Second Thursday of Advent: Waking Up to Life
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
—Romans 8:26-27 (read Romans 8:18-39)
In August of 2007, I learned that even in choosing death, God’s love was my hope.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had chosen not to attend church that morning. Instead, I lay in my bed, my eyes flooded with the pain and despair that I had denied for so long. I looked at my clothes hanging in the closet, and I stared at the plain, white ceiling for what I thought was the last time.
Then I picked up a pen and a yellow notepad and began to write, trying to explain to my family and friends why I had chosen to end my life.
Initially, I didn’t want to write a suicide note; it seemed so cliché. But because I was such a private person, no one would have known, without a letter, why I had lost hope. So despite my reluctance, I begin to write. I explained how the things I had endured over the past few months had finally pushed me over the edge. I explained how, at 24 years of age, I was tired of fighting to live, and that I now wanted to die. As I laid my letter next to my bed, I burst out in tears at the thought of my mother reading that letter. I hoped that even through her hurt, she would understand my choice.
I began taking two to three Extra Strength Tylenol at a time, about 30 pills total. I laid down in my bed, closed my eyes, and figured that in about an hour, everything would come to an end. I tried to fall asleep, but was unable to do so, as I reflected back on all that I had experienced. From my parents’ divorce when I was seven, to failure after failure, to a romantic relationship where we brought out the worst in each other, to being taken advantage of by those whom I trusted most--life up until this point felt more like death. I turned on the TV to help pass away the time.
But then, as the minutes drifted by, I realized that I had been through too much to have this be my end.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
When I called 911, I tried to sound “normal.” I explained that I had made a rash decision, but I was okay and most certainly wanted to live. Once at the hospital, my primary nurse and the staff person who sat with me overnight were both Christians. They talked to me about how much God loved me, how valuable my life was, and how I needed to have hope.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life...will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That overnight stay in the hospital was pivotal in how I viewed hope and the love of God. Romans 8 became more clear to me, because I began to understand that hope wasn’t just about longing for better, or seeking success. Hope was also about enduring the worst and finding peace that passes all understanding. Hope was about being renewed even when life strips away all sense of comfort and confidence. Hope was about being refreshed, even while fighting against injustices that stale our compassion.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
The past ten years have been far from perfect, and quite honestly, full of more pain, rejection, and disappointment.
But my renewed sense of hope continues to transform every moment of despair into strength.
The love of God carried me through a devastating back injury in 2012 that left me unemployed and in unbearable pain for several months. Then one Sunday morning in church, God miraculously healed me.
I’ve endured more betrayal and heartbreak, but I’ve also been surrounded by the love of family and friends—including a brother who sends the most hilarious text messages.
And last year, I watched my father being wheeled away to have double-bypass heart surgery, afraid that it was the last time I would see him alive. Today we laugh together, enjoying the blessing of life.
My hope enables me to eventually smile after every tear, and to experience the abundance of life that comes from trusting in God’s love.
Hope in God will never be about perfection or living a pain-free life. Hope is a masterpiece of all that life brings, framed by trust, colored with love, and signed by an Artist who specializes in making all things good.
Sherry C. Wherry is a career coach and former CCO staff member and student.