How to Keep Hoping When You Want to Give Up

The earth’s cold under the finger nails.

I dig holes with a wedge of steel and around fringes of the domed sky, the clouds scud gray.

Dad had called first thing in the morning: if I had anything to do outside, today looked like the last day. Might be the last warm day to dig in bulbs, before autumn begins her blustery, muddy wrestle.

I’d nodded. Yes, Dad. Bulbs, today, will do. And last clean up of the flowerbeds. Thank you for calling, thinking of me, Dad.



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I’d hardly hung up the receiver before it rang again, a friend, whose first words spoke of weather too: brooding storm bearing down.

What do I do when I just don’t know how to go on?” Her voice cracks, flash of pain forking across skies.

I listen to expectations struck, her hopes snapped off in gale.

“Just a day to be sad, I guess,” she finishes, beaten.

“Today, I’m not up to trying to fix or solve any of it. Just grieving today.” And then the quiet rain of tears. Together, we let the lament come.

Then I gather bulbs. Pull out the spade, and go dig holes, because I’m just dirt with no answers, only prayers.

“Why do we have to dig so deep?” One of boy’s face reddens in the excavating. The Littlest Girl digs her own hole alongside mine.

Well —  some things are meant to really be laid down.”

“I’m going to drop mine in now.” The boy’s holding his bulb poised, looking my way for assurance.

“No!” Little One wails. “Don’t put the flower so far down in the dark!” She tries to wrest the bulb from his hand. I scoop her angst all up close.

“But it has to go down in,” I brush the hair out of her eyes, kiss tip of that pug nose. Because sometimes, Child —  hope’s waiting is dark.

She turns her face up towards mine and our cheeks brush.

“Will we have to dig them up to get the flowers after the snow?” I squeeze her tight.

“No, Girl. When He’s ready — all that beauty will come up through the black earth as if by themselves.

We kneel down, drop a bulb into opening earth, then wait “for the forces above and below and beyond our control to work upon” all these things. The boy pats the earth down and over and the Girl, she watches.

We bury hope in a tomb of its own.

Like the faith diggers do every day. We bury our swollen prayers in Him who’s raised from the tomb.

We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good.

Good always necessitates long waiting.

Every tulip only blossoms after cold months of winter wait. Every human ever unfurled into existence through nine long months of the womb waiting. And the only kingdom that will last for eternity still waits, this millennia-long, unwavering-hope for return of its King. Instead of chafing, we accept that waiting is a strand in the DNA of the Body of Christ.

That this waiting on God is the very real work of the people of God.

The boy digs another hole and I drop a bulb, life warm, into depths as dark as my friend’s sadness today.

Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.

Because that is the thing:

Hope is what holds a breaking heart together. 

Hope in a Big God is what frees from big fears.

Hope is a thing with keys…..




Maybe I could plant a bit of hope in my friend’s ache?

I smile all the drive over to my friend’s. Knock on the front door. Read her confusion when she opens her front door, finds me standing there.

“Gotta little spade I can borrow?” I grin, hold out a hand full of bulbs.

“I just wanted to tuck some hope into that hole today. He’ll resurrect good things out of this too– hold on…. ‘Blessed are all who wait.’”

Her chin trembles and she nods.

“They’ll be pink. Tall.” I show her hope with my hands.

“In the corner of the front flower bed? So I can see them from the window.” She manages a smile.

I grab her hand, squeeze tight.

And we live in wait —

because there’s an old and steadying wisdom cupped in the curve of just those two words, ‘Hope and Wait.”