Hard. It happens to all of us. Later I hope for most. But it comes. Hard comes in the form of miscarriages, cancer, babies with challenges they’ll face for life, loss of loved ones, accidents, lack of finance, relationships that come unglued.
Hard, it can look different for each of us but it comes to all of us.
My hard came eight months after I stood under an umbrella and faced the man I loved with rain falling like confetti. Our hard came in the words of a doctor telling us my husband, Xylon, had advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
Our hard came in the form of poison being pumped through Xylon’s body, isolation wards where bone marrow was killed and stem cells reintroduced, radiation on a hard metal bed.
Our hard came as I trekked from visiting my brother in high care on one floor and then walking up to visit my husband in oncology. Hard is like that. It rarely comes in neat packages that we can handle. It comes like a letterbomb and explodes all over our neat little lives.
Xylon has been cancer free for almost two years now but I still recall the feeling of hard well: the heaviness, the hopelessness, the struggle just to show up for others, for work, for life.
Right at the end of Xylon’s treatment I found a verse in Lamentations 3:28-29 while reading The Message Bible that I wished I’d found at the beginning of that hard journey, it read:
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.
Those five things became lifelines in the hard for me, a way to find God in things I didn’t understand, things I still don’t understand. It’s a pretty prescriptive verse.
It basically lists five things to do for hope to appear:
- Go off by yourself.
- Enter the silence.
- Bow in prayer.
- Don’t ask questions.
- Wait for hope to appear.
I read it and it sounds so simple. But I know it’s not. Even finding time to go off by myself can be a challenge (and I don’t have kids).
But I read these five steps and my soul sighs, “Yes.”
Sometimes it feels silly to try these 5 steps. Sometimes the only place I can find to go off by myself in the midst of hard is a toilet cubicle.
But I find a spot on my own and I sit in silence. I just sit there in the silence, that awkward silence that so often accompanies hard, the silence where I long so much for God to whisper audibly to me. Even though it’s hard I purposefully extend the silence. At the moment when I want to break it with prayer I push in further and seal my lips for another minute or two.
Then I bow my head and I pray. I don’t ask why me or why them. I don’t ask what can be done. I don’t ask God to do the things I think he should to make things easier. I just praise God. I thank him for being big. I talk about the stars he hung to amaze me and the flowers that bring beauty.
And I wait. When I run out of words, I wait.
And somehow, hope finds me in the hard. Hope appears in many surprising ways, a bible promise that comes to mind, a sparrow hopping past a window reminding me of my worth to God, a rainbow painted in the sky.
But hope comes. And with that hope comes the strength I need for that moment to face hard well.