Broken Hope

Alone on the seaMy hope is broken this Advent.

Advent is a season of hope, a season of anticipation, a season of waiting expectantly. Advent is a time when we remember Israel waiting for Messiah, and when we remember that we are waiting for Messiah still. It is a time when we choose to hope despite the darkness. But this advent I can’t choose hope.

I’m too cynical these days, too wounded, too let down to hope. God has let me down too many times. Life has fallen apart too often. My heart has been shattered too many times. I have cried till I have no more tears. I have begged and pleaded with God to intervene, to come down and visit me in my darkness and pain, to save me. I have waited and hoped, and I have received silence.

This advent, I have no more hope to give to the God of the universe. I have no more waiting to do. I am tired, I am weary, I am spent.

I have nothing but anger for God these days. I am angry that He wouldn’t save my marriage. I am angry that he has remained aloof, silent, far from me. I have anger, I have words of fear and pain, I have cynicism, but I have no hope.

They say that hope deferred will kill the heart. They say we are saved by hope. They say that hope never fails. They say a lot of things about hope, but I have yet to hear talk about how to save a broken, sinking hope.

How do I heal a broken heart that has given up believing in healing?

///

This is all so depressing to put down on paper.

This is the darkness of my winter season. I’m probably being a bit melodramatic with all these words, but I’m a writer with bipolar so that’s allowed.

I don’t want anyone to worry about me. I’m not despairing of life. I’m not suicidal. I’m not giving up. I just don’t know how to keep hoping for miracles anymore. I don’t know how to hope that God will come and visit us who sit in the shadows. I don’t know how to keep my faith in God these days.

Good Christians aren’t supposed to say things like this. Well, I’ve never claimed to be a good Christian. I’d rather be honest. The honest truth is I don’t know if I believe in God’s salvation these days. There is too much that has happened in my life, in the world, too much suffering, too much pain, too much broken hope and it threatens to swallow up my faith.

I’ve never been good at reconciling personal suffering and a supposedly omnipotent deity. I’ve heard the explanations that suffering teaches us lessons, forms our character, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. They don’t provide a good enough answer for me. If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he intervene, especially for those how trust in him, especially for those who hope in him? That haunting question has left a gaping hole in my faith, and from that unbelief I have learned cynicism.

///

I don’t want to be jaded.

I don’t want to be this angry in the dark kind of Christian. I don’t want to be hopeless, lost, and cynical. I don’t want to feel my faith keep slipping away.

I want to believe. I want to have the kind of faith that is beautiful, childlike, and whole. I want to find hopeful words in scripture, not just questions and unbelief. I want to sing songs that I mean with my whole heart instead of remaining stoic and silent. I want to believe Jesus in spite of the suffering, the pain, the hardness of this life. I want to believe that Jesus is near, sitting with me instead of distancing himself and remaining aloof.

So, what do I do when my hope is so broken yet I hunger to believe?

If I’m honest with you, I have to say I don’t have an answer to that question. There is part of me that wants to lie, to tell you it’s prayer that pulls me through, or scripture, or songs, or books. I want to lie to you because it’s fighting to not know how to heal my hope.

What I do know is that cynicism and my broken hope isn’t the sickness; it’s just a symptom. Under my cynicism hides anger, and under that anger hides hurt, and under the hurt lies fear. If I’m going to deal with these symptoms and find some sort of healing for this broken hope, I have to dig out the root and face that fear that is under it all. If I don’t, I’m going to lose my faith for sure.

I guess I have some work to do. If I don’t want to continue to be jaded, if I don’t want my cynicism to eat up my faith, I am going to have to face this deep dark fear. But what am I afraid of? What is so freighting to me that I would bury it under layers and layers of emotional and spiritual baggage? Well, that’s part of the work.

It’s time to find out what I am afraid of.

This is going to hurt. This is going to be something my therapist and I will go round and round about. This is something that is going to take some time to finish, just like it took time to bring my heart to know this cynicism.

///

So, where does that leave me this advent?

I guess even with this broken hope I’m still waiting. I’m waiting on hope, peace, joy, and love to come. I’m waiting in this dark. I’m waiting in this hurt. I’m waiting in this fear that the waiting will never end. But I’m waiting for Christ. Maybe it’s not that I need to hope to experience advent. Maybe it’s the waiting that is the advent experience. Waiting with broken, stumbling hope. Waiting with turmoil in my heart of hearts. Waiting knowing that I’ve been waiting for so long. Waiting, waiting, and waiting.

