How I Gleaned Hope from the Darkest Psalm

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How I Gleaned Hope from the Darkest Psalm

By Christina Fox

After a recent talk I gave, an attendee shared that Psalm 88 was her favorite psalm. For those of us familiar with it, we might hear such a comment and raise our eyebrows in confusion.

Psalm 88? Really?

Psalm 88 isn’t a feel-good, everything-will-be-all-right kind of psalm. In fact, it’s the darkest one. If we put it to music, it’d be set to the tune of a sad country song—if not a funeral dirge. Hear the despair of the psalmist’s words:

O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. (vv. 1–3)

Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (v. 7)

O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? (v. 14)

While other biblical laments end on a note of trust and worship, this one ends without any light or hope. It simply concludes, “Darkness is my closest friend.” The end.

Despite the dark tone, however, there is hope to be found in Psalm 88. Here are four reasons.

1. You can cry out to God.

The psalmist persistently directs his emotions and sorrow to his Father in heaven. He acknowledges God is the one who saves and reigns over all things (vv. 1, 6–8). His anguish is the faithful cry of a believer who understands his need of God’s deliverance and help.

When you’re in the depths of suffering, the psalmist’s words give voice to your pain. You can bring your uninhibited emotions before God as you pour out your heart. In your distress, he hears your cries.

2. You can share your deepest pain.

Like hymns today, the psalms were used in worship—yes, even Psalm 88. That this song was proclaimed by God’s people speaks volumes. It also offers hope, since it’s clear God doesn’t expect us to cover up what’s really going on. We can approach our Father in raw honesty. We don’t have to pretend everything’s okay. We don’t have to hide the pain, the emotions, the distress.

At the same time, Psalm 88 reminds us whom we are praying to: our Maker and King. In his humility, the psalmist’s honest sorrow differs greatly from the faithless grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness. He reminds himself—and us—that God saves (v. 1) and that his deeds are righteous (v. 11). He shows us that we can express our deepest heartache in a way that honors God, rather than grumbling against him.

3. You can grieve the darkness.

Psalm 88 is brutally honest about life in a fallen world. While many of us come out of depressive fogs and spiritually dark seasons, there are others who perpetually struggle. Some preach a false theology that says if you jsut pray hard enough, believe hard enough, and do all the right things, God will make your life all that you’ve wanted it to be. But real life indicates otherwise. And so does this psalm.

The sun doesn’t always come out tomorrow. We don’t always get the job we wanted. Marriages end. People get sick and die. This is the far-reaching effect of sin on this world. Psalm 88 reflects our pain and give us permission to grieve all that isn’t right.

4. You can trust your Savior.

All Scripture points to Christ, and Psalm 88 is no exception. For what the psalmist sought in his lament was answered in Jesus, who came to rescue and restore what’s broken. He came to fulfill the deepest cries of our heart. He came so that one day all our tears might be wiped away.

Psalm 88 reminds us that we need an intercessor. We don’t always know what is best. Many times, we don’t even know how to pray. Jesus intercedes on our behalf, reshaping our prayers for God’s glory. Not only that, but the Spirit also prays for us. When we can’t find the words to voice what our hearts long to say, he cries out for us (Rom. 8:26). What marvelous grace and love! What comfort! Even when the pains of life mute us, the Spirit speaks for us.

I’m so grateful Psalm 88 is included in Scripture. It reminds me that I can cry out to God with a broken heart and that he hears me—no matter how weak my prayers. It directs me to focus on the truth of who God is, for even in the darkest night, his grace still shines. And when it seems as though darkness is my only friend, I can remember Jesus Christ, who faced the darkness of the grave so that I could be called a friend of God.

If you would like help finding hope in the darkness, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or a coach.

Finding Support Through Groups

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Talking Heals: Finding Support Through Groups


Research has proven that, through connecting with others who have experienced the same traumas as ourselves, individuals can truly do something amazing and open the door to healing — whether that be connecting with others who have struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm or been through a loss.

Opening up can be difficult but it is the first step to recovery. When people hear others’ stories, they begin to realize that they are not alone in their journey.

For me, joining a support group has changed my life. Many people had told me to join one but I was very reluctant to, because I thought it would be a stereotypical group like the ones shown on TV. Also at the time I was in seventh grade, and struggled with talking to others about how I was feeling. It scared me. Why would I want to sit in a room full of strangers and tell them about the worst time in my life?

