Does it seem strange to begin an article about hope with a picture of hopelessness? Many years ago, I struggled with severe mania and psychoses. This battle lasted four years, from 2006-2010, and was fought on two continents and three states. Because my issue leaned heavily on the mania side of this disorder, I rarely bore the burden that was mine to bear. My husband shouldered that weight. He was the caregiver. He was managing our Congo ministry (www.risecongo.org), caring for the office end, parenting our children, and worrying intensely about me around the clock. My husband ran out of hope early in the struggle.
Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation for a thing to happen. As a verb, it means to cherish a desire with anticipation for something to change or occur. You may ask, what stimulates hope? The answer? Knowledge. One article suggests that hope comes from understanding what happened; understanding what may happen; and having the ability to influence outcomes. (psychologytoday.com 11/26/2012 by Karolyn Gazella) My husband’s hopelessness derived from his lack of understanding what was happening to me; from his lack of understanding about what may happen on a daily basis; and his inability to influence any positive outcome or solution for my health issues.
As a part of a Christian community, my husband had some avenues of help, but they too were uneducated about bipolar symptoms and treatments. Their desire to step in and help often crossed the line to interference with a hint of high-minded arrogance. Some suggested that my husband lay aside his Congo ministry. That he should begin secular work and find someone to sit with me to protect me. Without hope to bolster him, he was vulnerable to the jabs of would-be helpers whose help was not very helpful.
But here’s where the story changes: I did get better. Not by anything miraculous, but by being placed on the right combination of medicines after my third hospitalization for psychosis. What seemed like a bleak, never-ending issue came to a screeching stop. Actually, the medicines were so powerful initially that I was barely able to hold a conversation. Peace returned to our family when my incessant talking was silenced. Romans 5:3-5, in Scripture, gives this perspective: “We glory (boast, rejoice) in tribulations (pressures, oppressions, afflictions, distresses) also: knowing (perceiving, discovering skills) that tribulation works patience (steadfastness, constancy, endurance). And patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope does not make (one) ashamed; (why?) because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The author Paul is saying that the hard seasons in life produce many good things; one being hope.
Difficulties and distresses and pressures are irritating friends but incredible teachers! They share with us our own strengths and weaknesses; strengthening our strengths and revealing our weaknesses. They grow us in empathy and true understanding of our area of suffering. On the other side of a dark season, we find the light to hope for a better future and the ability to encourage others going through a similar trial. One author outlined the three elements of hope: having goals, feeling empowered to shape daily life, and being able to identify multiple avenues of reaching those goals. (psychologytoday.com 3/5/2013, Paula Davis-Laack) During those four years, our family missed out on all of those aspects of hope. But things change, thankfully.
Reader, if you feel hopeless today, hopeless in this season of life, look to the Eternal Author of hope, Jesus. For three days in history, over 2000 years ago, everything seemed dark and hopeless. But then Sunday morning came! Hope arose to give us life and eternal hope. Hold on, wait, learn, grow, and look forward to the day when hope dawns again in you.