What is Hope? Is it wishful thinking? Is it releasing everything to a higher power? Is constantly being hopeful even a realistic way to live one’s life? I used to believe that hope was a stationary word, but now I know that it requires action. Motion creates momentum. The moment I began to understand that was when my life started to move in a better direction.
I’ve always struggled with processing negative feelings: sadness, anger, guilt, despair. Growing up, people would describe me as happy and carefree. But inwardly I had a melancholy narrative constantly playing in my head. My way of dealing with discomfort was pretending I was always happy. If I could push the other emotions under the rug, everything would be fine. I could just continue my life, right? Obviously not.
Around my mid-twenties, I got to a point where these suppressed emotions started to take a toll on me. I was struggling with my identity, my purpose on this Earth, and what it meant to live a meaningful life. I’d stifled myself for so long, I felt like I didn’t know who I was. Life had plunged me into a deep hole. I wondered how I’d make it out.
I’m a visual thinker. The word “Despair” brings a deep blue colour to mind. Ink, thick and opaque, seeps through the pages of my life. On the contrary, when I think of “Joy”, I see yellow; the radiant sun on a clear summer morning. What appears when you think about “Hope”? For me, it’s light green, the shade of the first budding leaves that sprout in the springtime. A sign of anticipation. Something’s happening behind the scenes. We can’t see it yet, but something is certainly stirring. It’s interesting that it takes both blue and yellow to produce the colour green. God’s not going to take all our struggles away, because they are a part of the beautiful fabric of life as a human being.
God's not going to take all our struggles away, because they are a part of the beautiful fabric of life a human being.
Hope as an act of resistance has flipped the script on my thinking. When we employ hope, we choose to direct our minds against taking circumstances in life at face value. This requires more than just repeating the same words in prayer each day. It means stepping out and doing things to work toward a better outcome. It means resisting the urge to give up on a situation in the face of struggle.
I was reminded that God created me the way I am for a reason. The unique way my mind, body, and soul function is for a purpose, and my presence on Earth matters. I could embrace self-awareness instead of being afraid, knowing that I am already fully known and loved by the one who made me in the first place. I started to do practical little things to help me understand myself and my emotions better. Different things work for different people—these are just some of the simple things that worked for me:
- Speaking to a therapist to work through the root causes of my anxieties
- Re-evaluating friendships and who I was allowing to speak into my life
- Understanding and discovering the importance of rest, instead of using my off-hours as escapism from my real life
- Finding a supportive faith community where imperfection was welcomed
- Realizing how my emotional and mental pain manifests itself in my body, and incorporating regular exercise into my life
- Learning to do breathing and meditative techniques to help calm my anxiety, instead of relying on alcohol and substances
There’s a verse in the Bible that I often think about. It’s found in 1 John 3:20— “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” God is bigger than our hearts. He knows us, through all our fears, heartbreaks, failures, doubts, and struggles— and he loves us. Why? Because he created us.
Hope is more than just sitting on the sidelines, wishing that the coach would finally put you in the game. Hope is showing up to practice early, asking for feedback, helping your other teammates out. Lying in bed and hoping that my emotional and mental state would improve didn’t work; I had to get up, go out, get help, and make changes. Hope isn’t stationary. It moves. It travels. It stands up each morning and opens the curtains to the possibilities within each new day— even if it’s still raining outside.
For more stories on Peace and how you can choose peace in your life get the new book, I Choose Peace: Raw Stories of Real People Finding Contentment and Happiness. Pre-order today for a free group discussion guide and early release chapters. Order HERE.
Melaney Stanberry is a construction superintendent and works at various job sites across the city of Toronto, Canada. She also spends time skateboarding, hanging out with her niece and nephew, solving Rubik's Cubes, and doing artwork with tie dye and spray paint. You can check out her blog HERE.