“Until we walk with despair, and still have hope, we will not know that our hope was not just hope in ourselves, in our own successes, in our power to make a difference, in our image of what perfection should be. We need hope from a much deeper Source. We need a hope larger than ourselves.
Until we walk with personal issues of despair, we will never uncover the Real Hope on the other side of that despair.”
-Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace
I’ve had soul confusion for a few days now. My heart has been heavy for my own family and for those around me going through unimaginable trials. But even in the midst of trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do, I hear a Voice whispering, “Hold on. Joy is coming.”
All around us, there is so much heaviness. This old world is still creaking; people are groaning under the pressure. Many loved ones and neighbors are under a heavy load these days. People dying, hearts breaking. People longing for attention, for an embrace in the safety of someone they can trust.
And the more I reach out, the more people reach back and open up, sharing stories that rip my heart out. So much heartache and loneliness and lack and loss. Not everyone had good mamas and daddies. Some were left to wander aimlessly, longing for love. For someone to guide them. For hope.
But where is the orphan’s hope?
It’s easy to forget there are orphans who see their parents daily. Where is the hope for the child who knows, in the pit of their 8-year-old stomach, this will never get better? The pain is real, but somehow he manages to secretly dream of a miracle. Where is his wishing star?
I want to say, “Choose joy, little one.”
But choose joy? What does that even mean? For some poor kids and those in foster care and desperate situations, joy only comes one morning a year. It comes in donations from rich families delivered by social workers. But then joy is gone as quickly as the Dollar Store garland that falls from the tree and is crumpled by the dog. Who would choose that?
Joy? Bah. Humbug.
But then, Joy did come at Christmas. And our Joy was crumpled and hung on a tree, left for the dogs to lick His wounds. He was wounded for the transgressions of those who would orphan their children. He was pierced for the iniquities of every lousy f-ing parent from the Pacific Northwest to Kalamazoo. He was chastised because there had been and would continue to be those in positions of power who would abuse their authority and shatter everything they touched.
The fact that Jesus died for broken people from all walks of life leaves me puzzled and frustrated. Grace? Even for parents who disown children for finally having the guts to come out and own their sexual identity? I don’t get it.
But in the words of Anne Lamott, “Hope begins in the dark.”
Sometimes grace makes no sense. But at the same time, I know that if Jesus died for legalistic fundamentalists or abandoners or abusers, then there must be hope for me.
There must be hope for you and me.
Christ is the reward of every orphan who feels they may never find a home. Hope is their home. Hope is the resting place for abandoned wives and failed ministers. Hope is the dance floor for shattered dreams, long-since deferred.
I have experienced hard days. But I have also felt Joy wash over me when the hard days finally pass. Hope is the anchor and joy is the knot in the rope to which we desperately cling.
Hope is the message and Joy is the Messenger.
All of this is what my friend Sarah calls “the insanity of grace”:
Even so, there is grace. Somehow, knowing the sickness of my own soul, the darkness of me without Christ…well, I’m still in awe that He forgave me, so how can I not forgive others? It’s a choice, after all, to release such debts. To forgive is to say, like Christ, “You owe me nothing.” We’re all jacked up. The refusal to extend grace comes from a heart that doesn’t believe all sin deserves the same penalty.
But God—could I have grace for Him? How could I give Him a second chance?
If I’m honest, I often feel like Sarah. This is a tough one because I don’t always like this grace. It pisses me off. In my own humanity, I don’t want this same grace offered to others.
But then I’m left in awe that God, in all of His splendor and majesty and beauty and purity somehow finds grace for the father who rapes his daughter. The mother who breaks her child’s arm in a drug-induced rage. The teenager who has a stupid one-night stand and lets that boy talk her into killing her innocent baby. For the grandfather who never has time for his family.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
So if you’re stuck in the middle of a mess right now, I pray you hear the voice of Hope. That same Voice has been whispering for eons, “Joy is coming.” I can’t promise when Joy will show up on your doorstep and the weeping will stop. But I know it has for me and I have to believe Joy will come again for you.
And in Her arms, crazy grace.
So keep hoping. Keep holding on. Keep trusting. Keep looking for goodness and beauty.
Sooner or later, it will show up.
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Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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