Hope Wanted: Inquire Within
February 29, 2016
Jennifer Hagler Photography
By Laura DiFatta
Have you ever gone into a store looking for one thing and then end up leaving with something entirely different? On a recent day this winter, that’s exactly what happened to me. I went into a clothing store with a particular agenda. I could have had no idea what I’d actually leave the store with.
A few feet inside the door of the shop, I was greeted warmly by a salesperson at the store, whose name is Hannah. We chatted politely for a few minutes. I happened to remember that a friend had recently mentioned Hannah’s name to me and had told me how helpful she had been. I passed this compliment on to her. Hannah remembered my friend. As an aside, this friend is currently walking through deep crisis and is doing so with intentional faith in God. Hannah and I began to talk about what an amazing thing it is to witness faith in dark circumstances. Our conversation gradually turned to Hannah’s own experiences of walking through darkness and pain. Hannah revealed something about her past that shocked me. That is when I began to realize the real reason I was there. My agenda went out the window. She had my attention.
Hannah is the kind of girl that if you were to assume anything about her, it would likely be that she “has it made” and that she has led a charmed life. She is a vibrant twenty-two-year old who is beautiful, calm, confident, sweet and has a great sense of personal style.
But, my assumptions about her had been wrong. Hannah began to tell her story: when she entered the seventh grade, she began to be bullied. The people who bullied her had been her closest friends, but they turned on her. Every day, she was laughed at, made fun of, mocked and ridiculed. She was slandered and left out intentionally. She longed to be included and accepted, but she was not. She began to believe what she was being told about herself. And she hated everything about herself. She told me that she cried every single day from eleven years old to thirteen years old and that she began to think that taking her own life would be the answer.
Not only did Hannah experience being ostracized at school, she constantly saw through social media that she was indeed being left out. She had the “proof” before her eyes. Every day–what she perceived as “everyone else being happy and having fun,”—played out right there in her hands on her smartphone. This exacerbated her feelings of loneliness and self-hatred. She began to agree with others: she was a “loser” and her life was worthless. She had very little hope. She wanted to escape from the pain. She had my undivided attention.
In what she deems a divine rescue, God showed up. Hannah needed a haircut. The lady who cut Hannah’s hair exuded joy. Hannah wanted what she had and she told her so. Her hairdresser said that she had joy because of her relationship with Jesus and she invited Hannah to go to church with her that coming Sunday. Hannah had mixed feelings. She was familiar with “church,” but had been turned off by people who claimed to be Christians, but acted very differently from Christ. But, she saw that this lady was different. She didn’t just talk about church, she showed love and she exuded joy! And so, Hannah went with her to church. Once there, she heard a man tell of how he had been a homeless drug addict, but that Jesus had rescued him and freed him from drug addiction and had given him joy and peace and Hope! He said that because of Jesus’ love and power and rescue his whole life had changed! Hannah desperately wanted what he had.
In the past, Hannah had always looked at God as pointing his finger at her in judgement with an expression on shame and condemnation. She had envisioned Him telling her, “You’re just not good enough,” just like all her bullies had done. She definitely hadn’t trusted Him. But now, she was hearing about Jesus—God’s own Son– who actually came to walk this earth to show God’s love in flesh and blood and to seek and save needy people just like her! She realized that He came and paid for her past, present and future sins—her brokenness–and met all her needs—out of love! He gave her what she could never earn–freely—which is what makes the gift of God a grace-gift! She had nothing to give Him, but He offered her everything! The truth that the God who created all things, also created her with inestimable worth began to sink into her thirsty mind and heart. On that day, Hannah’s new life began.
She began to read the Bible where she soaked in Truth that replaced her flawed thinking. What she read transformed her thinking about God and about herself. She read, Truth like: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made,” “you are loved with an everlasting love.” She read that God has “plans” and “good” specifically for each person that He has a “hope and a future” for every life He created. And she realized that every day, she had a choice: to listen to what the world had to say about her or to trust in what God has to say about her. Her choice was so clear that it felt like a choice between life and death.
And so Hannah made her choice. She chose to place her trust in Jesus. She realized Jesus had come to be the Way to forgiveness and peace with God. He became her confidence, her firm place to stand—her Rock. He always was, she just hadn’t known it before. She had been deceived. Where there had been a vacuum of hope there was now a well-spring of joy! Hannah would never be the same. And she’s been praising Him ever since.
And that’s not all! As she began to heal and believe her God-given identity: redeemed, beloved, new, holy and dearly loved, she, in turn, began to tell others about the Hope she had found.
She began to have a passion for giving hope to young people. She knows from experience how inundated and distracted they are by cultural messages that are empty and give no lasting hope. She knows how false and empty and deceiving the constant barrage of social media is. She knows firsthand how desperate young people are to know they are loved and accepted, but that many are basing their worth on things that aren’t trustworthy. Many are hurting. Many are confused. Many feel hopeless.
Hannah shared some startling statistics about suicide and drug overdoses in American teens that shocked me: every single day in America there are an average of 5,400 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids ages 10-24 and the second leading cause of death in college age youth. There is a crisis of hope in our youth.
And so Hannah is on a mission. It is a holy one: she is a determined Hope-bearer! Her message—”God loves you! So much, that He sent His Son to rescue you and to give you new life—now and also eternal life with Him! He is mighty to save!” She wants desperate people to know: “You are not alone! There is no circumstance and no situation that is beyond the power of God to redeem!! You are loved deeply and forever! Your pain and all your brokenness and longings can be made right!” Her eyes were bright and she exuded joy as she talked about this great Hope.
And so, multiple times every week, Hannah leaves the “safe” and goes to the “dangerous.” She sits in a little building that is a place of refuge for the broken, she sits with young women who have only known brokenness. These teens lives have been ravaged by the poor choices of others. They are living in circumstances of brokeness and pain. And they are taking hold of Hope as sure as a person dying of thirst would grab a flask of water. They have seen and experienced the pain of this world and they have tasted the good Living Water for their souls: Jesus! Hannah sits and listens to their stories, she visits them—even some who have been taken by the foster system and relocated—because she loves them. And they know it. She has experienced the love of Christ and she in turn is being the church as the church was meant to be. She knows she is loved generously. And so she loves generously.
The meaning of the name Hannah is, “grace-gift—a gift of unmerited favor.” And in the Bible, Hannah is used as a verb to describe, “a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need.” In the Bible, this is most used to describe God’s actions toward people. God—who is the same yesterday, today and forever–graciously and compassionately gave to Hannah, who had a deep need. And in response, she is going and doing likewise.
God redeemed Hannah’s pain. He allowed her to see the unreliable nature and emptiness of the world’s approval and He drew Her to Himself! God was weaving His love story in all her moments and has given her purpose and joy! He can do the same for you! He writes the script!
I left the store that day with no new clothes, but with something incomparably better: a story of hope! Hope given…through a hairdresser and then a former homeless drug addict to Hannah and now through Hannah to young girls in desperate circumstances…
Who knows where Hope will show up next?! But I do know this, I want to be a part of giving it!
Will you join me?
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28