This week I had the opportunity to share some vulnerable things with my staff. We had a meeting with the head of our division and he shared something he had learned years ago: you can choose not to let people into your hard seasons, but then you also cut them out of experiencing the good that might come later — the miracle, the healing, the celebration. It was convicting to me, as I would like to hide the hard things and only talk about them once the solution has already come. But inviting people into our mess gives them a beautiful opportunity to hold hope for us.
A mentor recently shared this idea with me, as I shared what I was learning about frustrating things that people say to you when you’re grieving, particularly overly hopeful “you’ll get through it! God’s got this!” kinds of things. She said, “sometimes all you need is for people to hold hope for you silently.” If we don’t let people into our hard seasons though, they won’t really be able to do this for us.
My boss pointed out something beautiful about practicing vulnerability. While it can feel like you are handing someone a burden to hold, instead you are giving them the opportunity to hold hope for you. Hope that the hard season will come to an end, that the broken thing will be redeemed, that healing will come, that faith will return. We don’t always need to outwardly tell people we are hoping this for them, particularly when they might feel entirely hopeless. We need to let people be exactly where they are, and hold hope for them to come around.
I met with a friend recently who has been walking through a hard season of deconstructing her faith. Several years ago she expressed a lot of doubts and questions about Jesus, about the church, and whether she wanted to have any part with either. I have been practicing holding hope for her, not needing to convince her of anything, but trusting that if God’s love really is so irresistible, she will find her way back in His time. It was so beautiful to hear her express that she is reconstructing her faith, deeply considering what the role of the church is in her life and who God really is. It is scary to watch people do this. It worries us to watch people doubt, hurt, or experience anger. But we cannot white-knuckle people into a better place. There is no amount of Christian quotes that will convince someone of what they need to come around to themselves. All we can do is hold hope, often silently, praying and trusting that God will work and we will all experience the fruit of His hand.
It is an experience of releasing control, and of trusting that God really is in control. That He is working in and through us and the people we love, but we don’t hold the steering wheel or the remote or whatever device we wish we could use to make things go the way we want. We have to let the people we love learn the lessons they need to learn, no matter how badly we’d like to warn them or help them avoid challenges. We have to let people walk through dark seasons and be exactly where they are at, and let God lead them out the other side. We have to hold hope silently until the miracle comes, and resist our human temptation to fill awkward silences with Christian cliches.
If you are walking through something challenging right now, I’d encourage you to share that with trusted friends and invite them to hold hope for you in a way that maybe feels impossible for you to do yourself. If you are on the other side of this and see someone you love in a challenging season, practice holding hope for them silently, lifting them up in prayer and giving encouragement in a way that doesn’t force them to be anywhere other than exactly where they are. In that classic passage, 1 Corinthians 13, it tells us that “love hopes all things (ESV)” or “always hopes (NIV).” This means to love someone, we need to hold hope for them. It is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to the people we love.