How to Move Forward When it Hurts too Much to Hope

How to Move Forward When it Hurts too Much to Hope

I had gotten my hopes up so many times, sure that things would improve.  They just had to.  I couldn't continue living like we were.  

Except, they really didn't improve.  Like, at all.

Oh, there was a slight upshot for a few days, but eventually everything just crumbled...again.

If you live with a spouse who deals with depression, you know what I'm talking about.  The vast amounts of hoping one can do, the feeling that this time...this time...something would be different.  After years of hoping and having those hopes dashed time after time after time, it becomes too exhausting to hope.

I never thought I would utter those words... too exhausting to hope? What kind of faith is that?!  

Well, it's the human kind, that's what it is.  

But in the midst of living through the ebb and flow of hope and disappointment, Jesus whispered love to my heart.  I didn't even know if Jesus had stuck around for this insanity that was my life.  Even though theologically I knew He would never leave me nor forsake me, it sure felt like He had abandoned ship.

But this love was whispered through sharing my struggles with my wise and trustworthy mentor.  (Another case for being in community!)

This is what I learned

1.  Suffering ----> Perseverance ----> Character ----> Hope

Paul's meaty words in Romans 5 reverberate in my heart, because one of the things I long most for in this life is proven character.  So when I was presented with this verse, I took note.

"....we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.' {Romans 5:3-5 NIV}

Now, are "glory" and "sufferings" two words that we ever hear in the same sentence in the world we inhabit?  Right. The messages we hear are, escape the pain, do for yourself whatever you can to eke out some sort of meaningful existence, don't let anyone get in your way, forget about your failures, put your struggles behind you....  I could go on.  

The gold is this: God can accomplish far more in our weakness, frailty, and suffering, than at any other point in our journey.  Yes, we get to experience mountain top moments and peaceful plateaus, but it's the valleys where the gold is forged.  If we don't have a good theology of suffering, our faith will die out of disappointment and anger.

2.  Hebrews 11:4-16, emphasis on 13-16 (ESV)  "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland....But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city."

Woah!  God is not ashamed to be called their God!?  Those who died waiting for His promises!?  Now that's a statement.  The truth that this world is not our home rings even more clearly in light of these verses.  When it seems like all is lost, when nothing will ever work out, we must remember that this is not all there is.  There is more!  So much more, in fact, that what we experienced on earth will pale in comparison to the glories of Heaven and being with Jesus face-to-face.  

I know sometimes that can seem like a faint wishing, a far-off truth, a desperate cry for consolation.  But it's still the truth.  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." {Rom. 8:18 NIV} This is something I have clung to in the darkest hours of my journey.  When our focus is only on what's in front of us, we will be endlessly frustrated and disillusioned.  But we serve a God who keeps His promises, who holds fast to the covenant He himself made.  

My final thought, for now, comes from CS Lewis.  

3. Chapter 8, The Screwtape Letters (the whole paragraph is worth reading, but this sentence is the point).  "Our cause [the demons' cause] is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's [God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

This sentence is worth its weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.  I've never felt more encouraged in my life - to be in a place where I have no desire to obey the Lord, and yet, I am compelled to because I love Him.  So I put one foot in front of the other, wondering where He is, and walk out obedience the best I can.   

The truth of the matter is that sometimes, emotionally speaking, we are hanging naked and bleeding on a cross.  And in those times, the only comfort to be found is that since Jesus experienced this horrendous pain literally, and felt the abandoned by the Father ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?"), and we have His life in us as believers, we can cry, scream, and rant to Him, because He knows.  He knows the full extent of our pain.  He can take our fist in his face.  He longs for us to suffer well, with him.

How do we suffer well?  That will be the topic of my next post.  Hope to see you there!

5 Prayers for When You Don't Know What to Pray

I struggle with prayer sometimes.  I don't think I'm alone in this.  I have an inner critic that constantly tells me I'm not praying authentically enough, or I'm praying selfishly and that's "bad"...I have so many rules for myself.  Rules that Jesus tells us He has come to free us from.

I often feel that I have to say the "right" words or God won't hear me.  Or pray with the right motivation in my heart so I'll be found "worthy."  