Two years after my mom passed, I realized that I needed extra support. After sharing my story with many counselors and teachers, I knew that I was ready to try a support group. I am so glad I did. To be completely honest, the first meeting was scary, but the time flew. It was over before I knew it and by the end I found myself wanting to stay longer.

I have been attending a support group for five months now, and in that short amount of time I can see a huge change in the way I handle my grief and also deal with other things. I am not one to openly discuss my feelings but when you are with others who are feeling the same things you are, there is a connection that provides a level of support that nothing else can.

Often times you feel a certain way and cannot put those feelings into words. But those who are going through the same struggles you are, may help you find those words. When you realize that they are feeling the same way you are, you feel like you are not alone! Groups allow you to open up and participate in life. Through them you will find that amazing experiences can happen. I encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out and try going to a support group. If you don’t feel comfortable, bring a friend or family member! All you can do is give it a try.

An Honest Look at the Past Couple Years

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An Honest Look at the Past Couple Years

By Sighsharmonize (post adapted from the original)

The first week of being 25 was great with a few minor hiccups. It’s been weird. Things have gone wrong but it leads to me being thankful for other things. Maybe I’m just an optimist but I don’t regret anything, even things that caused the bad events.

Example: On Saturday night, my car was towed. It was 100% my fault because I didn’t check the time that the lot was going to close but Saturday was so fun! It was awesome hanging out with people and such a wonderful day overall that nothing was going to drag me down. When I found out and didn’t have a car, no one so much as hesitated to help me out. Everyone I am surrounded by is always willing to be there for me in every capacity.

I feel as though it’s unfair for me to be anything but happy. With people who are always there for me, it doesn’t matter what happens. I am surrounded by great people. The Lord has provided such an amazing support system for me.

Looking at this post, it’s so strange to type this. I’m really happy that I’m able to type this but these past two years have been rough. Back at that point of my life, It was almost like I was too tired to have this attitude. I was tired, unmotivated, and pretty consistently down in the dumps. I’m so happy I can be back to my old temperament; my carefree, sing in the car, laughing at nearly anything, constantly smiling, finding the silver lining attitude.

Although looking back, I can’t believe it took so much to get me to see a therapist. Even after I lost my a little bit of my uppity attitude, I had to sink so low to the point where I didn’t even have motivation to hang out with my friends (and I’m 90% extroverted) or work on anything that would lead to future goals. I don’t even know if I had goals at that point. I felt like everything was hopeless and at one point, I was so sure I would rather be in a coma than have to deal with life. It started becoming so bad that I would literally pray to get into a car crash (I didn’t explicitly try to though, I was too scared for that). At one point, I was I was skipping so many meals a day that sometimes I would go to bed light headed and wondering if I would even wake up in the morning. Other days, I would just drink until I didn’t feel guilty about my actions or laziness.

I don’t think people knew how bad it was because whenever people would ask about how I was doing, there was the automatic response of “fine”. I was perfectly okay with putting on a front when I was with people for a long time. But at one point it was just too tiring. It made me dread going out with people and I would actually choose laying on the floor rather than being with friends. Now I finally have found a counselor and something to help my depression and anxiety but why did it take me so long? I was scared because I couldn’t find the positives anymore. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

I don’t think I should’ve tried to hide it for so long. I know I can confide in my friends, there’s something about weakness though. It’s scary to show people your weakness and I guess that’s why I’m finally typing this out. A lot of times, people try to come off as if they have the perfect life but no one’s life is perfect. You can be optimistic but you shouldn’t live in denial. People should be honest and feel like they can turn to one another with their problems, especially their family (church included). That’s one thing that stressed me out, no one went through things like this. I couldn’t tell people how I felt because who would understand? But I’m starting to see that I have so many friends who I know will stand behind me. Everyone has weaknesses. It’s just about using your surrounding to overcome them and for me that was feeling comfortable to talk to my friends about things weighing me down.

Wowzers this is scary to post. It’s so scary to even think about being at that low of a point.  I’m just so thankful that the Lord kept me, was faithful, and that I’m back to me.

Well, here it is, a real look into my weakest point.

