A Thrill of Hope

4:25 AM

                                                 A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
                                            For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn'

As I stepped into the small office, I felt my chest tighten with stress. 

"These people probably think I'm so messed up," I laughed to myself grimly. 

A petite, older woman opened the door to her counseling room and in typical Northern Irish fashion, offered me a cup of tea or coffee. Settling down into the chair closest to the door, I scanned the room for signs of Freudianism. 

As she sat down opposite me in a distinctly non-threatening way, I barred my heart against the entire encounter. 

"Secrets can be manipulated," I thought. 

After years of painful experience, I wasn't letting anyone in the vault quickly. As the woman sat down opposite me, she smiled warmly in a motherly way. Begrudgingly I smiled back, unwilling to give more than a little. We chatted for awhile and eventually, I came out with it. 

"Do you really think all this counseling stuff works?" I felt astonished at my own hostility. 

The woman smiled, completely unperturbed by my forthrightness. 

"You know, I really do," she said simply. 

And that began our little journey. Every week, I'd come in grumpy and annoyed, ready to claw anybody who attempted to take the thorn out of my paw. And week after week, I'd leave feeling lighter and less burdened by my life. 

Over the course of ten months, I opened up my story bit by bit, for the first time majoring on the hard parts and not diminishing their impact. Often her eyes would fill with tears of compassion when I'd come to a particularly difficult part. I had always thought counseling was meant to be neutral. She clearly didn't. After we talked and found the root of the pain, we would pray. Those were the moments of change. No person could heal me, I knew that coming in. Only He could. As I grasped at the corner of His robe, He turned and healed me. 

Spring came around. For the first time since I'd landed on this little island in the North Atlantic, I felt something other than chaotic despair, I felt hope. Most people who have followed this blog, or looked at my life from the outside, have imagined a perfectly happy girl, traveling the world, without a care. No one really knew the brokenness I held inside. I'd gone from one painful ministry situation to another. I'd been rejected and tormented by people who were meant to shepherd and care for me. I'd been abandoned by friends. I lost my first year of marriage with my husband. I lost my first child. The grief of the last ten years seemed insurmountable.

And yet it was. Is anything too hard for God? I ask myself in wonder now! I have come to the end of that special time of restoration. My relationship with God has been mended in ways I didn't even realize were broken. I can hear His voice again, but even better, I can feel His love. I have freedom from situations that were fraught with bitterness. Where once I expected everything to go badly, I at last feel hope. 

You may ask why I write about something that's such as stigma. It's because I feel the Lord has asked me to, because I believe He wants to do something wonderful in your life. I believe He wants you to know just a bit of the depths and heights of His love for you. I believe He wants to give you freedom and peace. I believe He wants to give you hope. 

 So often we believe in healing for others, but can't for ourselves. This year, God showed up for me in ways I never thought I'd see again. I found my heart singing with the hymn "While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by." To my astonishment, He didn't and He won't for you.

Perhaps your heart is weary with the burdens of life. Perhaps you feel He has passed you by. I want to encourage you to engage with God. For me, that took being honest about my story with another person. It took prayer and good counsel, a very biblical idea! 

It's Christmas. It's the time we remember Him leaving everything to come down to earth to walk with us again. When He is near, He wipes every tear from our eyes and all of the sorrow and sighing flee away.Wherever your heart is this Christmas, I believe God wants to revive your weary soul and give you a thrill of hope. 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

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