We are so honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 93,225 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it. We have a new promotion going with prizes. The person who is our 95,000 follower will receive two nice prizes, which we will not name. ( This is called a hook in writing.) The number of followers rises fast. We are averaging close to 40 new subscribers each day. So don’t hesitate! Click on the icon right after the title of this post to subscribe.
Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It will be reaching out the many military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and the many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides ever day. That is almost one every hour. Doug wants to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Doug Is also seeking military who would be willing to do an interview. It will be part of the book. Sharing by actual soldiers will help many others. Look for updates here.
I ma very proud to have our guest writer for today. Linda Clare doesn’t not pull any punches. She speaks from her heart about very difficult subjects. Please read today’s post and find hope.
Cultivating Radical Hope
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” –Matthew 18:21-22 NIV
We who love those with addictions and/or mental health issues might all agree that the whole situation just sucks, big time. In my story, and I suspect in yours, there’s plenty of victimhood to go around. I’ve sat in twelve-step meetings and cried alongside moms and dads, wives and husbands, grandmas and granddads as we poured out the hurt and frustrations or compared war stories. Like I said, this whole situation reeks.
After all, nobody in her right mind wants to swap lives with us. Honestly, nobody—except maybe in one of those meetings—even wants to hear about our messy, chaotic lives. How can anyone cultivate hope in the midst of such suckiness?
My answer might shock you: Without radical hope, we’re all doomed. And we have to cultivate this kind of hope—it’s not going to come sit on the doorstep like a neighbor’s surplus zucchini.
Radical hope requires me to forgive those who persecute me. Like the grown child who asks me for money, when I fear too much of his income already goes for beer, pot or what-have-you. The one who begs me for a ride home after I warned him not to go in the first place. Radical hope insists that I see the face of Christ in those who are so totally unworthy because of their addiction, their behavior, the seeming self-centeredness and constant mishaps. I’m supposed to see Jesus in the midst of total unworthiness? Tall order.
But we Christians know all about unworthiness. Throughout the Bible, we read a lot about shortcomings, mistakes and even evil. Fair enough. We’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God. But though our sins are as scarlet, God can also wash us white as snow. Which should we dwell on when it comes to our addicted/mentally ill loved ones?
I’ve worshiped on both sides of the unworthy sinner v. forgiven child of God question and I freely admit to possessing a natural bent toward criticism and judgment. I hope God wasn’t paying too much attention to me on the recent evening when my youngest son Joel went to a friend’s house to help him sort through a pile of boxes that was sitting in the guy’s yard. An hour later, Joel called me to say he was stranded on the side of the road on the opposite end of town. Could I drive over and pick him up? His so-called friend had unceremoniously ordered him to leave after Joel tried to give his friend a bit of advice about getting rid of some of the boxed stuff.
I’d already done several similar “love missions” throughout that day—another cross-town trip for Micah who was ill and needed help getting his son to his place, scurrying to make supper, and other things I can’t remember. Joel’s request was the proverbial last straw and I let everyone have it. My husband says I’m cute when I curse, but I guess I was pretty tired and frustrated. I let my gaze wander from our Lord—who is the Prince of Peace—and instead reacted in a very human and I’ve-had-it way. Joel just happened to be in the line of fire. Fail.
Radical hope is hard and I fail far more often than I’d like. I so get the fury we feel when our love (and sage advice) are not only not reciprocated but tossed back into our faces. Righteous Indignation R Us. As soon as I calmed down (and rested), I apologized for my tantrum. And confessed my bad behavior to God, determined to do better. As humans, we’re bound to react to pain, and maybe even lose our cool for a time. But then we must give our hope garden some loving care before it wilts.
For me, radical hope starts out the same way I process pain. Doesn’t matter if I stub my toe or if one of my sons is three sheets at two in the afternoon. The cycle seems about the same: First, I get mad. (What’s your favorite epithet for a table leg that jumps out and grabs your toe?) Then I get sad. I’m not a crier, but you know that thing that happens in your gut when the vagus nerve contracts suddenly? Feels like a gut punch—unmph. Next, Mom McFixer tries to rescue or fix the problem. Finally, completely exhausted, I stop spinning my wheels, bandage my poor toe, and get my eyes back on Jesus.
Sometimes this works better than other times. I’m no better than you or anybody at this stuff. But lately, Jesus has been tugging me to see beyond the hurt. And in forgiveness, I can often glimpse the person God sees, instead of that drunk or druggie or mentally ill person.
Radical hope insists that my loved one (and yours) are more than the last bad thing they did.
Despite all the heartache, broken promises and financial stress, our family members are our loved ones. I want to see the good in each of them, and some days it’s nearly impossible. But in pursuing this radical hope, I believe I’m getting closer to seeing myself and others the way Jesus might view us, the imperfect yet beloved.
And although it’s about as easy as herding cats, seeing Christ in those who at times seem so unworthy to us creates fertile ground for a miracle.
My favorite uncle once gave me invaluable advice concerning our kids and their substance abuse problems. He said, “You didn’t create it (the alcoholic or addict) and you can’t fix it.” At first this news was a total bummer. At that point I was convinced I could fix just about anything and anyone. There had to be some program or system, some prayer or anointing I hadn’t yet tried that would make them well. If it hadn’t been so serious, I might have laughed. I was Super Mom, after all.
But the more I soaked up my uncle’s idea, the more I understood. It isn’t up to me to make them quit using, drinking or what-have-you. I’m forced to turn them over to God for fixing. God loves them more than I ever can, and He will never let them go.
For a while, I checked every few minutes to see if that miracle was on its way. In my head’s version of a miracle, my kids would announce their decisions to enter treatment or start taking appropriate psychiatric meds or get a better job or go back to college. While I’m still waiting for any of those things to happen, a miracle has begun to blossom.
As I learn to celebrate the good in my kids and everybody else, forgive them as Jesus does and cheer them when they pursue wholesome activities, hope has been reborn in a way that’s potent and, yes, radical. Radical hope doesn’t give up on anybody, looks for tender green sprigs hidden among the tares of sin and embraces the dangerous love of God.
I say dangerous, because God’s love and radical hope don’t come without cost. As Jesus presented Himself as a sacrifice, radical hope forces me to love despite the real possibility of the searing pain that comes with vulnerability and rejection. Disappointments, late night arguments, bail bondsmen and worse may await me and all those who dare to hope this way.
Say yes to radical hope and yes, it’s possible that your worst fears may materialize. I pray your loved ones choose life—but you didn’t create their problems and you can’t fix them any more than I can. Terrifying, isn’t it?
I know all this and yet I’m more hopeful than ever. Seeing my addicted and/or mentally ill grown kids as Jesus sees all of us—as more than our last mistake or bad decision, more than our last trip to Righteous Indignation R Us, more than the last binge or lost job—is what breathes life into hope.
Radical hope is the power of Love to turn giving up into giving and yes, forgiving. The best we can do is keep loving them in the face of heartbreak; to convince ourselves and them that they are more than the last bad thing they’ve done. So much more.
A Sky without Stars
The Fence My Father Built
Linda S. Clare is the author or coauthor of six books, including Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them with Melody Carlson and Heather Kopp, Making Peace with a Dangerous God with Kristen Johnson Ingram. Her most recent novel is A Sky without Stars from Abingdon Press. She lives in the Northwest with her family, three wayward cats and an adorable lop-eared bunny. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook or visit her website: http://Lindasclare.com.