Well, its Friday morning and at least momentarily I can sense life in me–at least some stirring beyond my prevalent emotion of despair. It is amazing how much more hopeful I can feel on Friday morning than on Monday morning, and it’s discouraging to realize that my view of God’s magnificent creation is dependent on something as mundane as the day of the week. As Emily Dickinson wrote: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Now this quote has absolutely nothing to do with my life but I just thought I’d throw it in to demonstrate how well read I am. I could also lace this article with a bunch of biblical quotes about hope. I’ve done that before in my book about coping with depression: The Unwelcome Blessing. I have a whole chapter devoted to hope.
At my advanced age the battle for me is all about hope–how I can latch on to it in God’s word and how I can intentionally create if in my own soul and communicate it to others. If I can’t give myself hope, how can I presume to teach hope to others like my clients and readers. Some days I simply feel out of hope altogether. That has happened a lot this past week. A week ago I returned from a six-day vacation that filled me with hope. But I’m an imperfect vessel and I leak. Hope flows out of me like a 55-gallon drum riddled full of holes by an AK-47. The oppressive heat and humidity of central Florida in late August doesn’t help. The 76-ish days, ocean breeze and low humidity of coastal California is an almost brutal contrast to where I spend the other 359 days of the year. Seeing new vistas, leaving old habits & obsessions behind and feeling part of my son’s family causes the serotonin and dopamine to flow. And so I return in good spirits, but sadly with each passing day I can feel hope slipping away and the old voices returning. Now, I know these voices are somehow propagated and mediated by Satan’s helpers. I wrote a book about that too. But the voices are very insistent, and they flow thru my neural pathways like water down the well-worn 2000 year old aqueducts headed to Rome.
I have no new suggestions or insights about hope. They were all given to me in 1995, when the Holy Spirit illuminated the text of a sermon on First Thessalonians 5:16-18. I knew in that moment that I had been given the key to my chronic despair. The whole point of my life since then is intentionally remembering to put that key in life’s respective locks: Rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in every situation. The best way for me to create my hope is to put the focus on God and the blessings He has given me–and that means effusive praise and thanksgiving. And beyond that to focus more and more on channelling to others the blessings entrusted to me.
In praising God and serving my brothers, I create hope in them–and in me as well.