A RENEWED HOPE
“How are you today?” she asks. “You look beautiful.”
“Thanks. I’m good.” I reply.
“Do you think you’d be up to lunch on Wednesday?”
“Oh, I’d love to, but I have a procedure that day. I’m sorry.”
Didn’t we already pray for your healing?” She frowns as she speaks.
“Then, I don’t get it. Do I need to pray for you again?” She glares at me. “You have the faith, don’t you?”
Her words pierce my heart. She is one of the few people who make it easy for me to let my guards down. I think she understands, but suddenly, she becomes a stranger standing across from me.
As she prays for me, I feel guilty because I know we aren’t in agreement. Walls of protection surround my heart while she prays, frustration seeping out of her words.
“Let me know how it goes.” She hugs me.
I leave the church with a false smile, hiding the building anger and hurt I harbor. I struggle with the idea of stepping back from the friendship for a while. I can’t endure more questions, judgments, criticisms, or challenges regarding my faith. Especially from her.
I admit that I struggle with close personal friendships because it is hard for me to be authentic. Most of the time, I try to appear better than I actually feel, so that I can put other people at ease.
This façade takes its toll on me. My dignity takes a hit. My confidence shrinks. My hope flees the scene. I’m left anxious, hurt, confused, questioning every aspect of the friendship.
I need to understand my friend’s attitude, but it seems so out of character for her. Why did she pick this day to challenge my faith? I’ve known her for fifteen years and this is the first time she questions my trust and belief in God, angry with my health imperfections.
Later that afternoon, I decide to check emails and messages, hoping to distract myself. The first email I open gives me pause, the words standing out against the computer screen.
“How are you today?”
Didn’t my answer to this same question, earlier today, give me knots in my stomach?
And yet, here is another friend checking on me, asking the exact same question.
Normally, I give her all the details and ask questions about her challenges. But the morning’s conversation swirls around in my mind. How to answer? A hundred percent honesty, as usual, or leave out some of the grueling details? Maybe, just gloss things over and keep the pain to myself?
I close the email without replying, deciding to respond to it later.
Then, there are times I fear they think, “Again?” They have a hard time believing there is another issue I must conquer.
Out of everything, I think the worse response is pity – hearing or reading someone tell me that they feel sorry for me. It makes me believe they see me as weak.
I’ll admit some days it becomes impossible to put on the show! And I know that if I allow my anxious thoughts to spiral, I’ll find myself in despair.
Can I climb out of this? Trust that the question comes from a good place?
“Father, help me!” I pray because sometimes there are no other words for the ache!
One of my favorite Bible verses comes to mind. “So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
A few days later, I reopen the email.
The words remain the same.
I gaze out the window, trying to compose my thoughts, and I notice my neighbor’s blooming lavender plants. In fact, her plants and flowers take up the entire back yard.
Everywhere I look, things are blooming – grass, flowers, trees, hillsides – signs of new life, but, it feels a strange because of our drought years.
We’ve conserved water for such a long time that we’ve gotten used to brown patches on lawns, dusty walking trails, and barren hillsides.
Now, after a record rainy season, things are coming back to life. Sometimes the signs of growth surprise me. It feels strange. Things no longer lie dormant. Their beauty giving a glimpse at the magnificent glory of the Lord.
God is my one constant. He never changes. It doesn’t matter what I endure, the Lord remains with me and understands exactly what I deal with each day.
I think about this as I get ready to respond, and I realize that my hope is being renewed as I go through these tough times. One friend reminds me of the harsh landscape from the drought years, the other friend of the stunning beauty from plenty of rain. And through each season, God keeps me, provides for me, strengthens me, and fortifies me with HOPE in Him.
I take my time to reply, and end my email, “I’m making it day by day, and thanking God each step of the way.”
I know this friend will pray for me because I asked. She’ll pray for the specific things I reveal to her. I appreciate the opportunity to share my burden with a trusted friend.
And, it comforts me to realize that my hope is tied to Jesus Christ and that He assures me of His peace during the troubles I face (John 14:27; John 16:33).
The pain remains; the illness persists; the emotions run haywire, but in the end, there is Jesus.
The Lord gets me through. He gives me wisdom and insight to navigate all these appointments, and tests, and procedures. It is His Spirit that calms me when I’m nervous about the next step. It is His Word that shows me how to live and how much love He showers on me.
I pray for God’s help because keeping my focus on Him is the key for me to get through my day with peace instead of dreadful anxiety.
Yes. it’s a slow process, but I’m learning. Sometimes I let the panic set in before I catch myself and shift my focus back to God. But, I’m thankful that, even in seasons of hardships and trials, there is always a reason to HOPE.
And that is because of our Lord.