You guys. The holidays. They’re here.
Tis the season for fun and laughter and memory-making and thankfulness and present sharing and snow and families snuggled up tight together and caroling and turkeys and shopping and cocoa.
Except it is also a season for sadness for so many people.
I have had my share of sadness around holidays past – loved ones gone too soon, family too far away to celebrate with…but by and large this holiday season has been pretty darn lovely. But this week ushered in a whole lot of un-loveliness.
A friend’s 26-year-old husband died. They had been married barely a year. Their baby girl was just born a few weeks ago. So much sadness and so much life left un-lived.
A friend of mine wept on the phone with me because her friend just lost her baby…in delivery. The shock and sadness of this is still absorbing into my mommy heart.
I know people battling cancer, and others that are struggling financially. I have read stories of shootings and school stabbings and have had women of faith that I looked up to come crashing off of their pillars due to doctrinal compromise and choices to sell out rather than stand strong.
And I know I am not alone. We are not promised an easy life. We are not guaranteed a reprieve from emotion and struggle just because the holidays are coming near…in fact, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be incredibly hard on people emotionally, as they struggle to cope with the loss and struggle and uncertainty that life has brought their way.
As I have reflected on all of this the last few days, I have found myself wondering how it is that people cope with the rotten curves life throws around.
And then I realized something interesting today. Cope and hope. So very similar in sound, but so very different in meaning.
To “Cope” implies mere survival, marked by drudgery and sadness and numbness. Coping tells us that if we can just muster up enough energy to go through the motions – to soldier on – after enough time passes we will find ourselves able to better move on with life.
Don’t get me wrong – I have been in coping seasons and I totally understand that some days it is all you can do to get out of bed and make coffee, let alone handle the actual responsibilities on your plate. BUT…
“Hope” promises so much more than mere survival. Hope is joy with combat boots on. It saddles up even when everything on the horizon is absolutely dark. There’s a reason the Bible says we “have this hope as an ANCHOR” for our souls: it gives us both something heavy to weigh down our troubled hearts so they are not broken completely against the stormy seas we face, as well as something connecting us to the source of our hope: Jesus.
When we find hope, it does not mean we stop having to cope through the hard times…but it DOES mean that we can do MORE than just wade through life in a haze until the hardship passes. We can look it square in the eyes and see through it to the truth that we have One that is always there for us when when it feels hopeless. When we put our hope and our trust in God and not in our own efforts to pick up the pieces when life falls apart (which by the way, we can never do anyway) we can lay down the false security of our own abilities, and rest.
Will life still be hard? Probably.
Will our problems still be there? Likely.
But will we be less frazzled and more peace-filled? Absolutely.
And what an amazing thing, the holiday season – because all around us are reminders of how to turn our coping into hoping.
Thanksgiving reminds us that gratitude can change the very atmosphere of our hearts. What once was dark and gloomy can begin to shine a little brighter when we remember the blessings all around us…even if all we can muster is a simple “Thank you, Lord for coffee,” or “Thank you for a hot shower.”
Christmas also ushers in the unbelievable reminder of Christ’s birth…Hope Himself who came to Earth JUST FOR US, to a young woman who could have looked at her situation and believed her reputation and her life were over…who could have despaired when the king put a ransom out for her life and the life of her husband and her newborn baby…who could have lamented every day knowing that one day she would have to watch her son suffer and die, but who chose instead to TRUST in the angel who told her “Do not be afraid.”
No matter what you are going through this season, remember the hope we have been gifted, and the peace that comes when we trade coping for the peace of hoping – not in ourselves or in others – but in Him.