Hope Can Mean the Difference between Surviving and Thriving

May 8, 2017

I’ve turned my eyes to God more times than I can count in the last nine months and said, “Seriously?  This is the year my book gets published?”  I turned my final manuscript in for Busy Lives & Restless Souls two days before my grandfather’s first brain surgery.  At the time, all we knew is that he had a tumor, but we didn’t know if it was malignant or benign.  My intuition told me that handing in the completed manuscript prior to his surgery provided freedom and space for whatever was coming.

I’m thankful I did because two days after his surgery, my kids’ school year started, which was just weeks after Baton Rouge had seen shootings and riots.  Ten days after his surgery, a historic flood hit Baton Rouge that required my parents and hundreds of others to evacuate their home by boat.    Fourteen days after his surgery, with the devastation of the flood around us, we heard that it was brain cancer.  My book’s release began about six weeks after his second brain surgery in January.

Hope has been my lifeboat this year, helping me stay afloat as I traversed the uncharted waters of flood recovery, brain cancer, and publishing a book and as I traversed the familiar waters of marriage, motherhood, and ministry.

The question I pose to God about my book I often asked my husband, friends, and colleagues.  “After five years of writing, why is it coming out this year?”  They would smile and say, “Maybe God’s reminding you of your own words right now.  The time for prayer is now.  God is with you walking through it all.”

I know they are right.  I’ve opened my own book in the past nine months more times than I can remember to remind myself of  my own words and  that these words were birthed from my own relationship with God.  I’m not writing today to tell you I’ve done it well or that I’ve got the answers.  But what I know from these last nine months is this…there are days I simply survive, just like I’m guessing we all do at times.  Then there are others moments where, in spite of what is going on, I am keenly aware of the abundance around me.   Hope is what keeps me going on days it feels like I’m surviving, and hope is what helps me name the abundance around me.

What is the virtue of hope?

Hope is a gift or a grace given to us by God.  Hope trusts that what we aspire within each of us to seek – fulfillment, peace, and joy – will happen.  Hope helps us not remain locked in darkness.

Hope is seeing the past, but not dwelling there.  It’s acknowledging what is happening but looking to the future.  Hope is not just getting by in the present, but thriving in spite of it all.  Hope is our future, our tomorrow.  Hope helps us trust that it will get better, we will get through it, and it reminds us constantly that we are not walking alone- God is with us.

What about days we feel we are merely surviving?

There will be days in life that we feel we are merely surviving.  Even in our prayer lives, don’t we sometimes tell God, “This is all I’ve got today”?  Guess what – that’s okay!  Just like there are some days in prayer where all we can do is simply show up, the same is true in our lives.

The same friend who shared her profound, yet simple wisdom that I wrote about last week– “It’s ok to not be ok” also offers me the wisdom of “One minute, one hour, one day.”  She reminds me almost every time I see her that God will get me through the next minute, the next hour, and the next day.  God has done just that, and God will do that for each of you.

When we feel we are surviving, what can we do to help us hold onto the virtue of hope?

  • We can reach out to those who can help us hope and offer us a word of encouragement when we are down.  Who in your life can help you hope?
  • We can offer heartfelt, honest prayer to God.  Maybe our prayer is “Hey God, I’m here.”
  • We can trust that God is hoping for us, praying for us, working to help get us through, and helping us keep our eyes on God.
  • We can ask for the grace to get through the next minute, the next hour, and the next day.

Can we really thrive?

I don’t know about you, but I would like to do more than just survive life.  I want to live and live life fully.  I want to embrace the promise of Jesus in this week’s Gospel in John 10:10 when he says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

To thrive means to flourish, prosper or develop well.  So can we thrive instead of simply survive in the middle of a tough season? Yes! I believe we can thrive, but not by our sheer will-power but with grace of hope.

There are so many events of the last few months that I look back on and think – it doesn’t make sense to me logically that I felt peace in that moment or that God’s presence was abundantly present.  I can think of moments that I had no way of knowing how to get through, and God provided a way.

When I flip through the photo album on my iPhone from the last nine months,  I see many moments of joy, of laughter, of great memories, of healing, of community and even of a monumental moment for me, my book release.   I see images of hope mixed in with pictures of flooding, boat evacuations, MRIs, CT scans, medicine notes, and notes from doctor appointments.  It would be so easy to simply see or remember only the latter.

Thankfully, though, hope pulls me and can pull all of us out of the darkness.  Hope gives us eyes to see the reality of what is happening in life , like we talked about last week, but to not stay there.

I know I didn’t make it through the last nine months solo nor am I going forward solo.  God hoped for me and hopes with me. God helped me hold onto hope and continues to help me do so.  Hope helped me embrace to the good moments when they are here and pulls me through the tough spots.  And even, though it doesn’t make logical sense some times, when I survey the entirety of my life, I know that my spirit is thriving because of my anchor of hope.

Scriptures for Support This Week:

  • Hebrews 6: 19-20: “Hope is a steadfast anchor for our soul”
  • Joshua 10: 25: “Do not be afraid or dismayed, be firm and steadfast”
  • Job 17:15: “Where then is my hope,my happiness, who can see it?”
  • Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes a heart sick”
  • Psalm 3: 2-6: “With my own voice I will call out to the LORD, and he will answer me from his holy mountain”

Online Busy Person’s Retreat:  

I’m excited to announce that the first Online Busy Perons’s Retreat is full!  If you would like to be added to the wait list, please contact me.  Be on the look out for other online busy persons’ retreats in the fall of 2017!

Busy Lives and Restless Souls News:

  • Join me on the Jen Fulfiller Show on Thursday, May 11th at 1:20pm
  • Look for the June issue of Simple Grace magazine on stands tomorrow you might recognize a face in it!

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Burkinshaw

    Becky, your post resonates with me. After 6 years of researching/writing a book about my mother’s life in Hiroshima during WWII, including her survival of the atomic bomb at the age of 12-years-old; I finally had a publishing contract. It was bittersweet because my mom passed away 3 months after that. She became ill and I took care of her, yet she went too quickly.
    So when my book came out last August,that wouldn’t have been possible without her bravery to tell me about her experience; I felt such a loss.
    I pray for strength and bravery like my mother had. So I truly believe, hope DOES make a difference!
    Thank you for your grace filled words.


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