“This world’s a tortured place to be / So many things to torment me / And as I stumble down this road / It takes a toll” – dc Talk, Supernatural
There are times in one’s life when the waves of insecurity comes crashing down so vehemently that one is left struggling to gasp for the air of hope. Each wave threatens to pound you down even further and further into the abyss of despair. It is hard to breathe, almost impossible, it seems. The will to struggle for survival is almost extinguished. The glassy eyes of apathy are but a symptom of this condition. The maelstrom of negative emotions swirling within leaves behind a destructive trail of broken dreams, failed attempts and copious amounts of tears.
Sometimes, it becomes easier to live in the land of depression. No one can hurt you there. After all, you’re already hurt. It is so much easier to curl up in an emotional fetal position than to stand up and daily live out the hurts and the pains of past, present and future. It takes courage and boldness and strength to face the challenges of today when reminded about the failures of the past and fear of the future. But to live in a state of constant anguish and anxiety is not a way to live. It saps you of energy. Vitality leaves your bones and is replaced with the burden of weariness that seeps into every fiber of your being. To prevent this from happening, it is important, nay crucial, to have hope.
Hope allows us to get through the day. It gently reminds us that the hurts of today does not have to be the hurts of tomorrow. Hope tells us that “this, too, shall pass.” Hope is the faint whisper of “things will get better” when we feel that our world is falling apart. Hope is what enables us to face yet another day that we fear to face.
It’s really easy to get trapped in the endless loop within our heads of how things are going wrong. One wrong thing after one wrong thing keeps on happening that sometimes I start wondering why the world/God/fate is against me. Hope is what enables us to get out of the horrible feedback loop we sometimes find ourselves in. Hope is our way out.
When it is impossible to change our circumstances, the one thing we can change is our perspective. You can let problems rule you or you can raise your fists in the air in defiance and shout “is that it?” Hope doesn’t mean that you fail to recognize your problems. That’s called denial. Hope is acknowledging that you have problems without letting your problems reign over you. Hope is what gives us the strength to wake up and fight every day. Never give up. Don’t quit. Choose to fight back. Choose hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Rom. 15:13
These past couple of weeks, I have been experiencing anger. Lots and lots of anger. Specifically, I’ve been really angry at hearing how so many women have been raped or sexually assaulted. It’s hard not to hear about the horrific incident in India of how a woman was violated against her will in such a brutal fashion. Or hearing about how a 5 year old girl is now in the hospital because of some man’s heinous acts committed against her. Even within my own social circle, I have heard stories of how men have committed grievous acts against their will. My heart is not only angry, it also grieves for them. I grieve for them because I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re dirty, or that they’re now just “unwanted goods”. I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re unworthy of love or thinking that they somehow deserved it because no one EVER deserves to be treated in that way! The “if only” thoughts go into overdrive and leaves nothing but guilt and shame in its wake. I wish I could do something to make them feel better. To make the pain go away. But I am yet again reminded of the limits of my own humanity.
Last week, that feeling of hopelessness about the evils of our world was exacerbated by the Boston Marathon bombings. Lives lost. Lives forever changed in an instant. A brief moment of light and sound whose effects will reverberate for a lifetime. People running; the next moment, they are lying down on the hospital bed about to have their legs amputated. A man about to propose to the woman of her dreams at the finish line is left crumpled on the floor, willing her to life as she lies on the ground. There are no words that can capture the sense of loss and the overwhelming anger that rises after such a horrific event.
I’m glad that the God of Christianity is a God who knows what it feels like to have a son die. I’m glad that the God of Christianity is a God who knows what it’s like to be cheated or to be lied to. I’m glad that the God of Christianity is a God who can identify with victims of injustice. I’m glad because I know He understands what I’m going through. At the very least, I can never throw “You don’t understand” in His face. Because He does. He really does. And as I read the Scriptures, I am consoled by the fact that even amidst the most tragic events that we can ever experience, there is always Hope. There is hope that things can get better. There is hope that restoration is not just a far-off dream, but that it could also be a reality in our own life time. There is hope that this, too, shall pass. It may take awhile before we see the silver lining. It may take awhile before we can see its glimmer that shines ever so brightly, but so fleetingly, we wonder if we even saw it in the first place. There is hope that beauty can come from ashes. There is hope that broken things can be made whole once more. There is hope that no matter what depths of despair we may experience, joy will find us once again. There is always Hope.
A lot of the times, I really do feel that everything in Christianity is just so incredibly messed up in comparison to how the world normally works. Normally, people want to live. And yet, Jesus says that if we truly want to live, we have to die first. A lot of us would avoid pain and suffering at any cost. And yet, Jesus willingly goes to the cross. It just doesn’t make sense.
Maybe I should re-phrase that. It just doesn’t make sense in the natural order of things. Because in the heavenly order of things, it’s the only way that actually makes sense. The Bible speaks of Jesus being someone who became man and identified with humanity so much so that we can never ever use the excuse “well, you just don’t understand” to Him. He actually does understand. Like a lot. Because he was put in the same situation as you are now in. He lived in a broken, fallen world, filled with corruption and politics (some things never change), teeming with both nice and mean people. If you think that you’re the only who was falsely accused of doing something you didn’t do, well that happened to Jesus. If you think that you’re the only who was forsaken by friends when the going got tough, that happened to Jesus too. And on the off chance that you think that you’re the only who has enemies in high places who wants you dead, yup, Jesus got that too. He identified so much with humanity, that years later, many would still deny His divinity because He wore the garment of humanity so well.
Why would the cosmic king of the universe deign to debase himself by being human? Here’s a hint: It’s the same reason why people do unbelievably crazy things for others. It’s because of love. A love that is so incomprehensible that words cannot even begin to convey what it means. Sometimes, I do think that our limbic system cannot fully understand the emotions that such love can make us feel. Our amygdala doesn’t even know how to process such a thing. (Yes, my undergrad is in Psych… lolz) That is what I am forced to wrestle with and rest in during Good Friday. I truly stand amazed that such a beautiful thing can happen through the most horrific experience. Crucifixion is right up there at the top when it comes to ways to torture people. The Romans mastered it and perfected it into an art. And through this violent and heinous act, the antithesis of Pandora’s box is opened. Whereas Pandora’s box released all manners of evil things in an otherwise perfect world, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross released love, grace, mercy, compassion, and all manners of good things in an unimaginably flawed world. This is the awesome beauty of the cross. What was meant to be a hopeless and tragic event becomes the event that would bring countless Christians hope and joy.
My friend, Renee, and I recorded a remix of a song called “Lead me to the cross”. Since it is Good Friday today, I hope that the lyrics of this song becomes the prayer of our hearts