Finding Hope in My Dark Times

My work day ended at the United States Senate at the normal time that Friday evening. Normally, I would walk slowly to the train, taking in all the beauty of Washington, D.C. in early spring—but not on this evening. I needed to travel to my hometown of Philadelphia for my grandmother’s funeral. My father and I had spoken briefly by phone the Sunday before about his mom’s passing, and I anticipated being able to comfort him in person.

The three-hour drive was filled with heavy rain, making the night feel darker. When I finally arrived, I saw family members’ cars filled my parents’ driveway. I was tired but eager to join everyone. As I walked through the door, there was a noticeable silence. My mom, who had clearly been crying, approached me and told me my father had died several hours before I arrived. At that moment, a great pain in me was born. It’s the type of pain that never disappears, causes time to stop, and makes all the concerns from the day before seem insignificant. When circumstances get dark or difficult, sometimes the only thing to keep you going is hope. However, finding hope can be hard because deep pain is so disorienting. It’s tough to see anything but the darkness. The following is what gave me hope in the midst of my deepest pain.

The Rising Sun

Within a couple of years after my dad’s death, the movie Cast Away came out. That movie more than any other identified how I felt: lost and isolated, hopelessly separated from a loved one. At the climax of the movie, Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck, describes to a friend the despair of being stuck on a desert island. Finding hope felt impossible. While all logic told him he would never get off the island, he realized he needed to stay alive and keep breathing. Then his lack of hope was proven wrong when the tide came in and brought him the material he was able to use as a sail to get home. When he returns home, he finds out that the woman he loves is now married and he has lost her again. In the midst of his terrible sadness, he realizes quickly what he needs to do. “I have to keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring.”

The Tide

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand pain and suffering. Much of it seems senseless, causing us to look for someone to blame. When we can’t find a person, we turn our prosecution on God. I did that for a while until I realized that all it gave life was a bitter taste. There are many who disagree with my personal beliefs, and I say the following with respect for all opposing views. I believe in God and that He is good. Psalm 107:9 says that God “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” When I came to that conclusion, hope was born and healing began. It opened my eyes to how I viewed pain and loss. In my observation and experience, I have found God to be a creative restorer of life, building empathy out of pain and connection out of isolation. He is my rising sun and hopeful tide. What’s yours?

Sound off: Is finding hope in tough times a struggle for you? Where do you turn?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you hope for in life?”