Where is God when you are doing everything right yet, because of someone else’s actions, everything is wrong? Where do we find hope when it’s clouded by the ashes of other people’s choices?
It’s one thing to live with the consequences of your own actions. It’s quite another to live with the outcome of someone else’s choices. Regardless of what has happened in your life, there is hope. Cynthia Ruchti’s book, Ragged Hope, offers an inspirational look into the lives of those who were dramatically affected by wrong or misguided choices, sins, offenses and crimes others committed.
Q: What inspired you to write Ragged Hope?
Short answer? A broken heart. Longer answer? My heart, broken over others’ pain. Everywhere I turned were people with a story to tell of how someone else’s decision, mistake, or sin created fallout of consequences for the people around them. Most of the attention, listening ears, and help focused on the fallen one—the alcoholic, the person in rehab, the gambling addict, the unfaithful… Where were the books acknowledging the pain of the innocent survivors living in the fallout? I wanted to give those survivors voice, to applaud their tenacity and resilience.
Q: You write this book from personal experience. Can you tell us about a time when your life was greatly affected by a decision someone else made?
A recent incident underscores the reality that fallout isn’t always the result of intentionally evil decisions or vile moral failures. Sometimes they’re just Life. Ragged Hope is for those survivors, too.
My husband fell from his hunting stand, breaking his back and his femur. Rather than the solitary writing space my heart craved and my deadlines demanded, our world careened around a pain-wracked corner that included his hospitalization, surgery, and a long recuperation during which he needed my around-the-clock care. The combined injuries made him unable to do the simplest self-care tasks.
While he lay on the couch, immobile, bearing his consequences in pain and emotional distress over recovery and concerns about medical bills, I bore the weight of my own work responsibilities compounded with his normal household duties, insurance wrangling, and the challenges of a full-time caregiver. Nothing was simple anymore. Everything took longer, was harder, and taxed my ability to stay upright.
I share this story as a comfort for those who think their heart need isn’t dramatic enough to make the pages of a book like Ragged Hope. A split second accident can change the course of our lives for a season or forever. My husband has recovered enough to return to work. Some things may never be the same. But we survived by hope, and we cling to it even now.
Q: Are there any Scriptures that were particularly meaningful to you during a difficult time?
I can trace a path of tears through my Bible, places where my heart landed at difficult moments or seasons. One night when my kids were turning into adults, I sat in bed, hugging my pillow to my middle, rocking back and forth with a pain deeper than any physical pain could register. I reached for my Bible on the nightstand, opened to where I’d finished reading the night before. II Chronicles, chapter six. I remember thinking, “Sure. There’s plenty of comfort in II Chronicles!” I began reading where I’d stopped the previous night: II Chronicles 6:1, “Solomon said, ‘Oh, Lord, You have said that You would live in thick darkness.’” What our family was living through was certainly thick and unquestionably dark. God said He would be there anyway.
Q: How did you collect the stories you share in Ragged Hope?
In the course of 33 years of writing and producing an inspirational radio broadcast, interacting with listeners and readers, speaking at women’s events and retreats, I couldn’t help but be moved by the stories of those with whom I came in contact. I observed dramatic stories playing out in the lives of people around me—people I cared about, people I’d see on Sunday morning, or people I’d engaged in conversation in waiting rooms and airports. Some might ask, “How’s your job?” or “What do you do for a living?” I ask, “What’s your story?”
Q: You write, “how ragged is the hope you’re clutching? It’s no less valuable or essential than it was when it was new.” Those are powerful words—how can we remind ourselves of that when we’re in our lowest moments?
The mind—like water—flows to the path of least resistance. If a path of hope is carved into our lives, then when the flood comes, the mind and heart will flow into that pattern of hope. The other day I played a peg game with my young grandsons. Mentally challenging, the game required them to figure out what pattern of colored pegs I’d chosen. As I encouraged them toward success on each attempt without giving them the answer, I often said, “Start with what you know for sure.” That concept is a holding on place for us when our circumstances seem hopeless. When panic threatens or despair breathes its sickening breath in our faces, expressing those truths we know for sure can link us back to a thread of hope.
Q: Is there a fine line between complaining about something you are going through caused by another’s decision and simply blaming someone else for your problems? Is it even ok to complain about your situation?
Many people think the pain will go away if they spew the injustice of their situation to as many people as possible. What usually happens is they grow hoarse from too much rehearsal, or they form a new story world for themselves in which their pain is the only setting and the only plotline. Getting stuck in either complaining or blaming is completely counterproductive to what our soul needs when we’ve been wronged.
Q: Is there any way to prepare or condition ourselves for when we are faced with the fallout of someone else’s choices?
Most Ragged Hope incidents blindside us. But they’re most threatening to those who haven’t dealt with key life issues that fortify the human heart for times of disappointment. How would parents survive if they had to run to the drugstore to get a thermometer when their child’s fever spikes? Or look online for a reasonably priced, will-ship-now fire extinguisher with flames licking the kitchen cupboards? The wise parent has on hand the tools they need to respond in an emergency. Why would that be any different spiritually? But how often do we think of things in that light?
Q: What are some of the first necessary steps to overcoming a bad situation you find yourself in?
Stop. Drop. And Roll. Stop: Step back for a moment and acknowledge you’ve been run over by a freight train. Give the pain room to breathe or it’ll suffocate you. Drop: Figuratively or literally, drop to your knees in prayer. Pressing forward without reconnecting with the only One who can make a significant difference in your ability to cope with the crisis will make the limp more prominent and do further damage. Roll: Let your mind picture rolling the bulk of the concern onto the God who not only offers to carry it for you, but who doesn’t feel the gravitational pull we do.
Run to the Embrace: When a child is hurting, mom opens her arms and invites the little one to run into her embrace. First, she hugs. Then, she tends to the scraped knee or sadness. The hug begins the healing. Too often we skip that part when we’re crushed by circumstances. We run away from the open arms. What would happen if we ran into God’s embrace as the first step in our healing?
Q: Is it appropriate to take time to mourn our situation or should we immediately respond by putting on a happy face and a can-do attitude?
Was Jesus smiling on the cross? No. We’re told He was in agony. He felt every nuance of the pain. But that didn’t mean He’d lost His faith. Far from it. He was sinless to the end.
God Is the God of comfort. That element of His character would be unnecessary if we didn’t need comforting.
So yes, it’s not only appropriate but necessary to allow ourselves to grieve. In the chapters in Ragged Hope, each story spans a few pages. In reality, the stories took years to live, in some cases. The kind of fallout addressed in Ragged Hope is life-altering. People are hurting, broken, crushed under the weight of consequences. We can’t take that lightly, even if we’re the ones who are broken.
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