Sunday, May 7, 2017

GIVING HOPE TO OTHERS

I recently spoke to a friend whose life has also been touched by tragedy. We discussed the fact that some of us seem to be handed much harder lives than others. It's so easy to envy others for their healthy family or their cushy lifestyle.

 I believe that those of us who have had to walk through greater trials have been given greater responsibility in this life. Perhaps the Lord is trusting us to provide the world with a perspective that goes beyond circumstance. In this temporary life we have been tasked to become messengers with an eternal message.

From C.S. Lewis "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."

 I believe that there is no greater calling than to give hope to others:

 Romans 5:3-5: "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

I once had the honor of meeting Sister Antonia Brenner, a nun who chose to live inside the walls of a prison.  Her story is told in the book The Prison  Angel. Click here. She gave up a safe, comfortable life in order to minister to inmates in a notorious Mexican prison. Inmates tell the story of how she once walked into the middle of a prison riot, past tear gas and bullets. When the rioting prisoners saw her fearless demeanor they stopped fighting.

I think the real reason they stopped their rioting was because Sister Antonia had offered them the one thing they needed: hope. She had been ministering to them with basic needs such as aspirin, blankets, and glasses; but more importantly, she had ministered to their souls. Murderers, rapists, and every imaginable career criminal heard the gospel of hope from sister Antonia.




I have also had the honor and privilege of meeting women like"Cassie". Cassie once walked the streets, prostituting  herself in order to pay for her drug addiction. If anyone was hopeless it was Cassie. But Cassie sought help, and surrendered to a loving God. She eventually went back to school and earned a counseling degree. Now she works with other women battling addiction. 

She says, "I was once a hopeless dope fiend, now I'm a dopeless hope fiend!"

When I first met Cassie I had just begun my own journey of recovery. For years my daily drinking had steadily increased. I had tried many times, unsuccessfully, to stop. Cassie's perseverance inspired me. Her character blossomed before me, just as mine blooms now for those who follow. Now others tell me that I inspire them!

Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other twelve step programs are successful because they connect people who have suffered in a similar way, and gently, lovingly, without prejudice, show them a way out.

In other words, we get to carry a light of hope.

I recently attended a conference for women in recovery. As is the tradition at many of these conferences the person with the longest sobriety(in this case 52 years) was invited on stage with the person who had the least sobriety(6 months). The senior member presented the newcomer with The book of Alcoholics Anonymous( affectionately referred to as "The Big Book".) In the front of the book all of the conference attendees had signed their names and sobriety dates.

It was an inspiring message of hope complete with 300 signatures stating "You can do this, and we are here for you!"


My biggest dose of hope has come from an unlikely source—my young son, Chris. His leukemia treatments included a drug that produced painful sores inside his mouth and down his whole GI tract. During his chemo cycle his immune system became so depleted he was often bedridden. But his last words to us were words of hope. "Mom, when I get to heaven I'll see Jesus. I'll have hair again, and I'll be able to get my driver's license."




When I share Chris's story with others who have lost children I'm sharing a grieving mom's gospel with my own unique story. I'm sharing the hope of seeing our children again.

And when our second son, Jarrod, died unexpectedly in an accident, I was tempted to go back to the bottle and say "Screw it!" But I had had years of practice with Romans 5:3. I had had years of running with that light of hope. I had had years of helping other women stay sober through tragedy. As my life circumstances had become more painful the holy spirit inside of me had grown stronger.

2 cor 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

 Some, like sister Antonia, choose their suffering(Although, she probably wouldn't have called it that). Others, like myself, have had it foisted upon us. But if the end result is that we all become a source of light and hope, then we have served our divine purpose in this life.