When we hear perpetual bad news, changing protocols, and internet shaming, it’s difficult to maintain a steady hope. Hope in the future. Hope in our world’s ability to rise from all of this to be better and stronger.
Last night, after the kids were in bed and we both watched TV, my husband asked how I was doing. He knew something was off from my snippy attitude, short fuse, and restlessness. But at first, I didn’t know how to respond. After reflecting on his question, I think my firstborn said it best.
“I am so mad at this virus,” he confided to this brother. The two played with Legos in their room, creating their own world together, free from the overwhelming reality we all faced. My husband overheard their conversation and told me about it later. Yes, son. Me too. And as much as I try to focus on the unexpected gifts that have come out of this season, each day I hear more bad news.
An unexpected cancer diagnosis from a friend. Another divorce. Job loss, financial devastation and ruin.
My own life’s stresses seem minuscule in comparison, but their effects can’t be ignored. And the more I try to dismiss them, the more my agitation creeps to the surface. Last week, our county’s transition to hybrid learning came to an abrupt halt. My middle school son realized he wasn’t going to start back to in-person classes in a few weeks, and his hopes of seeing his friends crumbled with the news.
So yes, he was mad at the virus. We always encourage him to be honest about his feelings, but how do we move forward? How do we continue to hope, when it seems as though life is in a constant state of flux, with nothing being certain or permanent?
A new friend described it like a yo-yo. We move toward what we think is next, only to be yanked several steps backward again. It’s a continual drain on your soul and energy, and as soon as you adapt to whatever the “new normal” is, it changes.
I thought about the current state of our world and the stresses each of us face, I did a word study on “hope.” Specifically, hope in biblical context and the ways it is used throughout scripture.
What I found is that hope is not a yo-yo. Hope is an anchor.
“We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:19-20 NIV
This anchor is what keeps us secure in the chaos and turbulence of life, when our circumstances throw us back and forth. It steadies us and gives us a firm place to stand when we’re afraid of what tomorrow may hold.
My oldest son plays piano, and music is one of the pursuits keeping him sane these days. As I listened to him play, I realized hope is like the time signature in a piece of music. The notes will rise and fall with the stanzas and the melody, and the tempo may quicken or slow. But the time signature remains the same. Each measure of music will have the same number of beats, and this constant method of keeping time will carry throughout the song.
My situation doesn’t determine my loss of hope. My thinking does.
It’s based on how I think about the news, the numbers, and steady influx of information. Like everyone else, I have bad days. Days when I need to just cry and get it out. Our tears heal and reduce stress, friends, and there is no shame in releasing them.
But here’s the key: I don’t stay in this place.
When my mind tells me this season will never be over, I repeat the truth: God determines my tomorrow, not this virus.
When my thoughts say my kids future is in jeopardy, I repeat the truth: God goes behind and before my children, and he places his hand of blessing on their heads.
His truths and promises are the hope, the time signature that keep my mind focused when the earth screams for me to look at the chaos and uncertainty.
As I focus my mind, I realize: Our hope is not determined by some miracle in the distance, but the One who directs our steps.
Friends, our God tells us when we place our hope and trust in him, he will work all things for good. (Romans 8:28) Even this. And I have seen his goodness in the middle of the constant change, overwhelm and heaviness. I see it when, after the transition to 100% virtual learning, my middle child declares, “Well, at least we still have toys!” I see it in new friendships forged and sacrificial acts of love.
These things keep my mind stayed on the goodness of God instead of the uncertainty of tomorrow. His steady reminders of his grace keep my foundation stable when the world tries its best to rock it.
If you need further encouragement that God is for you, even in the midst of the struggle, uncertainty, and unknown future, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. Many people have sent me messages saying it is a timely book for this season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Abby McDonald’s heart for her readers shows through in every word. Genuine and gentle, she leads us to a place where we can shift our lenses to see God’s presence in all the moments: good, bad, and—especially—in between. Because as much as we like to focus on the highs and lows, God longs to meet us in the middle. Shift’s practical approach will help you see Him there.” – Kelly O’Dell Stanley
You can purchase a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.