The more complex my life circumstance, the less complex my prayers. More of Him. God with me. Less of me. Words fail. Presence succeeds every time. Keep me near thee, oh God. Those few lines sum up last year. Simple prayers. Deep lament. I’ve found depth in brevity; the closeness of God in times of deep sorrow. Gratitude has been an anchor for my grief preventing me from drowning in the trauma that was the year 2020.
I have so many unanswered questions for an omniscient God. Why did my father die due to addiction? I was only 15. His addiction caused him to separate from our family when I was 2. Why did I grow up in poverty? Why did you give me THE BEST mom? A mom who lost both parents by the age of 35, yet parented and loved me so well. Why wasn’t she afforded the joy of experiencing the parent/child relationship with her mom? Why have I been a single woman for so many years? These questions may never be answered, but I am not without hope. How can I have hope without answers? I have spent the past 7 months pondering the power of hope when answers are few and why love is an even greater power than that.
Hope doesn’t demand answers, yet longs for them. Hope requires possibility. If it is to sustain ones soul, it demands truth, something substantive to hold on to. I learned this summer that hope without truth is denial. I repeat. It does not demand answers. Possibility may prove more powerful than the answer itself. Hope’s power resides in the belief of possibility.
The power of this principle was magnified last August when my mom became suddenly ill and subsequently tested positive for covid-19. This news sent rage, anger, and fear quickly through my body. With her pre-existing condition and age, I prepared for the worst and flew home to be present. Every news article and report I’d seen became much more than a story. Unable to see her – no hospital visits allowed. Unable to hear her – she could barely breathe let alone speak. Unable to comfort her through proximity. Unable to pray pithy prayers, I became deeply acquainted with simplicity. God, I need you. My mom needs you. During the day I busied myself caring for and supporting my mom and family anyway that I could, but at night I cried and cried and cried. It is no exaggeration to say that tears became my food day and night. Each day brought uncertainty; never before had I stared despair in the face and fought like ___ for hope. Go ahead and fill in the blank; yep, that’s how hard I fought for hope.
In my humanity, I often wanted God to just tell me if my mom would live or die. I wanted finality, but God offered none of that, yet each day, I had enough hope to sustain me. And just like manna, hope fell daily and provided just what I needed. Hope holds us in our suffering and even soothes our souls – providing divine levels of comfort and perspective to fuel our persistence in prayer, justice, or relationships. Without hope the long haul is just long suffering. Hope leaves us longing, but love answers. Love says yes or no and the answer is always for our good. And this may be why love is more powerful. “Hope deferred makes the heart weak,” is a proverb I’ve held on to for years. To be in anguish for days, months, or even years with concern for the well being a loved one has a way of weakening the heart. When love answers, we may celebrate, grieve, or find ourselves somewhere in between. Love’s response allows us to eventually establish new hope.
In December 2020, a dear friend of mine lost her father due to complications from covid-19. My nightmare became her own. While my mom survived the brutal effects of covid-19, her dad did not. The very thing I feared became her reality. I am still reeling from this loss. Truthfully it’s because I had such great hope in God. I know he is capable of healing. My hope was not misplaced, but my heart wasn’t ready for Love’s answer. This was one of the hardest no’s from God this year. I live with the loss of my father daily; the vacancy in my heart that longs for his physical presence is irreplaceable. I am well acquainted with this pain and I wish no child experienced it.
2020 was the hardest year of my life and it is not lost on me that the multiple valleys brought exceptional clarity about what’s most important. I didn’t expect corrective vision to come in this fashion. Some things remain blurry and unanswered. I can long for answers and remain hopeful. Such is a paradox of life. “On Christ the Solid Rock” is a hymn reminding me of this longing. A portion of that hymn is below.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
His oath, his covenant, his blood
Supports me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay”
John Onwuchekwa of Four in the Morning podcast said, ” Life is lived at the intersection not the freeway. Life will stop you at some point. Processing grief is a skill. It is not about time. Grief is not a pest to be exterminated.” Life certainly stopped me in 2020 and forced me to acknowledge loss. I am hopeful to live 2021 at the intersection of grief and gratitude. Both are powerful. Both allow me to reckon with loss and revel in victory. Resilience is born in this place. None of us are without loss and all of us have something for which to be grateful. The inextricable connection between hope and love has helped me to move through last year and will provide foundation for the new year.
Last year’s personal trauma introduced so many new questions for God, but I am not without hope. I will bring those questions to Him in the quietness of the night. I will inquire of him when doubt is amiss. My soul will ask him to answer me especially when grief overwhelms me and words fail. I will remain vulnerable in angst and joy. I know he will answer. God is love and love always answers.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13, ESV