Have you ever lost hope?
I have. For a time in my life, I lost hope. Life felt like a big black hole--a black hole in empty space--of pain. I lived, floating alone, in the event horizon of that black hole, being torn apart, atom by atom, as light disappeared into nothingness around me.
At least, that's how I imagined it in the depths of despair in my black hole in space.
When I look back now on that time, it feels like that event horizon happened to someone else. Was that really Susan? This Susan, sitting here typing words of hope for Advent? This Susan who occasionally finds herself giggling for no good reason other than inexplicable joy?
Well, yes. That Susan was this Susan.
The past tense is important.
How did I find hope? I wish I could tell you. Oh how I wish I had the words to reach other hearts floating in their own black holes to pull them out! But I know what that event horizon is like, and it's so hard to hear anything over the noise of its chaos. That's why the quiet of death seems so appealing to severely depressed people.
Hope came back for me, though. The weirdness of mental illness faded slowly for me over a period of several years until one day, I had a strange and beautiful conversation with another woman who had experienced her own event horizon of depression.
We both had felt, during the long process of recovery, a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting the depression to return and suck us in again. But we had, in some mysterious way, moved beyond that negative anticipation to a more positive one, one in which we simply expected every day to hold something good, something light, something wonderful.
We got our hope back. And it was good.
But how it happened? Neither of us had a clue. It's a mystery.
But new hope is like a fragile new plant. It doesn't pay to examine its roots too closely. If you keep pulling up the plant to check the roots, you'll kill the plant. You have to trust the roots.
You have to trust the roots.
Hope isn't about knowing or understanding, logic or reason. Hope is about trust...trusting that whatever happens, you'll be okay. You're covered. You're going to get through it. Trust takes time to develop. It builds over years of experience. I was in a horrible, rootless place and got out of it by letting my roots grow into good soil and trusting them. My personal journey of growth would have been impossible without hope and faith in God, faith that He was the one who had me covered, that He could take all that was ugly and painful and turn it to good, that He would get me through it, that He had gotten me through by using others around me to show me the way.
It took time, but I trusted Him and the roots grew and the plant bore fruit. That Susan became this Susan.
Because she found Hope.
Christmas is the season of hope. Wherever you are in your personal journey, I hope that you will trust your Hope. It doesn't take much to start those roots growing, but it can take time for the plant to bear fruit. Whether your hope is the size of a mustard seed or the size of a mountain, cling to it. It leads to good things!
The Apostle Paul teaches us about the fruits of the spirit. The first three fruits Paul lists in Galatians are love, joy, and peace, in that order. After the first Sunday of Advent, which is the Sunday of Hope, come Love, Joy, and Peace. Through December, I'll write about each. It's my hope that you will find comfort, inspiration, encouragement from these posts. It is my hope that you will, indeed, have a Merry Christmas.