I remember life without hope and without peace and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my savior and my God.—Psalm 42:6 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.—John 14:27
Before I met Jesus (in what may have been the most unnecessarily dramatic confession in the history of middle school confessions) I was miserable. I was desperate to find some meaning in my life and, try as I might, I just couldn’t. To be fair, I was also a 13-year-old girl. But it was more than angst — it was a feeling that my life didn’t matter and couldn’t matter and that no matter what I did I would never be enough. Then I encountered Jesus in a real, personal way. And everything changed.
Except when it didn’t.
I wasn’t always praising the Lord in a field of wildflowers or weeping tears of joy over his mercy. I wasn’t always happy. I’m not always happy. I’m happier than I would be but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days or weeks where life is too much and I feel like I just can’t take it.
What it does mean is this: even when I don’t feel hope, I have hope. I know him in whom I have believed, and I know that when your God raises the dead, misery is illogical. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel overcome by the darkness of the world, it just means I can remind myself of who God is, and the darkness seems less impenetrable.
But this is no Pollyanna nonsense. Open your bibles to Psalm 42 and you’ll get a better sense of that. Verse 4: My tears are my food day and night, as they say to me day after day, “Where is your God?” Verse 7: My soul is downcast. Verse 10: I sing to God, my rock: Why do you forget me?” Continue to Psalm 43:2: Why must I go about in mourning with the enemy oppressing me?
This isn’t some guy having a bad day. This is week after week of anguish, starving, ridicule, misery. The psalmist is absolutely forsaken, surrounded by his enemies. And he doesn’t point out the silver lining or sing platitudes about God doing things for a reason. He tells it like it is: I’m miserable.
But he doesn’t end there. I’m miserable, and for good reason. But I refuse to let that master me. I will not be cast down, groaning in self-pity. I will hope. I will praise. I will not be troubled and afraid because I will live in the peace of God.
Until the next stanza, when he’s miserable again. And again he reminds himself of the hope that is in him. Over and over, just like us. Because the peace of Christ doesn’t mean nothing ever shakes us. It means that when it shakes us, we grab his pierced hand and look down to find that we’re still standing on the rock. It means that when our hearts are troubled or afraid we come back to the Prince of Peace and let him point our hearts back toward heaven.
This is the reason I do what I do, the reason I’ve spent the last four years living out of my car. It’s not because I want to prove people wrong or demand their attention. It’s certainly not because I prefer living without a home. It’s because I remember life without hope and without peace and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. A life lived for Christ isn’t always pleasant but there’s hope and peace that promises sweetness on the other side of the bitter spots.
If you don’t know him — really know him — can I issue an invitation? Give God a chance to be more than your Sunday morning obligation. Sit down in front of a tabernacle and ask him to teach you what it means that he loves you. Because in that love is peace and hope that makes all of life bearable.
Meg Hunter-Kilmerwrites for her blog, Held by His Pierced Hands, and travels around the country speaking to youth and adults and leading retreats and parish missions.