“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord!” As we repeated this between refrains during the responsorial psalm in Mass yesterday, I said it with practiced ease. I have grown up hearing and believing these words for my entire life. When I woke up this morning with them still on my mind, however, I realized that lately I haven’t believed them enough.
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
If you have lived on this earth for any amount of time, you–like me–have no doubt experienced stress, heartache, worry, grief, exhaustion, or any combination thereof. If you are an Erskine student, you have perhaps experienced one or some of these in the past week, and likely will in the next week and a half until Spring Break–otherwise known as MIDTERM TIME.
As this particular verse from Isaiah reminds us, placing our hope in the Lord renews our strength! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty weary from my busy schedule and long “to do” list right about now. As I started writing this post, I tried to think about the last time I thought about hope. I certainly hope for many things in my own life: love, acceptance, forgiveness, an A on a test, being accepted to my ideal PhD program, healing, focus…that list could go on all day. I have so many hopes for my family and friends, and for all of those hurting and suffering in the world. But do I place my hope in the Lord? God knows every intention and desire of my heart, yet (as I wrote about yesterday) He appreciates thoughtfulness. Prayer is thoughtful. Prayer is thought-full. Prayer is hopeful, hope-filled. And my faith is the source of all of my hope. I can’t remember the last time I actually pondered the idea; so today I have decided to reflect on how hope has helped me and sustained me, and why Lent is such a great time to refocus on it.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
I have an internship at Patrick B. Harris Psychiatric Hospital in Anderson, SC, this semester. Though I want to talk more about this experience at a later date, this experience is worth mentioning in this context as well. Working at the hospital, I interact with and hear stories every day from patients who have suffered from major depression. I have heard stories of despair, emptiness, isolation, and suicide attempts. These stories are a daily reminder of my own struggle with depression and anxiety my sophomore year at Erskine. As a Christian who desires to work in the mental health field I actually thank God now for that experience, miserable though it was.
Some Christians have this misconception that mental illnesses, particularly depression & anxiety, happen to people when their faith is not strong enough, when they are not praying hard enough, or something along those lines. I would like to go on the record as saying that that is completely 110% untrue. The most difficult part of my depression was that I did have strong faith, yet I could no longer feel God’s presence and guidance in my life as I used to. My faith never left me, though; on the contrary, it was my faith in the Lord that kept me going and gave me hope. Eventually, as the Psalm above says, God changed my mourning into dancing, my depression into joy. And now I have an understanding and empathy for the patients and for friends of mine going through a similar dark time. I thank God for my suffering AND my health.
My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, my secure height; I shall not fall.
My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.
My biggest worry right now, I think, is where I will be going to graduate school next year. I have been accepted to a Masters program but was rejected from 3 PhD programs and have yet to hear from 2 others. I am trying to take this not-hearing as a good sign; yet I have been worrying and stressing and waking up at night since December 1st, wondering whether any of the programs will accept me. Yesterday and today have been a welcome and much-needed reminder to myself to hope and trust in the Lord. I hope for another offer of admission, but more than that I hope to be where God can use me and shape me best to do His work. I may be stressed about my school work and busy schedule, but I choose this Lent season to actively place my hope in the Lord.
What is your greatest hope right now? In what ways has God taught you the value of hope? How do you remind yourself to have hope when life seems overwhelming?
This post was longer than I intended it to be when I began writing, but thank you for sticking with me and for taking the time to read it. You are in my prayers and on God’s mind. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit [Romans 15:13].
God bless you and keep you,