Tag Archives: joy in all things

hope (in the night)

6 Dec

I’m returning from a period of blog abandonment with some musings on pain, suffering and darkness. Some of you may know that when I began posting on this blog, it was with the idea that a creative outlet, even a virtual one, would be a stepping stone out of a period of deep depression. It turned out to be a helpful component of stepping back into the light; even silly posts about soup or radio drama gave me something to focus on and goals to work towards.

I’m sorry to say that in the past couple of months, I’ve been struggling with the encroaching darkness once again. This time isn’t as bad as what I experienced a year a half ago. For one thing, I’ve been sharing my struggles with friends and family for a few weeks now. I have trusted people holding me in prayer. I already feel better than I did a month ago. So despite the fact that life isn’t sunshine and roses, there are tremendous blessings in my life and God is good, even in times of pain. Perhaps God is good especially in times of pain, because in those times, I’m forced with the choice to keep wallowing (and drowning) on my own, or to trust Him.

One song from Andrew Peterson’s Counting Stars album has been echoing in my mind during this recent painful season. “In the Night My Hope Lives On” tells the story of God’s people who had good reason to give up, to despair, to succumb to darkness. Jacob wrestled with an angel and with his fear; Elisha was surrounded by God’s enemies; the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt groaned in the misery of captivity; once Canaan-bound, they found themselves trapped by Pharaoh’s army and trembling in fear. Meanwhile, the Prodigal son approached his father’s house so full of shame he couldn’t even lift his head. The Samaritan woman prepared herself to be stoned for her sins. Jesus’ followers wailed and wept as He died a slow, painful death by crucifixion.

If you can relate to any of this—surrounded by dark forces, enslaved by sin, trapped in fear and shame, devoid of hope for the future, I pray that this song will speak to your heart as it speaks to mine.

“Like the son who thought he’d gone beyond forgiveness, too ashamed to lift his head—but if he could lift his head!—he would see his father running from a distance.

“So in the night, my hope lives on.

“I can see the crowd of men retreating, as He stands between the woman and their stones. And if mercy in His holy heart is beating,

“Then in the night, my hope lives on.”

Friends, remember with me that “the rulers of the earth could not control Him. They did not take His life—He laid it down. All the chains of death could never hope to hold Him!” Let us remember that “the sword He swings in brighter than the dawn,” and that “the gates of hell will never stand against Him.”

When times are dark

When death and sickness are all around

When we are most aware of the brokenness of our world

And of ourselves in that world

May our hope live on.

 

Because the Creator of the universe, the Author of time, the Giver of Life is not taken aback by the world’s darkness. He is well acquainted with it and has better plans in store for His people and His world. And the very best news is that although we wage difficult battles every day on earth, The Most Important Battle is over, and He has won. Death cannot stand against Him; He is Light in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome Him.

I wish that following Jesus meant that I only ever knew light and glory. But I know darkness too. The challenge is to walk in the light no matter how difficult it is. I’m trying every day.

If you struggle with depression or any darkness of your own, I pray you too will find the strength to get up and walk into the light. Godspeed, friends.

Dying World. Living Hope.

25 Apr

Here is the truth about the world we live in: it can be a dark place.

I haven’t lived a long life (yet) but I’ve experienced some of this darkness. I’ve watched as a beloved relative drew his last breath. I’ve had dear friends disclose to me that they are survivors of childhood molestation, sexual assault, emotional abuse. I’ve grieved for another family member after he succeeded in taking his own life—although perhaps it would be more accurate to say I will always be grieving him. Last month one of the clients I have cared for the past nine months, and come to love, was moved to a nursing home to wait out the rest of his life. And I’ve experienced the soul-sucking black pit of depression myself, the weight of years of self-hatred and nagging doubts about my own worth crushing down upon me.

The world is dark. It’s true. We don’t need the social media storms around Joseph Kony or Trayvon Martin or the Chardon High shootings to know it. We live in a world that is dying and death is all around. People don’t value each other. Even worse, we know it isn’t just the brothel owners or factory bosses who trample human life, it’s you and me, when we shop for the cheapest items no matter the cost to those who sew our t-shirts or harvest our tomatoes. When we judge people by their appearances and strip their worth down to what they can do for us. When we celebrate the life of someone like Snooki but couldn’t care less about the suffering of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the voiceless around us.

How do we hold on to hope in this world? Where do we find the wellspring?