If you or someone you know is struggling like the author of this article, we encourage you to take the same courageous step to seek out the help of a professional counselor to help walk with you as you take an honest look at life and to rediscover hope and joy. Please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment.

‘That Dragon, Cancer’: A Video Game on Death, Grief, and Our Living Hope

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‘That Dragon, Cancer’: A Video Game on Death, Grief, and Our Living Hope

By Chris Casberg

Some years ago, the late film critic Roger Ebert weighed in on the debate over whether video games could be art: “Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.” Oh, Ebert. I love you, and I miss you, and how strongly—achingly, even—I wish you were right. For if what you said was true, then I wouldn’t have to wipe these tears from my eyes.

This weekend I played “That Dragon, Cancer,” an autobiographical video game that tells the story of the Green family and their son, Joel, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer at the age of one. Joel battled his cancer for four years, overcoming repeated terminal diagnoses until dying at the age of five.

Over the course of about two hours, players accompany the Green family through Joel’s diagnosis, treatment, and death, alternating between hospital rooms and surreal, fantasy-like vistas that make up the landscape of unspeakable grief.

Along the way, players sit in on joyful picnics and frightening doctor visits, listen to frantic voicemails, and read letters of both mourning and encouragement. It is the anguishing record of a family’s journey through tragedy, and there is nothing quite like it.

Difficult Game

As you can imagine, “That Dragon, Cancer” is a difficult game. Not in the traditional sense of game difficulty, of course—it requires neither physical dexterity nor quick reflexes. You cannot fail the game. You will not run out of lives and find yourself at the start again. In fact, it rarely asks you to do more than move the mouse cursor and click on objects.

The game’s demands aren’t physical. Rather, they’re emotional and spiritual. “That Dragon, Cancer” requires the player to enter into the grief of the Green family and walk with them as they lose their son to a frightening and relentless illness. Courage is what’s needed.

“That Dragon, Cancer” is a hard experience to reduce to language, and perhaps this is part of why Ryan Green, Joel’s father, chose the medium of video games to tell the story. Things like sorrow, pain, fear, and doubt can be named and, to a certain extent, described; but as long as they are mere words and concepts their power is limited.

We can keep a clinical distance from the aesthetic experience of grief as long as we know grief only as an abstract idea on a page. In the game, though, we’re utterly submerged in the nightmare, and the parents’ helplessness and sadness is made our own.

Theological Heft

Often, the allure of video games is that the player is granted special power and agency. One becomes a soldier, business magnate, or superhero at the press of a button. “That Dragon, Cancer” frustrates and subverts the normal expectation of agency. Players are given game-like tasks, like navigating Joel through a field of cancer cells as he clings to a handful of balloons, or racing a wagon through the hospital.

The facade of power and control crumbles away. It’s a brilliant piece of artistry in terms of video game design and theological heft; we players, accustomed to the power to trample our enemies, are shown our impotence in the face of a broken and fallen world. Our works cannot save Joel.

The overall effect is devastating. I cried multiple times, and I even had to stop the game to go hold my infant daughter. I’ve never had a game move me so much.


Yet for all the pervasiveness of fear and hopelessness, there’s another, greater theme: hope.

Ryan and Amy, Joel’s mother, are Christians, and they’re explicit about their faith. They pray often and sing worship songs, and they find encouragement in the small victories in Joel’s battle. In one scene, the parents explain Joel’s cancer to their other sons as a battle between Joel the Knight and a wicked dragon. Grace is Joel’s superpower, and it’s what helps him climb the mountain to face the dragon. In another scene, Ryan is overwhelmed by his inability to soothe a wailing Joel, who vomits any liquid he drinks. Ryan collapses into a chair and utters a desperate prayer, which is answered with Joel at last falling asleep. It’s a small miracle, but one met with gratitude.

This is a remarkable portrayal of faith. The game isn’t preachy, and there’s no prosperity gospel promise that faith results in material health and wealth. Joel’s parents genuinely struggle. Amy is desperate for a healing miracle that never comes; Ryan expresses doubts that God even cares.

The game didn’t have to be this honest, but it is, and this makes it a powerful witness. It shows the horrible condition of the world, and it offers hope for something better. In the end, through the heartache and loss, the Greens remain hopeful and true to their faith.


