little ol’ me and little ol’ you. These times should stir up hope within us.

When a Bible Verse Just Doesn’t Cut It

But there are days when this quiet confirmation of God’s advocacy for us is not enough. We feel like someone who was tricked by a leprechaun into taking fool’s gold, only to find ourselves with an empty black pot. We have pain that won’t end, a health condition that just won’t go away. In these moments, we want to cry out – O God, why have you forsaken me?

And this is why we must build hope. We must have a reservoir of hope during dry seasons. It is possible to develop habits in our lives that will give us strength when we are weary, so we can live another day.

Four Ways to Build Hope

Keep a journal, in a way that makes sense for you.

When the tough times pile up on each other, it’s easy to forget that God has ever shown Himself to be real. A journal stands as a monument of God’s faithfulness, and gives us courage to keep going. There are moment when we have known the love and presence of God, without a shadow of a doubt. But the dark seasons can wipe those memory away. We can battle this tendency with a journal.

When I say journal, I don’t necessarily mean a monogrammed notebook or a Moleskin. Anything you will use and not lose works just fine. It could be texts to yourself or videos. It might even be a series of screenshots and pictures. The details don’t matter, so long as you keep a record of God’s goodness somewhere.

Refuse the urge to isolate yourself.

Whoever said misery loves company hasn’t seen my sorrow. Perhaps it is because I am an introvert, but I do not want to share my misery with anyone. No, I want to curl up into the fetal position and wait for the bad days to end.

It’s only in community we find hope. I have written about this before here and here, so I won’t repeat myself in this article. There is great value in safe places and safe people, and we will need both to build hope.

Meditate on the truth of God’s goodness.

It is unfortunate meditation has become a word with nearly unbiblical connotations, because King David was one of the first to discuss it thousands of years ago. Meditation is nothing more than a deep focus upon a single concept – in this case the goodness of God.

If you are anything like me, chilling out with a book and thinking deeply about it sounds…well, it sounds boring. But reading one verse over and over again is not the only way to meditate. We can meditate in song. We can meditate in service. The details don’t matter, so long as we are able to focus on the good heart of God.

Create visual reminders of good times.

Maybe this means picture collages of family events. Perhaps for you putting calligraphy prints of Bible verses does the trick. It could even be that images of the Buddha bring joy to your heart. Whatever makes you happy, surround yourself with that.

I am not trying to say that a happy picture or some nifty words in a fancy font will remove the pain of a day with deep despair. But to the degree we can control our environment, we must do so.

We need more than magically delicious cereal to thrive in life, especially when there’s a chronic health condition involved. We need to store up hope.

How do you build a reservoir of hope in your life?

We Did More Than Survive

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

As we now celebrate seventeen years, I have a few more thoughts. I edited a bit in the original post, and added a third concept.

Fifteen seventeen years. Fifteen seventeen. Years. I repeated the words slowly to myself about 10 am yesterday today in Starbucks as I considered our anniversary (insert pithy comment about a typical male not being home on his anniversary here). Two three thoughts come to mind when I ponder the last fifteen seventeen years with my wife: Boy have we grown up, and has it ever been eventful, and boy am I grateful for the privilege to build one life together with my wife!Continue Reading

Brittany Maynard Isn’t Brave, But These People Are

Courtesy of Brittany Maynard

Courtesy of Brittany Maynard

On November 1, 2014 Brittany Maynard ended her life with a lethal dose of medication prescribed to her by her doctor. She was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, a stage 4 glioblastoma.

She is being heralded as brave for making this choice, and for publicizing it weeks in advance. But she isn’t brave.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not jumping into the fray with my opinion on whether physician-assisted suicide for terminal cases should be legal, or whether it’s ethical, or even if I agree with it. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I had a terminal cancer and no hope of healing.

I am only talking about bravery. And Brittany Maynard didn’t have it, because bravery doesn’t quit, and bravery never thinks of only itself. If you remember nothing else from this article remember this:

Bravery doesn’t quit.

Bravery is selfless.

(You can tweet that)

Some Truly Brave Men and Women

I know a woman who left an abusive, alcoholic man after seventeen years of marriage. She left because she wanted a better life for her son, and she saw him taking after his father. She had the courage to travel 2,185.3 miles to get away from her husband, even while knowing he would probably follow her and threaten her. But she left anyway, and she didn’t go back. That woman was brave, because bravery doesn’t quit and bravery is selfless.

(Thanks Mom for being the best example of bravery I have ever seen, and inspiring me to live a courageous life).

I know a man who has bipolar disorder, and has struggled for years to find his center. He has been on multiple different medications, but none had seemed to work. During these attempts to find a good space to live in, he never hid in a corner. Instead, he shared his ups and downs, his job losses and feelings of inadequacy, with the world on his blog. He understands bravery, because he never stopped pushing to find the way to his best life. The whole time, he was motivated to give his family the best life possible, by being the best possible person he could be.

I know Colleen English. Her daughter Claire has Rett Syndrome, which means Claire is not able to walk or talk, and she has seizures regularly. Colleen could have quit. She could have decided nothing could save her daughter, because right now there is no cure. But she didn’t do that, because she understands what it means to be brave. She started Rettland Foundation, and is locking arms with families across the world to find a cure. More than that, she is fundraising to help other families afford the clinical trials. Collen shows the world what bravery looks like, because she refuses to quit or to wallow in her (legitimate) sorrow.

My wife works as a pediatric cancer nurse. Every day, she meets kindergarteners who know they have cancer, but choose to laugh anyway. She cares for teenage boys who understand they are terminal, but make it their quest in the short time they have left to inspire other cancer kids to stay strong, to stay positive, and to make the best of the time they have left. These children are pillars of bravery, because they refuse to drown in their own mortality.

I don’t know who I admire more, these kids…or the nurses who take care of them. My wife has seen “her kids” (yes, they are her kids, as much as our own children are her kids, because she cares THAT much) die. She has had to struggle with whether she has the strength to go to the funerals of these kids she loves. That is heroism. That is bravery.

And, by the way, why does physical suffering equate to bravery, while mental illnesses are still viewed as if there is something wrong with us? We don’t choose mental illness any more than Britney chose cancer.

I know men who plan their careers around being at home to care for epileptic wives. I know women with transgender children, who don’t shrink back from the social stigma that creates, but lean instead lean into their children with love and acceptance, no matter what. I know those who suffer from ME or fibromyalgia, where some days just getting downstairs is an accomplishment; yet they are parent, grandparents, wives, poets, photographers. These people, these mighty resilient wonderful people, know what it means to be brave.

Brittany Maynard knows nothing of this brand of bravery. She did not taste the organic richness of a life lived fully, of a never-quit attitude, or of a selfless life until the end. So let’s not call her brave. Instead, let’s admire and lift high the truly brave, the quietly heroic, the mighty who are hiding in plain sight.