We are all searching for something to hold onto. An anchor, a solid foundation to steady us when the storms of life threaten our ability to hold on. Sure it’s easier to lessen our grip when we experience long stretches of days overflowing with abundance and nights filled with restorative sleep. Jesus reminds me daily to hold onto Him, the only true hope as I live out his purpose until I am called to my true home.
I am a licensed counselor, and in my practice I have been called to stand daily on holy ground as I minister to God’s sons and daughters. I am humbled and privileged to bear the weight of their pain as each one shares his or her need for Hope. Oh how the storms of life can test our faith and crush our hope.
I recently read the life story of Victor Frankle and the absolutely amazing account of how he survived in the Nazi concentration camps. Even as I write these words I am overcome with sadness that so many endured such evil. Victor Frankle based his ability to survive such brutality on the fact that he had HOPE! He says that the basic need to survive came from the fact that he believed he had a future.
He says this about hope: “What you believe about the future is essential for survival.” What a beautiful testimony when his “tomorrow” looked utterly impossible.
All over scripture we are assured of our hope in Jesus. I love the words of the prophet Jeremiah in 29:11. “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.”
As I experienced an intense season of struggle after the death of my husband Ken, I was more focused on my future than I had ever been in my life. I wish I could say that I felt fully confident that the future was secure for my family and myself. I spent the first few months in the welcome state of denial before the darkness of grief settled in on my life. Just as I had prayed, read scripture, and stormed heaven with pleas to heal my husband months earlier, I now prayed that God would heal my heart and give me hope for a future without Ken.
I prayed something like this. “God please! I need you to do the heavy lifting on this one… help me to trust you to do what I cannot do for myself each and every day as I walk out a totally new reality. I don’t want this. I feel like I am free falling, and yet I know you are holding me. Please draw your kids close and help them to feel your grip.”
Grief is a teacher, and walking in darkness taught me many truths that stick with me and continually point to my hope in Jesus. I realized in the midst of pain that I cannot lose sight of the final outcome, which is the hope I have in Jesus. I realized that I cannot base my hope on the present I am in, but I can base my hope on the FUTURE that is mine in Jesus. Even when I can’t hear him and I cannot understand what God is doing, I am assured he is at work. Oh Lord, help me to rejoice even in the midst of silence and confusion.
My hope in the silence is not based on God’s explanation. It is based on God’s revelation, what he has promised me. The certainty of salvation. I cling to the words of 1 Peter 1:3-6:
Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
I am so grateful for my inheritance—my hope that cannot be killed! Jesus Christ walked out of the grave, therefore our hope is alive because Jesus is alive! I greatly rejoice that no matter what tomorrow looks like for me or what my present circumstances look like today, I choose to hold on to the hope in the final outcome. Glory with God in eternity!
My pastor shared a remarkable story a few weeks ago:
A man arrived in New York City during a very hot summer weekend in the 1990s. This man was an international speaker on a public speaking tour and scheduled to speak at a hotel in Times Square. The city was experiencing a black out. As this gentleman checked into his hotel he was surprised that it was only lit by candles, and there was no air conditioning. Being the renowned speaker that he was, these were disappointing conditions to say the least. It was stifling hot inside, so he decided to get some air outside.
He walked down the street and noticed all of the other hotels were also lit only by candles. All the doors and windows that could open were thrown wide open to circulate air. As he continued to walk and rounded a corner, he was drawn to the sight of a hotel completely lit from the inside.
He was curious and walked into the hotel to the front desk and asked if the attendant could tell him why they were the only hotel within an eight-block radius that had electricity. “Oh that's an interesting story,” replied the front desk attendant. “When this hotel was built years ago, it was the only one at the time that was built with a generator deep underground in the basement. It’s an internal power source that is not impacted by what’s going on outside.”
My hope for each one of you reading this is that you too would hold onto Jesus, your “internal power source.” I pray you will experience hope in the midst of pain, strength of love in the midst of fear, and increasing faith in the midst of doubt.
Julie Hull is a counselor in private practice in Edina, MN. She has a master’s degree in counseling from the International Institute of Christian Counseling and a BA degree in communications from Augsburg College. Julie is also a Licensed Pastoral Counselor. She teaches on grief and loss topics to medical organizations, churches, and schools. A past participant of a Legacy Retreat® in 2011, she lost the love of her life, husband Ken, in 2013. She is a fiercely proud mom to her son, Sam, who is now a teenager and makes her a better person every day!