hope sustains when optimism fails

“While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will soon go better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone…” Henri Nouwen

"I don't believe God protects me from anything, but I believe He sustains me in everything." Father Gregory Boyle

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As far as I’m concerned, Facebook’s entire value lies in the supportive communities I’ve found there. If my secret support groups disappeared, I’d be out of there tomorrow. No matter how much your selfie skills have improved in the past 10 years, that’s just not enough to keep me clicking. My support groups, though: they make the world go around.

So in one of my groups this week, somebody asked, “Is this going to get better?”

And immediately, people lept to say, “Oh yes, it gets better,” and “God only gives you what you can handle” and “God removes the burdens that are too much to bear.”

Me, being The Grinch That Stole Christmas, I said this:

“I’m not going to say it gets better because I don’t think we get those kinds of guarantees. No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try, bad things happen. What I will tell you is what I tell my kids: no matter what happens, we will get through it together.”

It’s the six month anniversary of Libby’s death and I have zero optimism.

There is no way to make this better.

Life gives us way more than we can handle.

I don’t think God removes the burdens that are too much to bear.

I knew this before Libby died.

Life had taught me this already.

The rule that says bad things happen to bad people? And good things happen to good people? Nope.

That’s just something we tell ourselves to hold the fear at bay.

We all want to think that there’s some way to avoid our deepest fears.

There’s got to be an easy button, a work-around.

Surely we can put enough coins in the heavenly vending machine to buy the kind of candy bar we want.

If we just pay God enough, that should do it: good behavior, ministry martyrdom, being OnFireForTheLord.

The truth, though, is what Westley says in The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Princess, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

So what do we do with painful reality, when optimism fails us?

I think Henri Nouwen and Father Boyle are right.

We find hope in the present.

With the presense of Love, the presence of one another.

Love carries us through.

Love sustains us.

Even when it is too much to bear.

Especially when it is too much to bear.

Anne Lamott taught me this about grief many years ago, in her book Traveling Mercies:

“Our preacher Veronica said recently that this is life's nature: that lives and hearts get broken -- those of people we love, those of people we'll never meet. She said that the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice and graham crackers.”

No matter what happens, we get through it together.

Taking the tenderest possible care of one another.

Without shame or judgment, either for ourselves or each other.

We Love.

Unconditionally.

Together.

That is the best hope I know.

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