“My dad always told me that things would get better. I guess he was a liar.”
A person I was texting with on Crisis Text Line recently told me this. She had a nightmare childhood and her life kept getting worse as an adult, so she shared this devastating insight with me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
We always get told that things will get better. That the darkness won’t last. That the pain won’t linger. That for every valley, a mountaintop is coming.
And perhaps we even tell others these things. I know I’ve used such sentiments hundreds of times.
We say these things because we know that people need hope to keep living.
Plus, for many of us, things do get better with time. We have experienced it ourselves. We uncovered healing after abuse, we learned how to cope with disappointment, we found new medicine or new jobs or new lovers.
But I don’t think that’s everyone’s story. For so many folks I text with, things keep getting worse.
And so what do you do if that’s your story?
How do you keep walking if the valley keeps getting deeper and darker?
How do you stay alive when the pain keeps increasing, and the hurt keeps coming, and the ghosts won’t stop haunting?
Honestly, I don’t have the answer. I think it probably looks different for everyone.
But I do know that moving forward isn’t something we can do alone.
We need people by our side. We need friends or family or counselors or therapists or doctors or religious organizations or online support groups. We need people who can bring light into the darkness, who can give us courage to keep living when we can’t find it in ourselves.
And I know that if we have no more hope that things will get better, that’s ok. We can hope in something else.
We can hope in something that has overcome our broken world and works contrary to the way the world operates.
We can hope in a love that won’t leave us, a grace that won’t fail us, a compassion more expansive than all our pain. We can hope in something that has overcome suffering, overcome hopelessness, and overcome even death itself.
And we can find that hope in Jesus, who defeated death and suffering and gives love that doesn’t leave, grace that doesn’t fail, and more compassion than we can ever use.
If we hope in time, in cycles, in broken humans. If we hope in the “fact” that things will get better and that the valley won’t last. If we hope in things that fail us time and time again, we will be left disappointed and disillusioned and despairing.
We need hope in someone who is outside our broken system, and yet lives and works within it, so that we can have hope both for the future and for now, for the earth to come and the earth as it is, for the healing that will come and the pain we are currently experiencing.
And I know that people have been failed and abused by other people. I know that people have been failed and abused by Christianity. I know these aren’t easy answers or maybe even the answers. Maybe the answer is medicine or a hobby or hot cup of coffee. Perhaps there aren’t any answers to begin with, just different things to get us through the night.
And maybe after all we can’t say that things will get better.
Maybe we can’t say that the pain will end, or the situation will improve, or a mountaintop is coming.
But I think we can say that moving forward is possible. That tomorrow is a reality. That hope is real. That help is available.
That even if the valley continues, we will be here, alive, standing among friends with hope in our hearts.
(Photo by Matthew Brodeur: https://unsplash.com/@mbrodeur1)