Fighting Forward“The prayers of lament are a reminder to me that we are allowed to be human and don’t have to worry about being buttoned up before God.”
The 2020 pandemic brought uncertainty, disappointment and heartbreak for many people across the globe. Today, communities and individuals gather to heal, hope and fight forward in the “post-pandemic” stage. Hannah Brencher, a TED speaker, writer and author of “Fighting Forward” and two other books, chats with Peer about fighting forward and how young adults can find hope after the pandemic and other disappointing seasons.
PEER: How did you come to know Jesus? Did you grow up in the church?
HANNAH BRENCHER: I grew up in a household where my mom was a believer. She took my siblings and I to church but, to be honest, I never really was all that interested. I can’t put my finger on why, but I kept thinking to myself that I would make the decision to have faith when I was older—when I needed God more. I never doubted His existence; there were plenty of times when I was in high school where I would pray to God and beg Him that my life not be wasted. I always felt this thing inside of me that I wanted to do big things and I was terrified that I would go my life feeling that way.
I came to know Jesus as my personal Savior when I was 22 years old and living in New York City. At that point, I’d done a lot of seeking and really felt like there was something to this “faith” thing and I wanted to know more. I was tired of chasing after other things and wanted to make my faith real.
P: In your own personal life, how did you move on from seasons of disappointment? Can you share some of those personal experiences?
HB: Disappointment is a tricky thing because it can fester pretty easily. I’ve always tried to reframe disappointment and ask God, “What are you trying to teach me through this?” I am someone who loves to learn—even when the lesson is hard to swallow. I’ve managed to get through disappointment by reframing it and seeking to learn from it as much as I possibly can.
One disappointment for me was when I picked up my entire life and moved from Connecticut to Georgia. I felt so certain that I was supposed to move there but I had this idea of what living there was going to be like. I thought things were going to fall into place seamlessly and that could not be further from the truth. I was disappointed because I felt led there and then the reality was nothing like the vision I had. However, it was the most formative experience in my life, and it made me the person I am today. I had to choose to stay during disappointment and choose to believe that God would meet me the whole way through.
P: Did you ever doubt God in those seasons of disappointment?
HB: I wouldn’t say I doubted God so much as I doubted the promises of God. It was hard to not believe that maybe God didn’t care about me … that maybe He was punishing me for something. To be honest, that experience reshaped my faith. I chose to dig in and read and understand God more in the midst of the hard seasons.
P: How did you seek out beauty while you were fighting forward? How can others do the same?
HB: I track beauty through the little things. I have a book I carry with me where I track my “please and thank-yous.” My pleases are my prayers to God and my thank yous are my gratitude. When life feels overwhelming and hard, I like to break it down into smaller bits so I can still be thankful during the difficulties.
P: How can those walking through seasons of disappointment seek hope again?
HB: I believe hope is found in the Word of God. Where it might be tempting to push away and be distant from God, I would tell someone to really seek Him diligently during disappointment. He promises to be there if you will seek Him with all you have. Bank on that promise and go deeper into the Bible than ever before.
P: What does a prayer of lament mean for someone walking through hard seasons?
HB: I am encouraged by prayers of lament and the way they are all over the Bible because they’re a reminder to me that I am not called to be perfect or to have all the answers. I am allowed to be mad or frustrated or tired or upset. I am allowed to not understand God in all moments. The prayers of lament are a reminder to me that we are allowed to be human and don’t have to worry about being buttoned up before God. He wants our ugly just as much as He wants our hallelujah.
P: What does “thriving and finding beauty” after a traumatic experience like a pandemic look like? Do you see the world returning to a “new normal”?
HB: I hope that we can look back on the pandemic and remember the things that shifted for the better. I would never wish a global pandemic on anyone, but I do think the pandemic taught us a lot about life and what is important. I hope we don’t retreat to old ways but remember the lines we drew in the sand and the things we changed for the better. I hope those better ways become the new normal for each of us.
P: What’s a Bible verse that remains on your heart through disappointment, and why?
HB: Psalm 126:5 (NASB), “Those who sow in tears shall harvest with joyful shouting.” I love this picture of crying in the moment but coming out joyfully shouting. It reminds me that I will reach a point of joy in the midst of my circumstances.
P: Lastly, what do you hope that readers learn from these seasons? How can someone learn through hard seasons instead of only just pushing through?
HB: God is everywhere. Even if you can’t see Him. Even if you don’t feel His overwhelming presence. This is where your faith is made real because it’s not based on circumstances. If you can learn to trust God when nothing is going your way, your faith will be that much stronger and durable for the next season ahead.
For further STUDY
- It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst
- Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zach Eswine
- Fighting Forward by Hannah Brencher
- Treasures of Darkness Bible Study by Jane Johnson
Hannah is a writer, TED Speaker and mental health advocate with a heart for building leaders. She is the author of three books: “If You Find This Letter,” “Come Matter Here” and “Fighting Forward.” She is the founder of More Love Letters—a global organization using the power behind social media to write and mail letters to strangers in need across the world.