I guess that’s what advent is all about.

  • Dude, thanks for being real. I can’t say I’ve been through the same things, but I get the frustration, the fear, the cynicism. In that, I’m right there with you.

    Have you listened to Randy Stonehill’s “Christmas At Denny’s?” There’s a great line in it that goes, “I don’t need no miracles, sweet baby Jesus. Just help me find some kind of hope in my heart.” <–that I can get behind.

  • Nicole

    I’m really glad you wrote this. It’s heartbreakingly honest and I respect you for that. I had a close friend die in August and I refused to write because I had no answers. I had nothing but anxiety and anger and fear and I didn’t think that was helpful. Instead, I sat in my head, keeping everything bottled up and suffocating myself with my emotions. My best friend just died on Tuesday and for how raw I am and how broken, I haven’t been able to stop writing. This post was refreshing for me. Thank you for allowing us to feel your hurt and fear and anger. I think it’s more helpful than you know. To just show up and be honest and have no answers is brave and I think a lot of people will identify with your feelings. I know I do.

  • jtheory

    sometimes all we have is a cold and broken hallelujah

  • Addie

    I am also a fellow Christian who is cynical and jaded who suffers with depression- through and through…. and I have no plans to change that any time soon, its a part of who I am and right now, Im ok with that
    So speaking from experience, I think its time for you to let hope go – at least for this season…. it will only break your heart. cling to your faith – its there, no matter how small it is right now, its there, I can feel it in your writing. Let hope go, so your faith has a little more wiggle room and when its ready, it will put down slightly longer roots and a little bit taller bud. Healing can come, but it has to come on its own time – we cannot push it or rush it, that only leads to disappointment, which can damage the fragile bud of our faith, which is more important right now.
    some days I just have to take it 15 minutes at a time…. “ok, Im hurting, but I can get through the next 15 minutes” and when that 15 minutes is up and Ive made it to the other side, then I say it again, “ok, Im hurting, but I can get through the next 15 minutes”…. that’s how I get through whole days some times – I keep faith that I can do at least 15 minutes. My good days I can get through the whole day, but those aren’t every day. And on my good days, when Im able, I try to help anyone who comes across my path – putting a grocery cart that is in a parking spot away, smiling at a stranger, picking up a piece of trash – things that are inconsequential to most people, but that I know has made someone’s life just a tiny bit easier… I can be that, I can do that. I will never get a thank you – I don’t hope for that, I put faith in knowing that I did something good
    the most important lesson that Ive learned lately is that I have to be kind to myself… let myself off the hook for not being good enough… for not being happy…. for not being what the people around me want me to be…. I have to know that Im ok and Im enough
    And you are too. God is ok with your anger and your hate…. He really is. He will wait you out and still be there on the other side. You can yell and curse and throw things and say hateful, awful things (I do often) and Gods perfectly fine – He allows that, doesn’t bother Him at all. He isn’t this safe thing that the church taught us – they lied, He doesn’t fit into a pretty box – try to put Him there and He will bleed through and ruin the box…. and then He will laugh about it. He is so irreverent…. and He still wants you – especially the broken you. He isn’t going to heal everything, He isn’t going to give you sunshine and rainbows. He is also the God of rain and mud and bugs and worms. He sits in the rain. He will wait you out…. He will sit in the rain and let you scoot a little closer to Him when you are ready – He isn’t going to push His way to you and force a newspaper over your head. He will just sit and wait until you ready. So let go of hope, at least for now – it will come back when you have room for it…. instead just inch closer – even if that inch takes months, closer is closer…. you can do this, you can.

  • samcarter44

    I’ve held onto this post since Saturday so I could make sure I commented when I had a minute. Thank you for speaking to me. Your honesty is refreshing, and I don’t think I could write or speak better words myself. I relate to a lot of what you write. This is a rough time of year for me, and I have had to fight through feelings of being alone and unwanted. People in the church do not like to hear words like bipolar, depression, anxiety, or anything having to do with mental health. If I were to use a word for my hope, it would be wavering. Please keep writing. You encouraged me greatly!

I reserve the right to moderate and delete comments at my sole discretion. Basically, don't be an ass or a troll, contribute to the conversation, and you can say what you want. This is my online home, not a free for all chat room. Thanks.