Whenever I first meet a new client for counseling, the important question comes up in some form or another... "Have you ever thought about harming yourself or ending your life?" It's a question that opens the door to a discussion on the level of despair vs. hope. A surprising number of people will say, I don't really want to die but. I just don't want to be here anymore either. The weight of the pain is too great or has been going on for far too long. This prompts the question of what is helping them to go on. I'm looking for the things that give them hope, some little spark that we can fan into a growing flame of light and felt hopefulness. Almost everyone has something that gives them hope and propels them to live. I know that when I say that the healing journey is one that involves some experience of pain, those suffering in the midst of incredible pain will be disheartened and want nothing to do with it. This process highlights exploring hope that things can be different. People are more willing to face pain if they can see that it's only a part of the process. But there are also those that face chronic pain that won't go away, this can be physical or chronic bouts of depression. For those folks discovering ways to cope with or transcend the pain becomes part of the process of developing a sense of needed hope. For all people the sense that they are not alone in the pain seems to also promote resiliency. This is good news for the pain sufferer who can find ways to reach out for support as well as those in relationships with someone experienceing pain. Know that your kind and loving presence in the life of the sufferer has profound influence even if you can't solve anything or take away the pain. The felt sense of not being alone is often the saving grace for some people. And we aren't alone. For those that keenly sense the presence of a loving God in their life, hope is also felt. And many need the concrete hands and feet of his servants to be able to feel his presence. My wish is that you never doubt the power of being present for someone, and I desire that you also have the experience of the hope that comes from knowing you are not alone. I want to add that for those that are so clouded by despair that they can no longer sense hope, the national suicide hotline is a lifeline to reach out to. There is also a service that allows you to connect with someone through a crisis textline Please reach out for help if you have lost hope. Allow others to hold the hope for you until the clouds clear and you can find it again. Hope keeps us going on the journey even through the toughest times.