Hope is a Silver Lining I Can’t Erase

My earliest memory stretches back to two years old. While it’s not common for most people to remember things that happen at such an early age, trauma has a way of marking the brain and body so that you can’t forget. When I was two, I was run over by a car. I don’t remember the actual event, but I clearly remember the aftermath.

I remember hearing the frantic voices of my mother and my favorite uncle. I don’t remember feeling pain, but I do remember seeing red. Everything was red. The clouds, the trees, even my mother and my uncle were all red. The only thing that distinguished their different forms was a silver lining around each one.

Miraculously, I escaped the fatality that should have been the end to that story, and walked away with only a marred ankle as my witness. But I often revisit that silver lining in my memory, and wonder what it might have been speaking over me.

Recently, in preparation for supporting survivors of trauma, I took some training that emphasized the importance of not pointing out the silver lining in someone’s situation. Part of the healing process, I am told, is meeting a survivor where he or she is at, and allowing them to explore the depths of grief and pain without adding the pressure or expectation that they should seek to find a way through it. This was difficult for me to process, at first. But as I’ve chewed on it, I’ve come to realize a few important things.

In a sense, I understand and agree with it. I don’t want to become like Job’s friends, who had the right idea at first – seven days of silence with their broken friend. But when they finally opened up their mouths to speak, out came the stupidest words ever said to a hurting and traumatized person. They serve as a good lesson in what NOT to do.

I’ve read some other good books that talk a lot about how to walk alongside people who are suffering from the ravages of life and abuse, as well. All of them contain some hint of the notion that it is wise to meet people where they are, and not necessarily hold out a band-aid for their wounds.

I’ve also heard people who have walked through grief and loss and trauma speak about the ways in which people have tried to help them, but ended up compounding their hurt. I remember one woman saying to me that “the body of Christ really needs to come up in its understanding of grief.” She felt very alone and unsupported in her process of losing someone she loved and needing to work through that pain without being rushed back into normal routines and responsibilities. This made me want to grow and learn more about how to love and support people in pain.

In my own seasons of deep suffering, I’ve been the recipient of well-meaning encouragements to not lose heart and not give up. Sometimes it was helpful, but sometimes it brought shame and scorn. Sometimes it became clear that I failed people’s expectations of the time it should have taken for me to get over something devastating. I have learned a thing or two from those experiences about how to care for the hurting.

But I’ve also learned a thing or two from other people who met me where I was, and who – without pointing to a silver lining, became the silver lining in my life. These were people who stood with me – sometimes in silence, sometimes in pain, sometimes in the complexity of unanswered questions, and reflected the warm glow of a faith that refused to falter in the face of it all. What I learned from them is that hope and the silver lining which represents it don’t always have to be spelled out to be recognized.

Most incredibly, I’ve learned from God that there is a hope that remains unobliterated in even the darkest and hardest circumstances. I didn’t learn this through a lecture, but through His constant, unchanging presence. He did not always speak it to me. Sometimes He just showed me. Sometimes He let what was around me speak, and sometimes He let my questions lead me through the winding road of doubt and confusion until I landed back at truth. But always He was there.

The image of the silver lining in my earliest memory writes a line across my life that I have never been able to erase. People who know me well know that I’ve seen what seems like more than my fair share of suffering and trauma. This doesn’t make me special, nor does it make me a helpless victim. What it does make me is hungry for the answer to why I am still alive, and thriving. And it makes me want to take that key and pass it on to others, however I can.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the silver lining as “a consoling or hopeful prospect,” and Vocabulary.com says that the term is used when we want to emphasize the hopeful side of a situation that might seem gloomy on the surface. The term is also defined by Vocabulary.com as a type of consolation.

This reminds me of the One Who was called the consolation of Israel. In Luke 2:25, Simeon was a man greatly impacted by the sight of baby Jesus. Even in the frailty of His infant frame, Simeon was granted the revelation to know that this Jesus would grow up to become the hope of all nations.

Hope is a word that seems to often get displaced. As humans in a broken world, with hurting lives, we can tend to hang our hopes on anything that promises a hint of relief or comfort. Many times, this happens unconsciously, even as we are confessing that our hope is in Christ alone. God has such a wise way of revealing the places where our hope gets hung up on the wrong hooks. And when He does, there is always an unveiling of the reality that never disappeared.

Hope is a silver lining I can’t erase because, time after time and trauma after trauma, God has revealed His unchanging presence and love for me. Romans chapter five both confirms and reminds me that true hope never disappoints, because it is rooted in the things which Jesus has accomplished for and given to me. When I get off track, and it feels like my hopes have been shattered, I can know that these were misplaced hopes, and that there is still a very real and unchanging hope – a silver lining that nothing and no one can erase because it has been irreversibly placed like a banner over my life. Even my most difficult moments come under the jurisdiction of hope, and are promised to produce perseverance, character, and more hope as I lean into the Holy Spirit (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+5%3A1-5&version=NASB).

What is most amazing to me about all of this is that I didn’t grow up conscious of this. It’s not a doctrine I learned in Bible School. It’s not a message I heard in a good sermon. It’s a truth God wrote across one of the scariest moments of my life, before I even had the capacity to understand it.

I haven’t always been the woman I am now. I’ve been through seasons of wavering and unbelief, and even rebellion. I’ve had to grow from immaturity into maturity, and it has been so far from a seamless and pretty process. I cannot say I have earned this revelation or have ever been worthy of it. Still, it has always been there.

Which means that I am not special, in the sense that mine is an unusual case. It also means that the same is true for you, and for everyone created in the image of God.

My husband jokes with me a lot and tells me that I am not normal, because I love church and I love God and I genuinely desire to be among the people of God more than anything else. But this is actually more normal than most people realize, because it’s what we were made for. It’s what a life that develops in the character of Christ begins to look like.

The same is true of the silver lining. Mine is not the only life it is written across. It is not an attainment that comes with a certain amount of commitment or devotion. It was there before I even understood it, or could do anything to try and embrace it. It was there even when I couldn’t embrace it. It remains, just like the love of God, and because of the love of God. And it holds out to every one of us the promise of some kind of good coming out of everything we ever experience.

I may not be able to say this to everyone I meet who is walking through a season of crisis or suffering, because it may not be a time to speak. I have to be sensitive to the needs that grief presents in each individual’s life, but I can live the revelation I can’t always share in words. I can embody the hope that has been written across my life, and I can be the silver lining in someone else’s life as I bring my living hope – the presence of Christ – into the room and into the conversation just by letting Love lead.

This is the task I have been given in my present assignment, and I find it so beautiful that God has reminded me in this season of the key I’ve always held – the one that unlocks the prison of despair for all humanity and is written across the horizon of every life. I can pray that all will see and all will come to know the power of unbroken hope through faith in Christ, just like I have, and I can let that hope shine through my eyes when it can’t come spilling out of my mouth.

As for you, dear Woman of Breakthrough, have you ever looked back at your life and scanned the horizon for your silver linings? Maybe yours wasn’t a literal picture like mine, but I guarantee you that if you are still here, hope has been a part of your landscape. I want to remind you today of two things:

1) It’s ok to grieve over pain and loss, and that can take as long as it needs to;

and

2) Even in pain and loss, your silver lining is not erased.

God’s love and faithfulness, and His purposes for you remain unchanged and unshaken by tragedy and trauma. Hold onto this reality as you walk through darkness, and know that you are never alone and never forgotten. Hope remains ever in its permanent place over your life.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}


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