(Photo by Lydia Salas)
Hope When Life is Hard
By Michelle Ochen
I do not remember when I signed up for hardship, because, in my perfect world, things would look far different than they do. I thought I checked the box for white picket fence, baking cookies with mom, kids laughing, a dog in the yard, and a husband who dances with me in the moonlight. But somehow I ended up with…well, not quite what I thought I signed up for; instead I got what they call reality.
Life is filled with sun and rain, hardship and joy, grief and laughter. It can change in an instant and you do not always feel prepared. Hardship can present itself in the bag that shares equal joys, where you might least expect it. We do not get to choose the checked boxes of our life, but we do have access to hold onto precious promises in the midst of the hardships life presents.
I find great comfort in reflecting upon the truth that this life is not the conclusion. It is only the beginning of a story that will go on for eternity in a place where wrongs are made right, justice reigns, and fear and sadness are no more. The promises of Scripture are ours for the holding; through life’s hardships, they remind us that there is hope beyond the struggle and that things will be made right. There is nothing like a word of hope when your world feels like it is closing in on you. It can spread light in a dark place. God’s Word is living and ready to bring hope to a hopeless heart beaten down by struggle and trial (Hebrews 4:12 ). The challenge lies in applying these truths and promises when life feels empty and full of pain.
I lived the majority of my life thinking that I could avoid pain. As if life was an obstacle course and if I jumped properly and learned from others’ mistakes ahead of me, I could maneuver the course just right so as to avoid most pain and hardship. It was not long into my adult years that I realized that hardship and pain are a part of life. Unavoidable and often undeserved. Life presented me a new adventure to return to a country I loved, and I thought things would be great. But insecurity and loneliness turned to depression, and my once happy demeanor was confused and with little hope. I wrestled with questions of how I could come to a place of such hopelessness. I would tell myself that as a Christian I ought not to feel how I feel. I was ashamed that I was struggling with depression-like tendencies and I kept many things inside. I knew God’s Word was true and His promises were for good, and not for evil, but clinging to those words is hard in a time when you do not feel hope.
It is not uncommon for a believer in Christ to struggle with depression. Whether it be a medical diagnoses or the emotions of depression that are a part of grieving the loss of something dear in your life. It can also present itself at the loss of expectations you held so dear. The emotions of loneliness, isolation, dwindling hope, little motivation, and fatigue can be a part of our walk with God. Many believers before us have struggled with such things, Jeremiah, David, Job, Jonah, and C.H. Spurgeon, to name a few. Some felt hopeless and distraught to live, others struggled with it all throughout their years. Spurgeon was very vocal about his struggle with depression. Instead of pointing people to focus on Christ’s victory over the grave and His overcoming power over our emotions, he took the approach of encouraging us to look at our suffering Savior – for He was truly a Man of great sorrows and He did not live a charmed life upon earth, nor should His followers expect such things. Our sufferings have a unique ability to draw us nearer to our Savior because He truly understands and comforts us in them.
We have a cloud of witness cheering us on to not lose heart, but to press on in continuing and reaching toward what lies ahead (Hebrews 12:1, Philippians 3:13). We must choose to cling to the promises of Scripture when our emotions deceive us. Truth can be our anchor in the waves of depression and emotional struggles. Take courage if you are in a dark time; His Word is light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Take a moment to write out a promise from His Word and put your name within. His promises are true and unchanging, and He will be with you in the dark times and lead you through. To the weak, He gives strength (Isaiah 40:28-31).