Hoping Against Hope
BY TAYLOR MAY
Up up up, was all I saw the whole way. I didn't think, I didn't pray, I didn't sing songs. I just took giant steps upward and stopped to heave for air every few seconds. I mustered enough strength that first day to occasionally let out a weighty sob or an untriumphant “ugh."
What do I want to say about this? That it was the hardest thing I've ever ever done? Yes. What else? That I held it all together and took it like a champ? No, certainly not. Hiking the Gosaikunda Trail taught me a few things about life and God and myself. It hit me, hard. I fell apart on multiple occasions. The first day, after we FINALLY reached our destination, more than a mile in the upward direction from where we started, I collapsed. And not the, I’ve-had-an-extremely-long-day-at-work-and-just-need-to fall-on-the-couch kind of collapse. But my body, at that point, could literally do nothing other than fall forward onto my belly and into the bed ... boots still tied to my pulsing feet, pack still secured to my aching back.
Everything was blurry. My hiking companions sauntered easily about, in and out of the room, talking excitedly of their new blisters and how sore they already were. I was in no such state to talk about it. My face was pressed against the hard, uncomfortable bed. My eyes were glossing over, my insides were turning to goo, and my head was whirling from the drastic change in altitude. How in the world could I stand 4 more days of this? I couldn't. There was no way. There was no hope.
Each day there after would bring a new challenge. The challenge the first day was the bitter realization that I am not a hiker. I did not grow up doing these kinds of things or spend my free time in this kind of way. This was a type of hard I'd never experienced before. I woke up the next day to a glorious mountain panorama and another 8 hours of trekking. I had a new pep in my step, feeling that if I was able to conquer that dreadful uphill battle, I could do anything. But I was wrong. The trail, the altitude, the soreness, and the distance would show me over and over that I couldn't do it, not on my own. A number of things happened over the course of the next few days that I won't mention in detail because I'm sure my mom will read this. But they were things big enough, difficult enough to steal my hope.
Hoping against hope. I came across that term in something I was editing, and almost slashed it up because I thought it didn't make sense. Then I read it again, intrigued and encouraged. It's a paradox of feelings: two feelings that conflict, yet coexist. It means, I think, striving for and forcing hope into being when there just isn't any. It means saying you have hope, saying you believe, even when you don't. That's just it ... fighting for the will to believe what you just don't believe is possible. Like a 100 year old couple conceiving a child. Or like a nearly dead child being brought back to health by the word of the Messiah. Or a boy being possessed by an evil spirit from birth being redeemed. Or the Son of God being born from a virgin teenager.
"Nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).
There was another night, on the down part of trip that was particularly grueling. "Keep thinking about Jesus," my hiking partner told me, as we stumbled down the product of a landslide: crudely laid rocks ... in the dark and way past the time we were supposed to have reached our destination (sorry mom).
"Just keep thinking about Jesus," she said again as my wobbly legs carried my down faster than I was willing to go, as anxiety took over my body, as tears fell and sobs heaved. I AM THINKING ABOUT JESUS! I wanted to scream at her. And I was, truly. How could I not? I knew without him I wouldn't be able to finish. I was so blatantly aware of my weakness.
I may be weak, but Your spirit's strong in me.
I pleaded with Him. But it wasn't helping. It wasn't restoring my hope that He would get me down this mountain and that there actually was a bed to sleep in at the end of all of it. But regardless of my hopelessness, HE DID. He moved my feet along, and in the darkness of it all He lit my path and he took me to where He needed me to go.
My hope, that night especially, strained and yearned to be put in the circumstances around me. When the sun started to go down, we put our hope in a flashlight that burnt out. When we hoped that the guest house was just at the bottom of the next ridge, it wasn't. We hoped again it would be the next one, it wasn't. I wanted so badly to put my hope in something I could see, something that didn't feel so impossible.
Abraham, our faithful hero did, too. Surely God couldn't mean SARAH would have a child, not in her decrepit, barren state. But God did promise, so enter Hagar -- Abraham and Sarah's attempt to reason with God's impossible plan ... to put their hope in their own hands. But God wanted to show them that He was worthy of their hope.
God told me that night, through my weeping and my hopelessness, that He and He alone was big enough for me to hope in. No circumstance could ever guarantee my safety. No plan can ever guarantee my future. He is our only sure thing.
And perhaps Abraham, the father of many nations didn't have hope in the plan, but he did have hope in His God.
"He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.'" (Romans 4:19-22).
I know next time, when I'm faced with hopelessness, God will remind me of this moment when He was true and faithful despite my exasperation. When even if my fears came true, He would have been faithful still.
PHOTOS BY TAYLOR MAY