My word for 2014 is HOPE.
I found myself clinging to hope over the last several weeks of 2013. The past couple of months have been emotionally hard. As a girl who has grown up in the church, some of the reasons that I've been desperately needing hope are hard to share. I have struggled with severe depression for as long as I can remember and about 5 years ago I began to experience severe and sometimes debilitating anxiety.
It is hard to lay those words out on the table in front of my Christian friends. I have heard more preachers than I can count say that depression and anxiety are signs of weak faith. I have been prayed over and been told that depression is a sign of demon possession. I have been told that anxiety means I don't trust God. And while the entirety of the story is for another post (or several!) I wanted to finally shed some background to lay the foundation of my 2014 word.
This holiday season when anxiety rose, it showed itself in social anxiety. We missed half of advent Sunday worship services because there were days that I sat crying curled in a ball just trying to get out the door to go to church but couldn't make myself move. I used 2 PTO days at work because of anxiety. I managed to arrive at the ladies Christmas tea but I struggled to not break down into tears or go running away to the bathroom to hide. Even team meetings at work and my work Christmas party had me overwhelmed to the brink of tears.
I had been reading The Question That Never Goes Away by Phillip Yancey and I loved his description of Emmanuel. He talked about the world that Jesus was born into. It was a dark time and the world needed hope. God stepped down into our broken world to walk through our brokenness with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us, because He chooses to walk through our painful times with us. I clung to those words. Emmanuel, the God who is with us.
Then someone in a sermon quoted a favorite Christmas hymn and it stuck. "A thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices." I can't tell you the rest of the sermon, but I can tell you that those words pierced my soul. The world was weary when Christ came. The world was dark and tired and overwhelmed, just like me. And in the midst of the dark, tired and overwhelmed there was a thrill of hope.
The wrongs in the world weren't instantly righted just because a savior was born but the world was given hope. My life is still not easy but I hold fast to the fact that Emmanuel, the God who is with me, gives me hope in the midst of my pain. Six days before Christmas, I cried out to God on the way to work. I begged that on that day I would FEEL the hope that I know. I prayed that He would hold me close and help me to feel the thrill of hope, my weary heart to rejoice.
I walked into work and on my desk was a very small package, a gift from a new friend. The gift was this bracelet.
He had heard me. He had known that on that particular day I would need a physical reminder of hope. And that confirmed what I already knew, God is taking me on a journey of hope in 2014.
This post was prompted by Bonnie Gray's weekly Faith Jams.