3 Things to Remember When You Want to Give UpHope begins in the dark — the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up. ~Anne Lamott
My friend and I ran along the sidewalk, side by side, our warm breath filling the cold December air. We hoped to cover more miles than usual as we trained for a longer race.
Rounding the corner to our least favorite hill, we routinely stopped talking, knowing we would pick up the conversation at the top just like we had done for years.
As we leaned into our steps, a man drove past us, leaned on his horn and gave us the finger for no reason. I caught a glimpse of his angry face as he sped by and wondered why he was so mad at us.
My friend turned towards the speeding car, her arms lifted in exasperation, and said, “Really?????”
We stood there staring at each other and wondered aloud what just happened. We both felt deflated and decided to walk up the rest of the hill. So much for the longer run.
I found myself thinking about this encounter for the rest of the day and finally asked myself why I was so upset.
I admitted that I hate when things don’t make sense.
No Reasonable Explanations
If my friend and I had stood on the sidewalk throwing dirt and rocks at the man as he sped past us, I might understand if he flipped us off. I hate when bad things happen to people, but if they have to happen, I want them to come with a reasonable explanation.
Lately it has felt like life has flipped off a lot of people I love for no reason.
My daughter recently faced a heartbreaking disappointment after working incredibly hard for months, doing more than what was required for success. She received bad news instead.
A person I know who has faithfully worked at the same location for 22 years was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed and that she should look for other employment. There was no regard for her years of loyalty, hard work or excellent performance.
I hugged a friend who tragically lost her daughter in a car accident. I have no words to offer except, “I am sorry.” I don’t know why she has had to walk through such a desert of grief in her life.
How Do We Keep Running?
What do we do with all of these hard life moments that don’t seem to make sense? If I am honest, some days I throw up my arms in exasperation, cry out, “Really???” and stop running up the hill.
Some days I just want to give up and stop trying. And most of the time I feel incredibly justified in my refusal to take another step.
I sit with my arms crossed, angry at all I don’t understand. Or I retreat to a lonely place and pull the blankets over my head, unable to deal with all that I can’t process.
How do we keep running the race? How do we not lose hope?
Unfortunately, there are not five easy steps on how to cling to hope. But here are some things that help me to press on and not give up.
1. Community Helps
As my friend and I stood on the sidewalk staring at each other, we were both tempted to throw in the towel and head to the coffee shop on the corner. Some days that is ok, but on this morning, we nudged each other and said, “C’mon, let’s finish.”
We walked for a few minutes to regroup and then we started to run again. I wouldn’t have done that without my friend. Community helps. We need each other.
We need each other to speak words of love and truth and encouragement. Sometimes there are no words to take away someone else’s grief or pain, but when someone is willing to simply stay with me and listen, it strengthens me to keep walking a few more steps than I thought I could.
2. Gratitude Takes Practice
It is easy for me to only have eyes to see the things I don’t like. Life is hard and it doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed by story after story of tragedy and loss.
I often lose sight of the beautiful moments that occur because I lose perspective and refuse to see.
Gratitude takes practice. I have to make a conscious decision to open my eyes and give thanks. I am not talking about a gratitude that refuses to acknowledge the struggle, but one that embraces the beauty even in the midst of tragedy.
3. Faith Matters
Finally, my faith carries me through life and helps me to not lose hope. It allows me to trust that there is more than all that I see in front of me and to cling to the truth that God is in control and continues to work in the world and in our lives.
This is not a “pat answer” faith, but one that allows me to pour out my heart to God and honestly confess my struggles, my fears, my worries and my questions.
Some mornings, that includes just crying at the kitchen table and offering a simple prayer of “Can You please help me?”
My friend and I finished that chilly December run. It was a quieter, more reflective run than usual. As we rounded the corner, we both sighed as we spotted the finish. We high-fived each other and then hugged, both knowing this run represented more than just exercise.
We had kept going, even when we wanted to quit, and it reminded both of us of our longing to do the same in life, even when things don’t always make sense.