“I just want something to hang my hat on!” I whined to my husband. The funny thing is, before that moment, I’d probably never uttered that phrase in my entire life. I definitely wasn’t wearing a hat. This quarantine seems to be leading us to say and do new things.
But, I meant it. I was telling my husband that I was having a rough day and felt sad about not having plans I could look forward to and count on.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked forward to things. I’m not just the type of person who makes plans and puts dates on the calendar, but one who truly and enthusiastically looks forward to those things. You could say I hang my hat, and my hope, on what’s to come.
And to be honest, that has been a difficult aspect of this current season for me. Because right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m not sure what I can look forward to. What plans can I really count on? Where can I hang my imaginary hat?
I am in a mental void of sorts. What I’m missing is hope.
The funny thing is, my eternal hope is strong and secure. I long for Heaven and truly trust God in the midst of this pandemic. I know that He is in sovereign control, and deep down, that is all I need for peace and hope. It really is. But in the day-to-day temporary and earthly moments, I am struggling.
I’ve thought about this a lot, trying to make some sense of it. I feel guilty that I struggle when so many others have circumstances much worse than my own. I feel guilty that I struggle because there are so many blessings in my life. I feel guilty when I struggle because I do have such wonderful, secure, eternal hope. What is my problem?
But in the course of my struggle, when I’m being honest with myself about my feelings and “humanness,” several passages from the Bible come to mind. They help me put a mental picture to my issues, and perhaps fill up the void I’ve been experiencing with some clarity.
One passage is Acts chapter 27. I recently read and discussed this passage via Zoom with my Bible Study Fellowship group. We recapped the facts first: Paul was a prisoner who was being taken to Rome via sea for trial. On the way, a “northeaster,” a hurricane force wind, came upon them and the whole crew, including the other prisoners, thought they were going to die. They had tried several things to save themselves. They had run ropes around the ship to attempt to hold it together, they had thrown down the anchor hoping it would keep them from hitting a sandbar, they had thrown their cargo overboard, and after those efforts failed, they lost their temporary and earthly hope.
Then, Paul encourages them by telling them, “…not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” He goes on to explain that the night before, an angel had stood beside him (I like that detail, it’s comforting!) and had given him a message of hope.
“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”
Paul then tells the crew, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:22-26)
They are to take courage, if they stay with the ship they will be saved. But this is not a time when Jesus calms the storm. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves those who are in the midst of it.
As we discussed the passage, I pictured the scene in my mind, and honestly, it had me on the verge of seasickness. I could feel the ship rocking, the pounding waves, and the relentless noisy wind. I would have hated those conditions! Compared to my current circumstances it’s quite the contrast! My “ship” is a comfortable house, firmly planted on the ground, stocked with food, and not containing prisoners, but my loved-ones. Yet, my temporary and earthly hope has been shaken. I am continually disappointed when plans are “thrown overboard” and lost. I want something tangible to hang my imaginary hat upon, and yet those things are being blown by the relentless winds of change.
My eternal hope is secure, yet my earthly hope is shaken. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves me in the midst of it.
This brings me to another passage of Scripture, Hebrews 16. In this passage, God is talking about His promises to us, and how they are trustworthy. He will not change or let us down. Verse 19a says, “ We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
It seems we’re back to the ship analogy. The anchor represents our hope. My eternal hope is what holds me safely and keeps me where I need to be. But I realize that even when an anchor is thrown out, the ship is still tossed about. The storms of life can still cause pounding and pain and lead to struggles with temporary and earthly hope. This is what I’m experiencing now, as I try to hang my imaginary hat on something that will be rock solid. It’s not working because I’m being tossed about by the winds of change and confusion and unknown. I’m feeling a bit seasick.
But just like Paul and his shipmates, I must stay with the ship to be saved, but I may experience some pain while I wait.
My eternal hope in Christ is secure. The anchor holds and that will not change. However, my earthly ship is getting a little beat up right now. I think it’s okay to admit that. I think it’s okay to feel a little sick about it. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
So, in this temporary and earthly storm, there is no perfect trite answer that’s going to make it all better. It’s not looking like one of those moments where Jesus says, “Peace, be still,” and it’s just over and everything is calm. (Mark 4:39). Instead, it looks like our ship is getting pretty tattered. There is no earthly place I can hang my hat right now and be certain it is there to stay. No, the ship is being tossed and thrown about and it’s rough. At times I think I will lose my hat, and my lunch, over the edge.
But I’m going to stay with the ship. My anchor is secure. My eternal hope will not disappoint me. And I can take courage that God is with me, right beside me. And I’ll forget about my hat for a while and instead, lean my head on Him.