Enduring hope: holding on to hope no matter what life throws at you
I’ve always been passionate about hope. It’s what brought me to CAP in 2013 after hearing a client’s story, showing CAP bringing hope into the desperation and darkness of debt. Hope is what kept me going as a Debt Advisor for five years. It saw me through both the good days where you could send clients healthy budgets and keep their creditors at bay, and the bad days with finances that were impossibly tight meaning you could only offer clients difficult choices. Hope is what motivated me to go again and give my very best to the next client.
Hope is also something that means a great deal to me as someone who has struggled with depression on and off for the last decade.
Holding on to hope
I am aware that might sound like a bit of a contradiction, to be passionate about hope and struggle with depression, an illness characterised by despair. I suppose it comes down to what we understand by hope. For me, hope is not a feeling. Yes, it can be a feeling and it’s a blessing when it is, when we feel good about the future and can look forward with optimism. But emotions are fickle and, whether or not you struggle with mental illness, there will be times when you don’t feel hopeful. Times where you don’t feel positive about the future, where it looks bleak, dark or disappointing.
But if we lose that feeling, does that mean we’ve lost hope? No, I don’t think so. Because, to me, hope is a truth rather than a feeling.
It’s the truth that we’re forgiven and redeemed. That there’s nowhere we can go that’s beyond God’s grace. That we are loved unconditionally by our Heavenly Father. That no matter what we face or how we feel, we’re never alone or abandoned. That God can bring good through even our darkest nights. That he will use us for his glory even when we feel weak and unimportant.
The Bible is full of reminders of the hope that we have in the gospel and God’s promises to us. One of my favourites is 1 Peter 1:3-6:
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’
Holding on to hope when you don’t feel hopeful
Depending on what situations or circumstances life throws your way, you may find that those truths and promises of God stop feeling true. It’s easy for our faith to be led by our emotions and when they don’t line up with our expectations we can doubt God and question his plans. But for our faith to weather life’s storms, it has to be built on more than our emotions. One thing mental health challenges teach you is that emotions are unreliable guides when it comes to truth. The things that are true in the light, when the sun’s shining down on us and our lives are as we want them to be, are still true in the dark, when we’re cradling shattered dreams and weighed down by pain. But we do have to fight harder to hold onto those truths when the lights go out.
Hope isn’t pretending life is perfect. It’s acknowledging the pain and brokenness of this world, but choosing to view it through the lens of God’s redemption and grace. It’s choosing to trust in spite of our circumstances because God’s character hasn’t changed though our perspective has shifted. Hope is fixing our eyes on God’s kingdom coming whilst recognising it’s not here yet.
Holding on to hope, in spite of the noise
And it isn’t always easy to hear hope speaking. Life comes with lots of voices clamouring for our attention. Maybe it’s ill health or the pressure of family life, financial challenges or relationship struggles. It could just be the daily grind of everyday trials and disappointments that can steal our energy and joy. Over the last year, we’ve all felt the anxiety, fear and isolation of the pandemic coming at us from every newspaper headline and conversation; exhausting and unrelenting. These situations and challenges can be loud and overwhelming. At times, hope can become a whisper that we have to listen for amidst all of life’s other noise.
At times, we can get knocked off course altogether and put our hope in other things. We trust in ourselves and our own effort and strength, thinking if we just worked harder then we’d be able to solve all our problems ourselves. We can put our hope in work or the other roles we play, finding our identity in what we can do and who we can be to other people. We can put our hope in things, in those material possessions or financial security that make life that bit easier. Or we can hope in another person, a leader we expect to save the day, or a relationship that we’ve centred our lives around. Sometimes we don’t notice our hope has gone astray until that thing is taken from us and we find our foundations have been shaken or fractured.
Holding on to hope in Jesus
Putting our hope in God is a daily choice we have to make. Choosing to centre ourselves around who he is and who we are within him. It’s especially important to do when storms are raging around us and that emotion of hope feels like a distant memory. God’s promises still stand and he is the only true source of hope.
Sarah Scarisbrick-Rowe has worked at CAP for eight years, and is now part of the Technology and Transformation team. When not working at CAP, she enjoys crafting, baking, writing or any activity that can be done with a cat asleep on her lap.