Hope in the Cisterns

A few weeks prior to Christmas I attended a women’s breakfast. Gathered there were many of my favorite women from around the city; I dusted off my German which sometimes hides in my Stay-At-Home-Mom closet, and we talked and laughed all the while feasting upon a breakfast fit for queens. It was lovely and refreshing and did my soul and stomach real good. But it also left me intrigued.

We concluded our breakfast with a time of sharing, “God in 2015” being the subject matter. Immediately I thought, “Aw, man… 2015 was not one of my favorites for sure. I mean yes God was there, but… ”

Ah, “but”.

While I scrambled to think of something that would make 2015 look all sparkly and shiny, my friends began to speak, and to my surprise, those who spoke up about their year in review shared in my overall negative view of 2015. Thus, my intrigue. I’m not sure if I’ve ever sat down with so many women only to discover we thought the same thing about the same topic. That’s mostly unheard of, in my womanly experience at least. Yet there we were, one by one basically saying, “I’m ready for 2016 so I can say that 2015 is over.”

Huh.

How is it that despite our individual personalities, backgrounds, situations and phases of life, we concluded as a group that 2015 was not one for the record books? Is it because we know the same people or attend the same church denomination, or live in the same city or hold the same religious belief? Could be. After all, there was a lot of loss in 2015, and most of us – if not all of us – personally knew those to whom we had to say goodbye. But I don’t think that’s the whole picture here.

The reason I don’t think that’s the whole picture is because of what my friends further concluded after having said they were glad to see 2015 disappear around the corner never to return. I’ll use King David to explain their sentiments:

 Psalm 13; A psalm of David.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

This Psalm is so good that I want it written in every blank space in my house and tattooed on both of my palms. This is, in a nutshell, what was said at the women’s breakfast. We each experienced moments or phases or daily struggles throughout 2015 where we wearily looked toward Heaven and said or perhaps even screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Can’t you see I’m drowning here? Can’t you see Satan is trampling me day in and day out? I’m losing. L-O-S-I-N-G. So where are you? Why aren’t you helping me?”

We could have stopped there in our prayers just as David could have stopped at verse 4. But something in us made us say “But” just as David goes on to do in verse 5, and that’s where I think we see the whole picture. Yes, we know the same people and run in the same circles and go to the same churches, but we also share the same “unfailing love”, the same “rescue”, the same reason to “sing to the Lord”.

Perhaps 2015 for me, for my friends, and quite possibly for you, will be like the year Joseph’s brothers threw him into a cistern, an incident to forever change his life. He could have easily dubbed that year “The Worst Year of My Life”, but based on what we read about him and his attitude and his relationship with God, he didn’t, at least not for the rest of his life. At some point he was able to look back at what I’ll call “The Cistern Year B.C.” as a key year in his lifetime; a year he didn’t understand, a year filled with agony and fear and hurt and loss, but nonetheless a year on which Joseph looked back and while talking with God thought, “Ooohh. I see what you did there.”

-I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.-Gen. 45-4-5

Hope in the cisterns. That’s the common theme my friends and I shared in that morning. “Cistern Years” happen because life happens. But they also happen so that we may pass on our hope to those in line looking for it. “Cistern Years” happen so we can tell our neighbor, “Yeah, last year was ugly. But it didn’t defeat me, and here’s why.”

If 2015 was a Cistern Year, don’t push it out of your memory. Talk about it. Live it out. Show others it is in fact possible to find hope in the cisterns.

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About Holly

Vienna-based American wife/mom/expat.

16 thoughts on “Hope in the Cisterns

  1. Even from half way around the world, I read this thinking, you too, it wasn’t just me? Cistern years are hard but I have learned so much. Wouldn’t want to do it again, but I felt stretched and have grown. Thanks for your insights & encouraging words and the reminder to talk about it and not just forget it happened.

    • “Stretched” is an excellent way to put it. It makes me think of the stretching I had to do in track class – unpleasant, but worth the benefits. I pray God will show you the reasons for your stretching this year!

  2. Really great post, Holly. I have been struggling to find the words to write in my own blog…2015 was such a hard year for me and it’s challenging to be vulnerable when everyone else seems to say that 2015 was the best year yet. Thank you for being honest and for giving some awesome insight into the Cistern Years!

    • Hayley, I can completely empathize with that feeling of not wanting to be vulnerable. I encourage you to still write something on your blog as you may be able to reach out to someone else who needs to read your insight. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Holly! For me, 2015 was the most consistently “bad news” year in my memory. The sadness and hopelessness I felt from observing so much evil in the “big” world seemed to spill over into my “little world,” resulting often in fearful living. In my heart I knew God was in control, but many times failed to live the victorious life He desired for me. More importantly than ever we need to heed 1 Cor 16:13:” Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” In 2016 I desire to experience more of that peace and courage He offers: “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”Jn 14:27

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