The stories we tell ourselves can warp us or raise us, save or destroy us, illuminate or disassemble. ~Anne Lamott, from Almost Everything, Notes on Hope
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you.” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
…plans to give us hope and a future. Yet for we humans, hope can be such a fleeting, elusive thing. One minute it fills and swells our hearts; the next, we can turn over every rock under the sun and it just seems to have been chewed up completely and its entirety swallowed. Leaving nothing for us.
Fear is the biggest enemy of hope, just as it is for love. We can become like Henny Penny running around screeching “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.” over things that almost always never happen. And, it’s impossible to love without some measure of hope.
I remember when I was in my late thirties going to my doctor for my annual checkup. She said, “I’m concerned because you have several large lumps in your breasts.” She sent me for a mammogram. The wait was agonizing, as my grandmother had died of breast cancer.
When I went for my mammogram, the technician’s face changed from a bubbly sort to a grave one. She could not tell me what she saw but instead said she’d send them to my doctor and I’d get a call. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or be my normally playful self. I practically had myself six feet under. I suppose metaphorically I did.
When my doctor called me, she said, “All is well. You just have lumpy breasts.” I was incredibly relieved but also felt quite a bit foolish.
But what of those who have suffered cancer and all the crippling treatments that come along with it? Where is their hope to be found?
In Tony Campolo’s famous sermon, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming”, he delivered a powerful message that can seem trite or patronizing to someone who has truly lost hope.
The only answer I have found when I have faced deep loss and suffering—which I have had much in my life—is to remember the story is not over. As Anne Lamott said in the above quote, we have to be very careful of the stories we tell ourselves. You know those tapes in your head that seem to be on permanent repeat.
My pastor calls them “King Herod Thoughts.” He represents the one who wants to kill the promises of God. He can’t, and even our thoughts can’t but they certainly can steal our joy for a time.
May your days be full of hope and when they’re not, feed yourself on God’s word and great books such as Anne Lamott’s, Frederick Buechner’s, Kathleen Norris’s, and Bittersweet, by Susan Cain.
Love, your sister along the journey,