As a certain husband of mine has had occasion to remind me, there is a difference between Hard and Hopeless.
Are God’s promises true? Of course that husband is right. Hope is always ours, objectively. And yet, and yet... As I have had occasion to remind a certain husband, things can sure get to feeling Hopeless.
Hard is when one knows the right path, and must press through the wearying chances and changes along the way. Hard is when Mom has to be cool and consistent in disciplining, in discipling, when the infraction is egregious and repeated and what she really really desperately needs is a nap, or just five minutes with no one clamoring about her knees. Hard is when everyone’s fighting and crying and the baby won’t nap and there’s nothing in the freezer for supper. Hard is when everyone’s sick but the laundry still has to be done and someone has to get to the pharmacy and the grocery store. That is Hard, and every person who’s found her way here can supply a zillion everyday examples. (Every day is a large part of why Hard is Hard.)
Hopeless is when everything has been tried, repeatedly, and nothing seems to be working—even accounting for the long-range perspective of results in this grand childrearing project not being immediate. Hopeless is when one can’t seem to get the household, the education, the discipline, into anything resembling functional order, and not for lack of trying. Hopeless is when it seems that solutions simply don’t exist, no matter how much effort is expended. From Hopeless, Hard looks easy (though it is not). Hard is Hard, but solutions can be found and applied, through gritted teeth and various degrees of travailing.
There are many roads to Hopeless, and I’ve been down a couple of them myself. I daresay that most of us have traveled at least partway there, however briefly, at some point. What do you do when you are gifted with a Challenging Child? What do you do when all the crises—health, family, church—crash in at once? When you try to squash the sadness and the lostness into a corner of your throat because you feel like there’s no point in talk-treading over and over the same ground, when there are no new solutions in sight? When it gets to the point that you dread going to bed because there’s no peace in sleep, only—at best—a temporary oblivion overlaid with the crushing burden of having to get up in the morning and face everything all over again?
More’s the victory for the enemy, if he can get us to dread the bright dawn, to believe that its fresh rays can never illumine dark Hopeless. Recognize this attack for what it is, and remember: What do I know, even when I do not feel it? The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
No, everything may not look brighter in the morning, but “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him." It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
So eager am I to depart Hopeless that I forget: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
So eager am I to deaden the pain, to protect myself from the anguish of Hopeless, that I forget: what is such self-protection, after all, but the hardening of my heart against the only One can rescue me, who even now is at work in my life? For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief—though He cause grief!—he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
The enemy hisses that Hopeless is Reality. That dawn brings only drear. That hardening your heart against hope is your only protection, so shove your feelings back down your gut, because numb is the best you can hope for.
Hearken to a different voice: Today, as you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. Oh! How many rebellions have there been, in this foolish little shriveled-raisin heart of mine! Thrice in short span, the writer to the Hebrews echoes this exhortation, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Today, today, today—this very moment! Thrice-repudiated is the insidious accusation of never and too little and too late. Even amid the darkness, this is the moment of grace—of the shockingly free grace whose dreadfully priceless purchase makes all the difference, now and forevermore, between Hard and Hopeless.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Though he slay me with blessings beyond what I can bear, I will hope in Him.