But these rules that I place on myself are exhausting, and quite honestly, ridiculous.  So when I remember that I don't have to have eloquent words and perfect motivations, I find myself praying with few words and simple desires.  Here's a sample:

1.  "Jesus, I want you.  I don't know what else to say."  
About as simple as you can get, this expresses my true heart.  I want Jesus, and I don't have to say marvelous things to have Him.  Coming to Him honestly and hungrily is about all I know how to do.

2. "Holy Spirit, if anything good or holy is going to happen in me, it's ALL up to You, cause I got nothin'."
This is what I prayed during a particularly exhausting season of life, where the Lord brought me to a place of true surrender.  It was probably the most powerful thing that's ever happened to me, outside of salvation.

3. "Oh, God, here I go again."
This is a short prayer of repentance; it's what I pray when I find myself in the same old sin patterns that never fully leave me, or when I'm wearing the mask and doing the dance that I do to make life work for me.

4.  "Jesus, hold my soul together."
I find myself uttering this prayer when I feel like I'm falling apart, or when I am trying to hold my own soul together with food or shopping.  It's a simple, honest prayer for help.

5.  "Thank you, Jesus.  You're so good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."  
When my heart is full and bursting with gratitude, I find these words pealing, almost unbidden, out of the depths of my soul, over, and over, and over.  He's so good.  So, so, so good.  My heart revels His goodness.

There's nothing eloquent or fancy about any of these prayers.  When I strip myself of the expectations and rules I place on my prayers that only serve to turn my relationship with God into a performance, I am sent running back to these simple, heartfelt utterances to my God. 

Please use them as your own, if you wish. 

I'd love to hear the prayers are meaningful to you!  Send me a message or comment on Facebook.  

How to Pray When Depression Says You've Failed as a Mom

How to Pray When Depression Says You've Failed as a Mom

So many nights I've gone to bed with a heavy heart and anxiety in my chest over the way things unraveled in my house during the day.  Scenes replay themselves.  My failure, perceived or fully real, is front and center.  Sometimes it keeps me awake, or wakes me up in the middle of the night.

You, too?

When depression and anxiety are your constant companions, they can make parenting harder than it really is. Have you ever looked on in envy at the ease with which it seems other moms smile and laugh and play with their kids?  

"It looks like they actually have joy."  You whisper to yourself.

It's then that shame and worthlessness creep in, in their sinister, evil way.  And when you leave these things to roam wild and free in your mind and heart, it's nothing but a downward spiral from there.

Prayer feels nearly impossible.

The need to somehow be better or change the script out of your own power takes over, and at the same time it feels like there's nothing you can do to regain any semblance of normalcy, of grace....of joy.

But the good news is there, if we allow it to enter.  

"There's good news? You ask.  Seems too good to be true, doesn't it?

Yes, there's very, very good news.

The good news - the best news - is that you don't have to do it alone: we can't make better situations in our own strength. Only Jesus can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is already alive and well and active in your life if you've given it to Him.

See, this God who lives inside of you, who is working His power to bring redemption and healing to you also wants to help you parent your children.  Especially in the midst of depression and anxiety.  

So when I feel the dark thoughts creeping in and the overwhelm surround, sometimes the words don't come easy.  So let me offer some to you today.  Because wherever He is, so is Hope.  And if you've claimed Him as your own, that means He lives inside of you...which makes you a Holder of Hope.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, 
My powerlessness to exact the change I want in my family is staggering.
The feelings of hopelessness are taking over all of me.
I know you love my children.  I know you love me.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but in my head I know it to be true.
Give us the grace and mercy we need for this day.  Cover over this day's failures.  Cover over my failures.  Let these precious ones see that I need you, so that they will know that they need you, too.
Let the words that were not edifying to them fall to the floor, inactive, unabsorbed by their little hearts.
Protect them.  Hem them in behind and before; lay your hand upon them. (Ps 139:5)
Redeem them.  Redeem me.  Redeem our family.  Let this be enough for me.  
May we be the beneficiaries of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).
Let my mind and my heart be at rest in You. 
I submit this to you, releasing my heart from the bondage it feels.
In your sweet name I pray, Jesus.

If your life is plagued by depression and anxiety, slogging through each day feels like wading through quicksand.  My blog is here to offer a breath of fresh hope and companionship.  If you'd like to join me on the journey, you can sign up for my email list at the bottom of the page.  When you do, I'll send you an interactive PDF with some of my favorite books and songs for dealing with depression and anxiety.  

You truly don't have to do this alone.