I was sifting through the mail when a familiar looking envelope caught my eye. At first I thought it was a letter addressed to me, but then I realized it was MY letter being returned to me. A birthday card I had mailed just a week earlier.
It was addressed to Anna, a bed-ridden 90-year old at the nursing home where I took Codie each Friday afternoon (pre pandemic) to spread her abundant golden retriever love.
When I last sat with Anna, she had been sad. She had patted Codie’s head weakly while trying to muster a smile. She said she felt alone in the world. Codie and I were her only visitors. Her husband and her siblings had passed away, she had no children, and her nieces and nephews were too busy to reach out. Anna’s wiry gray hair had been matted to the pillow and her sweatshirt bore stains of pureed peas. I told her we loved her, and we would see her the next week and bring birthday balloons and a new crossword puzzle book. She seemed to perk up and our conversation veered toward the latest Jeopardy champion and the romance novel she was reading.
I called the nursing home and received the news I dreaded. Anna had passed away. There was a brusqueness to the response; this was clearly a commonplace occurrence that registered no surprise or remorse in the receptionist’s voice.
Anna had lost hope.
For it is hope that sustains us. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Anna’s heart had sickened.
These days we may feel our own hope deferred or fading and our hearts sickened. We are drowning under the thick blanket of COVID’s suffering sameness. The days blend together. We question whether this is our reality forever. As we pass one another in grocery store aisles, it seems not worth the effort to smile behind that constricting mask protecting us from a scary cough or sneeze. We crave human interaction, yet people are a potential conduit to a ventilator or even death. We return to the parking lot not sure if it was worth the risk. Maybe it was a blessing that Anna passed away before her nursing home experienced the virus onslaught.
Yet into this bleakness, God speaks. And He offers hope. Not the stuff of self-help books. Real hope that puts optimism to shame.
God says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
In Isaiah 40:31, God promises, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Do you want to soar on wings like eagles? Run and not grow weary? Walk and not be faint? Real hope is found in God Himself who created the eagles and allows them to soar.
Here is a blessing for you today, words from the apostle Paul, who experienced his share of suffering and yet whose life was characterized by hope and joy.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13