3 WAYS TO HOPE WHILE YOU COPE

"I imagine most of us have fairly straightforward pictures in our heads about what our lives will look like and who we will become. These pictures are mostly of wonderful things that happen at exactly the right time and make oh-so-much sense. When something happens that is not inside the four corners of that picture, we view it as a detour and hope to get back on track as quickly as possible.

- Katherine Wolf, from "Hope Heals" PROLOGUE

 
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We all want to know the future. But none of us ever imagines that the future might hold unexpected tragedy or a complete redirection into an unknown world.

We leave our jobs, move to new cities, and invest in new relationships assuming that the next stage will be a step forward in realizing the quiet dreams that fill our subconscious.  

Last night over dinner our extended family shared their prayer requests for the year. The newly married couple offered, “We’re hoping to discover some direction for where to live and how to educate our children.” The couple with growing children said, “We’re asking God ‘what’s next’ for us? We would like some direction.” The grandparents chimed in with their version of the same, “We feel like we’re heading into a new season of life and would like some insight into where God is leading us.” It wasn’t surprising that three couples at various stages of life were all asking the same basic question about their future. 

“God, will you lead us into something good?”

Yet, countless lives tell stories of wandering. Stories of ending up in places you never dreamt of visiting. Giving benefit to the doubt, we consider these redirections as stories of the mysterious hand of God. But when doubt wins the day, we feel like we’re all on our own, treading water in a dark ocean.  

So, how do you swim confidently when it seems you’ve been thrown out to sea?

"Hope Heals" weaves our story of coping with great loss while finding unexpected hope in the midst. Here's how...

1) Realize that the detour is actually the journey God has chosen for you…for good reason.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), a leader in the English Reformation, is quoted as saying, “God’s love takes us on journeys where we do not wish to go, makes us travel by roads we do not wish to use, to take us to places we never wish to leave.

His words don’t come from a well-fed, blissfully rested holiday retreat. Cranmer was imprisoned and ultimately killed for his beliefs. He never expected to leave the church of his childhood and forge a new road for his nation’s faithful. He didn’t want to lose friends, family, and influence for his convictions. And yet, he saw in this detour and these immeasurable losses evidence not only of God’s directing his life but also of God’s love for him. 

2) Allow yourself to feel the loss, pain, discouragement, disappointment, or confusion. 

Even if this is a detour of God’s love, your soul will express things that you mustn’t numb. One unfortunate result of Katherine's stroke was the complete loss of feeling on the right side of her face. She would playfully slap her right cheek to make the point that it was completely numb, but I reminded her just because you can't feel the pain doesn't mean you aren't doing damage--so stop slapping yourself!

A lot of people approach their emotions in the same way. They pretend they can’t feel or prevent themselves from feeling with the hope that this will protect them from pain. But it won’t. Sooner or later, something will come into your life that forces you to deal with the damage. Holding emotions inside or ignoring their existence only multiplies their negative effects.

The writers of the Psalms frequently wail in desperation, anger, or confusion. The prophet Jeremiah’s heart was so broken he describes as if he was having a heart attack. Jesus pleaded with his Father three times for relief from his suffering. 

God’s people instinctively knew that loss, pain, discouragement, disappointment, confusion, anger, and despair can be healed once they’ve been released through your voice. It’s not holier to hide your feelings. It’s not healthier to put on a happy face. 


@@It’s not holier to hide your feelings. It’s not healthier to put on a happy face.@@


3) Worship God because he doesn’t make mistakes.

Once the Psalmists, Jeremiah, and Jesus vent their worst feelings and agonize over the situations they’d rather not be in, they seem to exhale worship. It’s as if they’ve released all that stood in the way of clear thinking. Then, with sobriety and humility, they remember that God is God. He knows the future. He knows what you should be doing in life. He has picked better goals for you than you’d pick for yourself. He knows how to get you there. And he hasn’t made a mistake in sending you on this detour even though you’re visiting places that never appealed to you before. As Cranmer declared, those places God is taking you are places you’ll never want to leave. And you won’t find fault in that.


PRAISE FOR "HOPE HEALS"

"...the book you hold in your hands is so powerful for if awful things do happen to you, you now have a guide. Hope Heals may well be your most treasured companion through great trial and pain. Do not assume you’ve ‘heard it all’ before. Theirs is a story so raw, visceral, and impossibly real, that you can’t help but identify."

(from the Foreword to "Hope Heals")

JONI EARECKSON TADA Bestselling author and founder/CEO of Joni & Friends