Hope is Too Heavy Sometimes

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At 26 I was miraculously healed, but at 13 I started asking for healing. Sometimes people wonder why more people aren’t experiencing miracles, and I wonder sometimes if it is because we don’t understand how expensive hope is.

I spent most of my teen years believing I would be healed. I went to every healing service, I had hands laid on me more times than I remember. I believed, every single time, that this was the time the Lord would have mercy on me. But it wasn’t. So many of those times it wasn’t. Walking to the front to have hands laid over me was like climbing the ladder of a high dive, only you aren’t totally sure when you are leaping, if the water will be there to catch you. Every time you do it again, add two steps to the ladder.

There comes a point in time when you just stop climbing the ladder, you stop believing in the healing, and you start figuring out how to live with the body you have. This isn’t to say you can’t function well and also believe that healing will come, it is just that that is often a lot, especially if you are functioning in a body that is also sick.

Emily Dickinson said that hope is a thing with feathers, and we often think of it as light and fluffy, but in my experience, there are days when hope was simply too heavy to hold. I simply could not hold the hope while also waking up every morning to a body that ached. Maybe my faith was too weak as some suggested, maybe I wasn’t believing in a God big enough. All I know is I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold the hope while also living my life. So, I put it down.

Some people weren’t okay with this choice. I often had people pick up the hope and attempt to hand it back to me. All well meaning. All just made me tired. I tried, I did, but I couldn’t figure out a way to wait expectantly while also moving on with my life. It was hard to plan for a prom that I could have fun at while also imagining a prom where I wouldn’t have to sit out some songs. I could not have picked the college I did, with an amazing disabilities services program while also expecting a college experience where I did not have to be driven to class on particularly cold days.

I put my hope down for years, through my prom, my college speech days, my wedding and my newlywed days. I put it down through my first years teaching and my first tries at being an adult in a new city. I put down the hope, and got on with my life, but the hope had not left me.

Quietly, there were people in my life holding that hope for me. My sister just quietly tucked my hope in her heart, and carried it around. My dad, my mom, a friend from church. They knew it was too much, they respected the “not right now.” They held my hope for me when I could not.

I do not believe that we are meant to hope alone. Hope is often a burden best shared.

And then, slowly, it was not too much for me to hold. The hope was not too much, and it was handed back to me. I lived in that weird balance of expectation and contentment, and when I could not I just put the hope down. And that was okay.

I am convinced that allowing for me to work out my wholeness while sick, without the burden of hope burning a hole in my pocket, is the very space that allowed for me to be healed.

And now, I am learning to hold hope for others, when the burden of their shattered marriage, their shattered health, their shattered faith, is simply too much to bear, I send an email, a Voxer, a prayer. I will hold your hope until you want to carry it again. It is okay to put it down. Hope is just too heavy sometimes.

Abby Norman

Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words.She believes in champagne for celebrating every day life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then.

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  • mabeane

    I read you regularly, Abby Norman, and I am uplifted. I have hope and sometimes despair. I am 72 years old and have had fibromyalgia and osteo arthritis for over three years. It has crushed me and the perfectionism of my former life with it. I find from day to day I don’t know if or how I will function. I have hope knowing the perfect body awaits me when I go home to my Heavenly Father but I want to do more than veg while I finish up here.

    • Abby Norman

      First of all thank you for reading me regularly. I seriously treasure my readers and LOVE when I know they are impacted by something I wrote. I think there is space for you to do more. When I was at my worst with the Fibro I learned how to pray for others. It was the only thing I could do from my bed. I learned how to listen, and I learned how to notice when people weren’t there. I am praying for you, for the hope that you need, and for the knowledge that what you do matters.

  • Hoping is hard, but there can be joy in hard things. I love your point about hoping for others – to be truthful, I’m not great at it, taking emotional risks for other people, but I’m learning to live into that more.

    • Abby Norman

      It is hard. Hope costs, even hope for others.

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  • Adela Just

    This made me ache, Abby. I’ve spent the weekend acknowledging that a hope I’d been carrying is just too heavy right now. I need to lay it down and focus on the reality that’s in front of me, something I haven’t been doing well because disappointment has been knocking me over repeatedly while I stubbornly cling to hope. I have to set it down right now so that my hands and heart are free to hold the other things this season wants to offer. I’m really grateful for this image and concept you’ve written about here. Willfully setting down a hope, choosing to put it away for awhile, that’s a different matter than losing hope or throwing it away. It aches to acknowledge, but it frees me to move forward.

  • “The burden of hope burning a hole in my pocket”
    What a gift it is to carry this for another person. Thank you for saying it so beautifully.

  • Terri

    Yes, a thousand times yes! You write so precisely of what it is like when hope is too heavy to hold. When our son was killed, we were told we HAD to have hope. It was not until we found The Compassionate Friends that we learned we did not have to feel hope, be hopeful, and we did not have to walk alone. Now, almost five years down that path, we recognize hope again, but it is much different that what we thought hope was before Justin’s death. Thank you for sharing your experience and your wise words. I found this so validating that we weren’t alone in finding hope heavy and burdensome.

  • You’ve encouraged me to keep praying, to lay the heavy hope down when I need to, and pick it up for others when they need me to. The vision of climbing that ladder will stay with me.

  • Rebecka

    Abby, I really wanted to comment even though I don’t know what to say… I’m trying so hard to “hold the hope while also living my life” and it’s not going very well. Thank you so much for this beautiful post!

  • Susanna Foth Aughtmon

    I love this…the picture of heavy hope. I have felt it. I have carried it. I have walked away from it. But somehow I keep being drawn back to it. It brought to mind the verse, “Carry one another’s burdens in this way you are fulfilling the law of Christ. Its a way to love each other – carrying the burden of hope.Thank you for using your gift of words to remind me of that.

  • meg

    I needed this more than ever. Thanks.

  • Don’t you think we have expectations – from who knows where – about how we should act when we are in pain, or in depression, or at our wit’s end? A good girl does what others tell her, let’s them tell her she cannot quit, and believes their pep talks because it seems like the kind and right thing to do. At the moment (or moments, because it happens more than once) that we let go of unrealistic expectations and even sit in the darker places, there is space to find our true self, to accept who we are and how we can simply live each day… go to bed … get up the next day and see what happens. This is a very moving piece.

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