I admit, there was a time when I couldn’t take the hope for myself. When Jake and I separated in 2010, I was a wreck.
The first five years of marriage were hard. I felt torn apart, unable to catch my breath before the next wave (crisis, miscommunication, disappointment, hurt) pummeled me again. In May 2010, I told Jake that I was done. For the first time in our relationship, despite wanting to dozens of other times, I finally suggested the D word.
I called my mom and asked her to support me if I chose a divorce. I asked her to affirm me, that I had done everything I could and that God would understand. To my surprise, with a gentleness and sternness that only my mother could pull off, she told me no. Divorce wasn’t the right choice. With my heart beating out of my chest and tears burning my eyes, I hung up on her.
But she was my lifeline. I needed her and she knew it. So instead of being angry at me, she showed me an abundance of grace. I remember one day, when I was feeling particularly low, she spoke profound words over me.
“I know you don’t have strength to grip hope right now. But I have hope for you and Jake. I’ll hold on to hope until you have the strength to hold on to it yourself.”
That was only part of the problem. Yes, my strength was depleted, but if I were being truly honest, choosing hope was risky. What if I believed in Jake’s and my restoration? What if I chose to consider the good instead of focusing on the bad? What if I hoped for not just an okay marriage but a truly great one?
Disappointment, that’s what.
Hoping meant risking being hurt again.
I was too tender. I was too broken. I didn’t have either the strength or the desire to hope. And that’s why it was critical that someone near me, someone who would love me through the dark, messy times, would hold hope for me.
Through a series of events, none seeming super significant, my heart was changed during our separation. The blame I placed on Jake melted as I owned my attitude and made changes within myself, not because I had the energy or even the desire to but because I felt a deep spiritual conviction to better myself, no matter what my husband did or did not do. I started with small changes — ones I could control. When he walked in the door, I didn’t interrogate him.
I stopped focusing on his failures. And most importantly, I stopped letting the status of my marriage be the measuring stick of my success and happiness.
Around the same time, a year of consistent marital counseling finally began bearing fruit. We talked through issues that had been swept under the rug for five years. To our own astonishment, we worked them out without getting defensive or angry. We empathized with each other. We sought peace for each other. We committed to the process, and it worked. And since then, no matter the depth of disagreement or hurt, I’ve been able to hang on to something I learned about Jake in that painful time: he’ll never give up on me. (Love you, babe!)
Hope is risky.
Expectations, weariness, and fear complicate things. After all, some outcomes you simply can’t control. A health diagnosis. A natural disaster that hits Reset on your life. A marriage that requires two equally invested people. An unexpected job termination. A sudden relocation. A false accusation that shredded any credibility you had.
Whatever the reason, if you’re in a season where you feel too weak or too scared to hold on to hope, let someone gracious and loving hold it for you.
Hope of the Deeper Kind
It’s fitting that my mom’s hero is Corrie ten Boom, a woman whose grip on hope was severely tested.
Cornelia Arnolda Johanna ten Boom was born in 1892 in Amsterdam. Walking in her father’s footsteps, Corrie became a watchmaker; in fact, she was the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands. Her family had a reputation of being compassionate and generous, so when the Germans invaded in May 1940, it’s no surprise that Jews began knocking on their door for refuge. Corrie and her sister hid six people behind a fake wall in her bedroom, outfitted with a ventilation system and an alert system for random security sweeps.
Eventually an informant outed them, and her whole family was arrested. I can’t imagine a more frightening place to hold on to hope than in Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany between 1939 and 1945. The Nazis imprisoned approximately 130,000 female prisoners at Ravensbrück, of which over 50,000 died due to starvation, disease, or overwork. Over 2,000 were killed in gas chambers.
Corrie and her sister, Betsie, barely survived the grueling train ride into camp. Arriving in the middle of the night, they were briskly led to the processing barracks, where each woman was required to strip in front of a dozen soldiers and enter a shower room. At this point, the only token of hope Corrie possessed was a small Bible that hung around her neck on a string. She stashed the Bible under a bench by the drain holes (toilets) before stripping down. Either by absolute luck or divine intervention (she’d say divine intervention, and I would agree), Corrie managed to sneak her Bible through several inspections.
She wrote, “Before long we were holding clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as ‘the crazy place where they hope.’ Yes, hoped, in spite of all that human madness could do. We had learned that a strong power had the final word, even here.”1
I have no doubt that Corrie hoped for liberation, but her last line reveals a deeper hope: Good has the last word. I don’t think it’s wrong to hope for specific outcomes, but I think a deeper hope exists, one that is realized not through outcomes but instead in our souls. Corrie and I both passionately believe that that Good is God Himself — an omnipotent God who deserves our fullest devotion. And yet we all turn our backs from the Author of Love to satisfy our thirst for affection and power on our own terms.
When we finally realize the folly of our selfish pursuits, this mighty God who has every reason to turn His back takes us back. Over and over again. He’s a God of second chances and unreasonable love. He offered Jesus, worthy of power and a palace but born of a virgin in a barn, to model radical love. Jesus took the punishment for all our mistakes — past, present, and future — so we can be reconciled with God again. The price has been paid. Shame is undone. We don’t have to hide. We are fully known and loved. Indeed, our surest, deepest hope rests in God’s goodness, even if we experience unexplainable loss on this side of heaven.
We persevere, knowing that, ultimately, Good overcomes. So, yes, here in the midst of our suffering is the crazy place where we hope.