Finding Hope for the Long Haul

Dear Willow,

I love the story of Nelson Mandela. We all know him as a great man, as a leader who has done so much to heal racial wounds not only in his home country of South Africa but also around the world. As a consequence of his fight for racial equity, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending 18 of them at a place called Robben Island. In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he describes how, after 14 years of hard labor, his daughter was allowed to come for a visit. He hadn’t held her since she was a little girl, so you can imagine how that must have felt. But she had another surprise: She handed Mandela her own infant child, his grandchild. 

Tradition gave the honor of naming a baby to the grandfather, so Nelson Mandela took that baby in his leathery hands, looked her over with eyes nearly blinded by the harsh sunlight in the work camp at Robben Island, and named her Zaziwe, meaning “hope.” For him, this baby represented celebration. He envisioned a future where this little child, his grandchild, would be part of a “new generation of South Africans for whom apartheid would be a distant memory.” 

Looking back, we see he was right. His dream of a South Africa, freed from the strictures of apartheid, eventually came true. But at the moment he named the child, Mandela still had 14 years to serve in prison. Even though his sentence was only half over, he hung onto hope. He let his future hope shape his current life. He was not just living out a prison sentence; he was preparing for what God would ultimately do through his life.

I know you face walls. I know there are huge challenges coming at each of us. So many feel trapped or overwhelmed. This month has had its share of trials, from the continued coronavirus pandemic to navigating schooling to the heartbreaking shooting in Kenosha this week of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man. At times, it can feel like too much to carry. 

Listen: There is hope. There is hope because God is good, and God is for you. But this is not blind hope. It’s an active hope aimed at building a better future. As you navigate the thoughts and emotions you’re feeling, pay attention to them. Instead of rushing into “doing”, spend some time “being.” Ask what God might want to teach you and how He might open your eyes and your heart to a bigger story—one where you can be more like Jesus and create change for those who come after you. Here are some questions I’ve been reflecting on:
  • What’s my primary emotion right now?
  • What’s driving that emotion? What are my fears?
  • What is God speaking to me about this time?
  • Is hope driving me to pursue justice in our world?
  • How can I have hope for the long haul?

Quiet your mind and allow God to fill you and be your peace. Pray for our neighbors, our nation, and for the families of those impacted by violence. Hold onto hope—believing that God will use it to do a work through you.

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