I froze on the sidewalk in the scorching summer heat with a six-year-old by my side and a toddler in the stroller.
We had popped into a grocery story 45 minutes from our home on a whim and then just as spontaneously decided to walk down to the Subway for lunch.
Nothing about this day was planned out or scheduled. We could have just as easily been anywhere else at that moment.
But it was in that moment and there in that place that a stranger flew out of the doors of one of the storefronts, cigarette and phone in her hand, screaming at the air.
When she collapsed to the ground and cried so hard she almost stopped breathing, I rushed over, stooped down, placed my hands on her back and asked her what was wrong.
“My son is dead.”
That’s what she shouted.
It took time to sort through the mess of it all, how she was still on the phone and her younger son had just delivered the news that her 19-year-old boy had been killed in a car wreck.
I sat with her while others emerged. People poured out onto the sidewalk wondering about the commotion.
Pain like that can’t be contained and hushed up, quietly hidden away so as not to disturb anyone. Pain like that is what makes us reach out to other when they collapse under the weight of their own trauma.
An older couple who had been out shopping stopped and whispered the sad truth, “We lost a son that same way. We know what you’re going through.”
Store managers took charge of the practicalities, bringing her water, calling her boyfriend, covering her shift at work, calling emergency services to take her home.
Then a young man walked down pushing his own infant son in a stroller. He cradled her face in his hands and told her to give it to God.
He shared his own hurt, how his oldest son was in a coma about 8 hours away after a car accident four months ago. “What else can I do but just keep going and give it to God?”
We were eye-witnesses and onlookers to the worst moment of her life.
My son squirmed in the stroller and reached out for me, not sure what to make of the scene. My daughter quietly looked on, staring wide-eyed at the stranger crying right there on the pavement.
I reached out to reassure them and then asked if I could pray for her, and we brought the ugliness and the pain straight to Jesus.
This woman I didn’t know looked up at me with eyes that held no hope.
We can mosey about life thinking we’re doing okay or at least we’re pushing through, but when you’re knocked down onto the sidewalk, that’s what reveals the truth about us and the hope we’ve been clinging to.
This world constantly mistakes hope for wishful thinking, anyway, and we toss around “hope” like it’s little more than a catchphrase or polite conversation.
I hope you get that job.
I hope you have a good day.
I hope it all works out for ya.
I hope you get better soon.
But as Christians, we don’t have wishful-thinking-hope. We don’t have positive-thoughts-hope.
Hope has a name and that name is Jesus.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world (Matthew 12:21 NLT).
Jesus gives us confident-assurance-hope. Because of Him, we have rock-solid-hope that God is with us and that God will save us and that God won’t abandon us.
In her book, Brave Enough, Nicole Unice writes about the word “tharseo” in Scripture, how it’s used four places in the Gospels and each time it’s spoken by Jesus Himself.
To a paralyzed man lowered down to Jesus by four friends who scaled a roof and took it apart in order to help their friend: “Take heart, my son;your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2 ESV).
To the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years: “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22 ESV).
To the disciples alone in the boat out on a storm-tossed sea: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 ESV).
To the disciples…and to us….”I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
Nicole Unice says this word means:
Jesus is near!
It’s Jesus we need. It’s in His presence we find courage, forgiveness, healing, and yes, we find the Hope we’ve been looking for.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2015 Heather King