How to Hold On to Hope

Tearing Out HairHaven’t we all felt this way at some points in our lives?

“I’m so fed up!  I don’t know what to do!  I’m so overwhelmed!  I can’t take this anymore!”

Your on-the-rocks marriage.  Your disrespectful children.  Your overbearing boss.  Your seemingly ever-insufficient finances.  Your worsening health.  Pressures from caring for your elderly parents.  Many other stressors and burdens can be added to this list (not that you want to, but the reality is, they’re lurking or right smack in your face).

You’re desperate, weary, pressed down, disappointed, and depressed.  This is not an all-inclusive list – you may have felt something I didn’t mention here, but these are some emotions I’ve felt as I’ve dealt with issues related to my marriage, my finances, my health, and attempting to care for my dad who had a stroke and had to move 750 miles into our home (thank you, my wonderful husband).

These emotions can lead to anger, bitterness, resentment, and rage, which can affect your relationships, your job, and your peace of mind in destructive ways.  Part of the problem is this – often you don’t know your relationships, job, and peace of mind are being crushed under the weight of these emotions until it’s sometimes too late.

Yet, you want better.  For your marriage.  For your family.  For yourself.  You know you have to change.  You want to get control of the anger, the rage, the bitterness.  In fact, you can’t stand how your emotions seem to take control when adverse situations rear their ugly heads.  When your husband gets on your nerves.  When your children have gone bananas.  When your job is beating you down.  When you just can’t get control of your circumstances (and as a control freak myself, not being in control is more than unsettling).

There was a woman who, according to the writer of the Gospel of Mark, faced similar circumstances.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years (Mark 5:25).

She was in a situation over which she had no control.  Her body failed her, and she did everything she could to find a cure.  She went to the neighborhood clinic.  She went to the doctor in-town.  She went to the best specialists money could buy.  And yet, with every visit, each doctor gave her a prescription for this, a prescription for that.  An herbal remedy here, a natural remedy there.

Nothing worked.

She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse (Mark 5:26).

It’s sort of like going to church desperately searching for your healing.  You do what the pastor tells you to do.  You clap and shout for God.  You go to the altar to pray.  You even give extra in the offering plate.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with church – in fact, I love praising and worshiping God!  But in my own experience, I allowed the worship to mask my pain.  I used church to hide my sicknesses – the anger, the disappointment, the bitterness.  I pretended like I received my healing in the midst of my praise.  After all, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?  “When the praises go up, the blessings come down,” is the familiar expression.  Yet, for me, I used the acts of praise and worship as ways to ignore my own affliction.    And of course, teaching weekly Bible studies means that you’re emotionally and spiritually healthy, right?

Perhaps not.  At least not in my case.

What have you tried to mask your pain – conferences, retreats, counseling, medication?  (Or maybe I’m just talking to myself.)

Let’s return to the scene of the woman with the endless hemorrhage.  She searched for a solution to her suffering for years.  She had nothing left.  She was financially and emotionally bankrupt.

She had endured much…and had spent all that she had (Mark 5:26).

Yet, she didn’t give up.  As she walked through town, she heard about a man who was going around her town healing people.  And based on what she heard, she knew without a shadow of a doubt that if she could just get to Him, she would be healed of her affliction.

She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well” (Mark 5:27-28).

Although she had never met the man, she expected Jesus would restore her.  She had hope in a man she had never seen.  But she knew He had the power to change her.  She took her hope and placed it all on Him – literally.  And because she did, she was healed of a disease that nobody else could cure.

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:29).

That’s good news – not just for her, but for us as well.  For as she held on to just a bit of hope – hope that she could one day live the life she once lived without shame (in ancient times, people would shun such people who were ill from sickness and disease from society).  Hope that she could one day be normal.  Hope that she could one day regain that which she had lost – her dignity, her purpose.  She had hope.

Even when I wasn’t who I needed and desired to be in my marriage, I absolutely knew that if I continued to pray and seek God for restoration, no matter how long it took, God would heal the afflictions from the baggage I brought into the relationship, and things would change for me, thereby changing my marriage.  It took awhile.  I had a lot of inner work to do.  It was painful.  But I held on to hope.  And I’m now reaping the benefits of that hope.  I’ll always be doing that inner work.  But I expected God to do something for me.  And that’s just one example.  There are many more I could talk about.  But I’ll spare you.

What about you?  Hopefully your marriage has brought some blessings.  Think about those blessings, but hold on to the possibility of more.  You know your children are inherently good and wonderful human beings.  Think about the wonderful moments you had with them, and hold on to the possibility that you will see goodness again.  Hold on to the good times you had with them, but hold on to the possibility of more.

Hold on to hope.  But how?

First, hold on to the word that God cares for you, is concerned about you, and wants the best for you.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Second, you must give up your pride.  Acknowledge your role in your own affliction.  In marriage, it takes two to make it what it is – good or bad.  In your relationship with your children, maybe your need to control has been overbearing to the point of contention.  Have you had a good attitude related to your job?  Have you been kind to yourself, forgiving yourself of past failures that you may be beating yourself over (I know a lot about this)?

Think of your own situation.  Own it, acknowledge it.

But after you’ve done so, the third thing to do is to give it to God.  The scripture says,

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Fourth, don’t always look for immediate healing.  God wants to grow us up.  It didn’t take an hour or two for you to become an adult.  Healing is a process.  Holding on to hope is a process.  But no matter how long it takes, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, go in peace knowing that God began a good work in you and will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

Fifth, CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS!  As Marianne Williamson stated, “Thoughts are not neutral.”  If you think negatively about your situation, that negative energy will make its way out into your relationships, your job, your finances, and every other area of your life, and you won’t receive your blessing.  Your hope will be in vain.  Think positively about your spouse, your children, your job, your finances, yourself.    Because as a person thinks in her heart, so is she (Proverbs 23:7).

As you hold on to hope, realize that healing and deliverance come in ways you may not expect.  Lay your own expectations on the altar, and allow God to restore you in ways He knows is best.  It’s uncomfortable – believe me, I’ve been, and continue to go, through the process.  But as you go through, please do one last thing:

CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES, NO MATTER HOW SMALL.

In situations in which you may have become angry with your spouse but you held your tongue, celebrate (in your own mind and by yourself).  In times where you may have taken a drink but you prayed and held out, celebrate.  At the end of the month when you had a few more dollars than you normally would have, celebrate (but don’t go out and buy anything).  When you look in the mirror, see a person who is completely loved by God and celebrate.  Whatever your affliction, because you are holding on to hope, you’re making progress.  And because you’re making progress, you are succeeding.  Just hold on.

And when you fall, just get back up and do it again.  Don’t give up.  Hold on – no matter what it takes – to HOPE.

What have you done to hold on when things aren’t the way you want them to be in your life?  I’d love to hear your feedback!

© Copyright 2011 by Kay F. Solomon.  All rights reserved.

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