If all you ever experienced in life is comfort you would never need Hope. But comfort is not your only experience.
When we witness difficulties we turn to the first hope.
“Maybe I can escape difficulty.” In reality we know the odds of that are impossible.
Once the belief that we can avoid difficulty is shattered we often move to the next Hope – a cure. In Biblical terms we pray for the miracle. This can be a very difficult time, hoping for the cure and coming to terms that the rain falls on the Just and the Unjust.
I grew up Baptist and in my local church God was often portrayed as a Giant Safety Officer. When safety disappeared there was often much silence and some confusion. When the cure did not materialize, the lack of cure was sometimes explained away as a person not having enough trust or faith.
That is a devastating explanation.
This is a guest post from Kendall Taylor – Alberta Health Services Area Supervisor for Addiction Counselling in Barrhead, Alberta. He’s a busy man doing important work. Kendall took time to meet me in his office a few weeks ago. We had an honest conversation about how faith communities can best ally with health care workers. He and his wife Karen make a great classical guitar duo.
But what if Hope is not tied to the fairy tale of a perfect life.
Or the hope that we will somehow avoid difficulty?
Or that the cure is not really tied to our ability to grit our teeth and work up a few more ounces of faith?
What if hope is linked to the ability to endure and walk through difficulty? The rain is falling and I need a raincoat. Now the raincoat comes in the form of the words in the Bible. Hope also comes from the hands and feet of Jesus, which are you and I.
34 years ago I was called to a hospital to meet a woman admitted for alcohol withdrawal.
When I walked into the room, her chart and life story in my hand, I saw a human being who was as yellow as the sun. Jaundice is the result of excessive daily alcohol consumption and a failing liver.
Her chart told a story of repeated hospital admissions, repeated treatment programs, failed personal economy, destroyed relationships, early childhood trauma, and persistent mental illness. The cure had not appeared to that point. In my arrogance I left my card on the table, as she was non-responsive. In my mind I said I should be leaving a Toe Tag, already reducing this human to no hope.
This is my arrogance. This is my fear on display.
The abbreviated version of this story is that the woman recovered.
For the past 33 years she invested her monthly social allowance money into other addicts and mentally ill people. I get a call from her every year. She has hosted hundreds of people in her home over the years and has attended and led many 12-step recovery groups.
She provides safety, stability, care, comfort, and moments of sobriety to many people. In short she facilitates Hope. Wise hope. Hope that generally guards against abuse and being taken advantage of. She facilitates solid hope that is directed in a way that equips people to take personal responsibility and to learn about their physical, mental and spiritual journey.
She knows that most people do not find the miracle. But they learn to hope in the struggle with the support of real people in real time – people who are the hands and feet of Jesus. Most people have not heard of the church that exists in her home and that is not important to her.
Oh, I forgot to tell you.
Early on I told her about my Toe Tag attitude. She didn’t minimize my attitude or apologize for me. She truly forgave me and showed me kindness and respect. But she let me sit in my issues. She said her part was that her life truly inspired “a lack of Hope”. She also speculated that possibly my attitude was a reflection of my own fear of drawing close to chaos, devastation, and possible death.
My judgmental attitude was my flimsy protection. No college degree or course has taught me more about addiction and Mental Health recovery work. I’m grateful for her early intervention in my career. She was the addict and mentally ill person teaching the “schooled professional”.
It’s my experience that hope is found most often in the struggle.
I can certainly hope for the fairy tale, or to dodge the bullet, or have a fixation on the cure. God does perform miracles. But more often addiction and mental illness persists – sometimes for a lifetime.
Struggle is not a sign of spiritual weakness or the Devil. It is as real as a broken leg or the measles. Hope needs to live in the difficulty. And hope is often found in me and you.
We are capable of a human touch and allow Jesus to form us into his hands and feet so we can facilitate wise Hope despite our own fears or beliefs.
APPLICATION: Kendall’s strength is his vulnerability. He helps people feel safe. That’s a comfort. Please leave a comment below for Kendall. Thank you.
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