If I had to give a name to the past few months, I would name the time The Season of Lost Hope.
Lately I have felt joy. Sustained periods of joy. These moments have both delighted and surprised me. They surprised me because I realized that it has been a long time since I have felt joy. Over the past month I have had several ideas, books, conversations, and situations all pile up without me noticing. This pile of stuff is not negative, but is in fact a pile of positive messages that I have finally filtered, sifted, and understood. I have been living without hope.
I know that depression is often talked about as dwelling on the past and on past decisions, yet this summer I was not dwelling in the past, but more so dreading a bleak and dust-filled future devoid of new and exciting opportunities. I felt stuck; I felt hopeless. To quote Catherine Marshall, “Resignation lies down quietly in the dust of a universe from which God seems to have fled, and the door of Hope swings shut” (Richard Foster’s Prayer, pg 52).
Since I named my summer The Season of Lost Hope, I also want to give my summer a theme song: “Silence” by Jars of Clay. “I’ve never felt so cold / I thought you were silent . . . Where are you?” I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this song in the past few months. Yet again, Jars of Clay nailed it. They were able to express exactly what I was going through and I was able to just dwell in this song. That idea of laying in the dust–that idea of everything disappearing–was my struggle in The Season of Lost Hope. It was a dark place.
As I have reflected on my time in the darkness and the wilderness, I have realized that it is hauntingly similar to what occurred a few weeks ago in Calgary: “Snowtember.” Heavy snow fell in Calgary, breaking limbs and branches off of 80% of the trees in the city. It was so sad to see these beautiful trees destroyed; their limbs laying across roads and sidewalks. Yet, when everything has been brought low, that is when we can see the sky clearly.
I may not be an excellent artist, but in all of my years of journaling (we are talking about seven dedicated years), this was the second picture I have drawn. And it is exactly what happened after coming out of The Season of Lost Hope. “With all of my dreams scattered and tossed, I can see out and above and beyond. Yet, to what? What are you clearing the way for? What opportunity? For what are you destroying my safety nets and the things I have built up?”
I realize that losing hope is a terrible place to be in, yet I am very grateful that I did not lose faith. In his book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, N.T. Wright writes about faith and about hope.
“Faith is the settled, unwavering trust in the one true God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ. When we see him face to face we shall not abandon that trust, but deepen it. Hope is the settled, unwavering confidence that this God will not leave us or forsake us, but will always have more in store for us than we could ask or think”(Pg 203).
Even though I didn’t have hope of what was to come, I still had faith and trust that there was a plan. Part of the loss of hope was that I wasn’t able to see what was coming. I wasn’t able to get excited. After months of living in the dust and seeing no hope, I know I have wandered my way out of the wilderness with my faith intact. And more importantly, I am starting to have moments of hope about what is going to come next and I am also dreaming up some plans for what might be in my future. Today I even found myself whistling as I daydreamed about some of the things I hope to see happen. What a wonderful moment of joy.
I am happy, and relieved, to say that The Season of Lost Hope is over. Faith and hope are back together, waiting to surprise and delight me as I strive to love God and love others.
“May this place of rest in the fold of your journey
Bind you to hope
You will never walk alone.” (“Shelter,” Jars of Clay)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)