Hold on to Hope. No, Really: Hold on to Hope.

As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but look back and reflect. Friends, it’s been a hard year. Not just for me; so many of my friends and acquaintances have walked through dark times this year. Loved ones passing away, huge life changes, battles with depression, divorce, losing jobs, miscarriages – the list goes on and on. Not to mention all the scary craziness in our nation and around the world.

There are so many words I could use to describe the past year. Fear. Change. Depression. Exhaustion. Yet as I look back the word that floats to the top above all these words is “hope.” Hope makes all the difference.

This goes out to three of my friends in particular, though I believe others may find these words helpful as well. To the one who feels he must be strong; to the one who lost her art; to the one who feels dead inside: Hold on to hope. No, really: hold on to hope. If you have no hope left to hold onto, then chase after it with everything you have.

Hope is the thing with feathers, the thing that gets us through. Hope is what convinces you to pull back the covers one more time, face the world one more time, take one more step. Hope does not let us down, but guides us through without fail. Hope says that even though you are on the floor unable to move, there will be a better day. Hope tells you to put down the revolver. Hope tells you that you. can. make. it. through. One more time: You can make it through.

It gets better. Even if you cannot see it, trust that I can see it. If you have no hope, draw on mine. It gets better. There is so much ahead of you! Life is dark right now and everything hurts, but I am begging you: hold on to hope. I say this not from a place of perfection, but from a place of empathy: I have walked through the darkness and I have found the sun again, even if it’s not perfect.

I want you to know that people care about you. Even if no one else cares, I care about you. Each and every one of you, I care about you and I ache along with you. I will walk with you through this, you do not have to go alone.

 

Hope Does Not Let Us Down

My dear friends, it has been five long months since my last post, and I was not in a good place then. To be honest, I still have days when I’m not in a good place. The difference now, though, is that instead of just flat out not being in a good place, now I only have days where I’m not.

I talked to my counselor about what was going on, and she strongly recommended I speak to a psychiatrist to consider going on medication. As I mentioned before, that did not initially sit well with me. There’s all the stigma about being on meds, and I was afraid of being zombified. But I trust my counselor – I’ve been seeing her for five years, after all. If she truly thought I needed medication, maybe she was right. So I went to see the psychiatrist and told her about my issues and about my medication fears as well. Ultimately, she ended up putting me on a low dosage of an antidepressant.

Within days I felt better.

Life seemed more manageable; I no longer felt I was drowning in the ocean of life.

I’ve been on this medication for five months now, and I’m so glad I did. I still go to counseling and I’m still trying to work through my issues, but the medication makes it so I can continue to function like a human being while I do so. The meds didn’t flatten me – I can still write, I can still draw, I still have my creative spark.

I had to make some adjustments in other areas of my life, too. I dropped out of one of my three courses (of course, it had to be the one class I actually enjoyed… but it was my only elective). I stopped trying to push myself as hard, became more aware of my limits. I gave myself permission to not have to care about every single thing in the world (I mean, there are only so many things one person is capable of caring about, and that’s okay).

And I spent more time with my family. I went to my brother’s house almost every weekend for several months. I chilled with them. I went to garage sales with them. I held the baby. I played games with them. And somewhere in there God restored my soul.

I have had to remind myself daily that I am more than a conqueror, that hope does not let us down, and that He Himself is my peace. I have cried through hours of “It Is Well” and “Dead Come to Life” and “My Lighthouse.” And I have survived.

And I’m stronger now than I was before.

Friends, no matter the valley you’re walking through, no matter how hard life tries to defeat you, know that you. will. make. it. through. Hold onto the flicker of hope, chase after the light. And if you need to get help, get help. There is no shame in getting help. Did you hear me? There is no shame in getting help.

Psalm 23

Jesus watches over me: I have everything I need.
He takes me to a restful place,
he leads me along safe paths,
he renews my spirit.
His reputation ensures
he will never lead me astray.
Even though I walk
through a fog of depression,
I will fear no evil,
because Jesus is with me;
his instruments comfort me.
He will make sure I’m taken care of,
even when enemies surround me.
He gives me so many blessings,
I can’t contain them all.
I know His love and mercy
will be with me my whole life,
and I will live with Him forever.

This is a paraphrase of a Psalm that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Depression may have struck me once again, but that does not change the fact that God still walks alongside me, taking care of me and protecting me.  He will stay with me, depressed or not.

This assurance allows me to hope even amidst forces trying to bind me up and crush me down. Hope is strongest when times are darkest, for it is then that hope is most desperately needed.  When times are high and life is good, hope is unnecessary; why do you need to hope for life to be better when life is already great? But when times are tough and life is rough, hope is what gets you through to another day and another and another.

Hold onto hope, for when you have nothing left to hold onto, hope will still be there.

Hopeful Realism

People who know me from only interacting with Work Me think I’m an optimist. Others have accused me of being a pessimist, others a cynic, and still others a realist.

None of those sit right with me, though. None of those fully encompass the way the world reveals itself to me.  I see the potential for future disaster, but I don’t believe catastrophe is unavoidable. I see how those with power abuse those without, but I realize not all the powerful are cut from the same cloth. I see kindness in people, but I know that people are naturally bent to darkness instead of light.  I see the state of the world around me, but I have hope that life can improve.

That’s what hopeful realism is all about: Recognizing that all is not well with life, but retaining a deep seated belief that the what comes next can be better than what went before.

Hopeful realism is not merely the naïve dreaming of a girl yet to experience life, but is rather the result of a life transformed by faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Is that not the essence of hopeful realism? I am confident that when time runs out, the One who created time will still hold us in His hand.  I am assured that even if I must suffer hardships, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).