"Thank you for the cookies, buddy. They were good! That was real nice. It gave me a little bit of hope for this world." I have been thinking about these words from a friend since New Years Eve. I didn't know that a small bag of Christmas cookies could give someone else "a little bit of hope for this world." Maybe that's because I tend to look for hope to show up in bigger ways. I would have been more likely to expect my friend to feel hopeful, if just one of his many difficult circumstances had changed...than to feel hopeful because of a bag of cookies!
During these last few days, I've begun to wonder if he is really on to something. Perhaps that's because I have been spending time with some people whose circumstances appear to be so incredibly hopeless... whose struggles are piled so high, that they appear insurmountable! I am not normally a "woe as me" type of person, but lately I find myself hung up on the overall sad/scary family health problems that seem to loom large before my loved ones...so much so that I can easily miss the glimmers of hope in between...the "cookies".
As I've considered this, I have become more aware of the "cookies" in life. They are the small things that people say give them hope, or the way something seemingly insignificant makes a person's consistently downcast face suddenly light up. Friday, I had a conversation with a woman who has had one debilitating health issue after another, and is estranged from some of her family members. She told me, "I had the best Christmas ever this year, because my grand kids came to see me and even brought me gifts!" Shortly after, I prayed with a man who simply asked for prayer that his wife and kids stay healthy and happy this year. When I finished he said, "I needed that! I feel so much lighter!" One of my girls figured out the math work that she had been struggling with, and received an excellent grade. This gave her hope that there would be more successes like this in the future. We shared a simple dinner with an elderly friend and he was so happy, that you would have thought we had taken him to a five star restaurant! Eating a meal with others gave him hope by reminding him that he is not alone. Sometimes we think we are just listening to a person talk, having a conversation like anyone else would. Later, we discover that somehow God used the listening to lift a burden, and it gave them hope to know that someone else cares. I spent time Saturday, with a woman who couldn't stop expressing how thankful she was that God had blessed her with a rare week of minimal physical pain. Despite all of the ways He hasn't healed her yet, all of the new suffering that has occurred in recent months, and the uncertainty in her future...that tiny bit of a reprieve gave her hope! Hope came to me in a text message from my brother. It was a picture of my niece and I that he took at Christmas...that I was unaware of. Just knowing that he thought of me and took the time to share it, gave me hope.
Like many, I tend to think of hope in terms of big things... big prayers answered, or an end to a big trial. While it's true that when the big things are taken care of we feel hopeful, if we make that our focus we will miss the many ways God offers us hope in between. These little glimmers of hope are the lifelines that He throws us. He sends them just in time to encourage us to hang on and to remember that He hasn't forgotten us. It's because He pays attention to detail that we often receive these glimmers of hope in what appear to be the most insignificant ways. The listening ear of a friend, a simple meal, a text, a slight reprieve from chronic pain, a prayer, a visit from love ones...these are just some of the ways He loves us. Each glimmer of hope that I mentioned was specifically tailored to the person who would receive it, by the God who loves them so. Could you imagine if He left us hanging there, in the middle of waiting for the answers or the end to the big trials...with no glimmer of hope in between?
I made the cookies because I wasn't sure if my friend had anyone in his life to spend Christmas with. I honestly didn't know at the time whether he even liked cookies. There was nothing spectacular about those cookies. The only reason they gave my friend hope is because God was sending His love in a bag of cookies. In that moment my friend knew he wasn't forgotten or alone. I am humbled by the thought that God does this for me...for each one of us in so many ways and many times we don't even realize it. I am challenged by the thought that I want to do more of this for others!
As long as we have Christ we have hope. As long as we have hope we have something to share, and Someone to introduce those who are feeling hopeless to.