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King there is a paragraph that I find incredibly beautiful. Last year during one of the darkest periods of my life I found myself meditating upon it and clinging to what it promises. At this point in the novel, Sam and Frodo find themselves despairing of ever completing the Sisyphean task of destroying The Ring. But then,

“Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

So perhaps that White Star is the beginning of an answer. The knowledge that however dark the darkness is, the Light will triumph and cast it away. Scripture is full of these promises—that “[In Jesus] was the Light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it;” that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ;” that the light of “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are promised that “even the darkness will not be dark to [the LORD]; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to [Him].”

Here’s another truth: it’s hard to believe this stuff sometimes. There are times when it is hard, desperately hard, to have faith that the battle against death is already won. There have been times in my life when I just haven’t believed that. It’s likely I’ll have similar times in the future. In the murky depths of our dark seasons the perfect light can seem too dim, or too far away, or too impossible to be real.

The final truth, though, is that the light is real. The light is the cornerstone of my faith actually, and it’s a compelling reason to keep fighting good fights and dreaming impossible dreams and to get out of bed in the morning when I’d rather wallow in despair. Despite the fact that we live in a world of death and dying, Jesus has won that ultimate battle. For those of us who know and walk with him, we have a Light to follow and we carry a torch within ourselves. There is hope! For healing of wounds. For reconciliation where there is brokenness. For satisfaction where there is hunger. For peace where there is war. For chains to be broken and slaves to be freed! For those mired in darkness to be lifted out of that pit! We can be a part of spreading light and life in this dark world. The best news is that we can do that even when we feel crushed by that darkness—perhaps especially then.

Friends, this week I’m praying especially for some people in my life who are in dark places. Those who are feeling crippled and oppressed by physical illness, emotional pain, the devastating loss of someone dear. Will you join me in these prayers for those who can’t see the light right now? May we all become better at pointing others towards the miraculous White Star who literally conquered the grave.

joy in the small things

19 Jul

I have a lot of big things to be joyful about these days! Between visits with family, welcoming beautiful babies to the world, getting to drive a superfly rental car with working air conditioning, making some new friends at work, and discovering that it’s possible to combine soft-serve ice cream with a slushie (thanks for the tip MN!) there is a lot to be glad about. In case some of my readers are in the place that I was not so long ago, though, I thought I’d share some small things that bring joy to my life.

My apartment is the upper story of a house that is over 110 years old. As a result, it has some unique quirks and charms. My roommate and I both like the idea that so many families have made their home in this cozy, slightly imperfect space. Even in the winter, when our wool sweaters and electric blankets barely protect us from the cold air drafting through the ancient windows, we appreciate the fun of living in a house full of history and character.

I must confess that sometimes I complain about that character, telling my sister how sometimes it seems that the house is just slightly slanted, making it a challenge to tell if something is hung straight on a wall. Or I rant to my coworkers about having to insulate the old double-hung windows with saran wrap during Ohio winters. And almost everytime someone knocks at our door, I apologize to them for the difficulty of welcoming them when the cantankerous old thing (which requires a tutorial to open and close) opens opposite the way the screen door does… and right into a narrow set of stairs.

The truth is that any complaints are pretty insignificant in the big picture, which is that I love this apartment. I love that we live next door to our sweet landlords; I love that they allowed us to paint the place in bright colors when we moved in; I love our neighborhood with its knobbly red brick streets. Here are some of the tiny things that I love, in the hope that you might enjoy them too:

we have charming light fixtures.

...and a laundry chute. we don't use it, because we only rent the top floor. but still. i like laundry chutes. i always wanted one growing up!

the cute "face in a place" doorknob in our bathroom. i guess some people might find it creepy to have a face-like thing staring at you in the lavatory, but it just reminds me of the electric blanket from The Brave Little Toaster, who was definitely not a creeper.

We have several of these old button-style light switches. And I like them.

Which brings us to one of my favorite things about this apartment, the light switch in my bedroom. I can only guess that whoever installed it was not a professional, because they put it in upside down. What does this mean for practical use?

Blinded by the light? Just flick the “no” switch, and darkness will be restored.

A few months ago, I was struggling to remind myself of the little smile-inducing things in my life. While it’s not such a struggle at the moment, I believe daily gratitude to be a worthwhile practice. Even in the valleys of my life, there’s so much to be grateful for and rejoice in. Sometimes I just need to do the work of reminding myself of what I know to be true. Like that opening my eyes to the sweet little things can help bring a more joyful perspective.