“That Dragon, Cancer” is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that some gamers have vocally refused to play it, for fear of how it might affect them. The old narrative is turned upside down: We used to mock Christians because they were afraid of the effect video games might have on people. Now, gamers are the ones afraid of a game’s impact. It’s an incredible thing, and it shows how much the medium has matured.

In an era where so much Christian creative produce is either kitsch, Jesus-themed counterfeits or, at its worse, edutainment, “That Dragon, Cancer” stands out as authentic in both form and content. It is lamentation literature in digital form, A Grief Observed for the Nintendo generation. Like C. S. Lewis’s essays that recount the passing of his wife, this game is haunting and brutally personal. It plays by the conventions and trends of the video game medium and at the same time subverts them, exposing the illusion of total agency and control in our lives for the farce it is. It is a heartbreaking adventure that’s also an excellent work of artistry and a faithful witness to the hope of the gospel.

This one’s a game-changer.


If you or a loved one is struggling with grief, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How to Get Off the Floor When All Seems Hopeless

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How to Get off the floor

There are times in life when all seems hopeless.  Our thoughts are pitch black. Our physical energy seems drained. Our emotions are dreary at best. Our social supports feel like weights. Our spiritual strength is sapped.

During our times of hopeless, taking action – no matter how seemingly small it may seem – can be a first step in getting up off the floor and finding a flicker of hope.

James Altucher gives several ways in his chart to help us find that light of hope, refocus, and get off the floor when all seems hopeless.

Give one of them a try.

And if you feel ambitious, try two of the ideas.

Also, please reach out for help when you find yourself on the floor.

For example give Netcare a call at  614-276-2273 if you feel at wits end and completely hopeless.  Check out some other resources of support here.

You can also give CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with one of our supportive counselors or coaches.

Where is Your Focus?

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Where we focus our attention is going to impact and drive our emotional state. If we ruminate on our problems or on those we blame for our situation, we will continue in a state of distress.

To learn how to deal with our distress and find help and rest, contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

4 Core Beliefs of Hope

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4 Core Beliefs of Hope

By Brent Flory



For more on hope, check out Why Hope is the Best Indicator of Future Success.

Looking for help cultivating hope? Contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a coach or counselor.

Why Hope is the Best Indicator of Future Success

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Why Hope is the Best Indicator of Future Success

By Brent Flory

hopeWhat do the people you admire and see as successful have in common? Is it their great talent, or their incredible intellect? While ability and brains are important, you might be surprised at what serves as the foundation for successful people.

When I was going through pharmacy school at Ohio Northern University, I encountered an arch nemesis my sophomore year that was determined to keep me from graduating: organic chemistry. It was the only class I have ever taken that I couldn’t pass no matter how hard I studied. I had many classmates who left the pharmacy program due to organic chemistry at ONU, but I wouldn’t be deterred. A minor detour that summer at a community college got me over that hurdle.

What was the difference between myself along with fellow classmates who battled through the class and those who quit? Hope. Hope is what sets people apart and keeps them going when they hit a wall in pursuit of their dreams. 

C.R. Snyder, Ph.D, the late researcher and professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas defined hope as “believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.”

In a study conducted on 3,920 freshmen college students, Dr. Snyder and his colleagues discovered that the level of hope that students possessed was a better indicator of their academic success in their first semester than their high school grade point average or their S.A.T. scores. In anotherstudy, Dr. Snyder and his fellow researchers discovered that hope levels played a large role in athletic achievement as well.

Dr. Snyder found in his research that hope is a building block for success throughout life. Hope is key for students in school, professionals in their careers, for people battling an illness, and overall happiness. People who have high levels of hope chase after higher goals and believe they know the way to reach them.

According to Gallup senior scientist Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D, there is a key difference between hope and optimism. Optimism is the attitude that your future is bright. Hope combines the attitude of optimism with the drive to take action so that bright, envisioned future becomes a present day reality.

Dr. Lopez and his colleagues found in their research that hopeful people share four core beliefs.

The four core beliefs of high hope people include:

1) The future will be better than the present.

2) I have the power to make it so.

3) There are many paths to my goals.

4) None of them is free of obstacles.

Do you see yourself reflected in this list of core beliefs? Or do you find yourself struggling to have strong hope for your future? If so, thankfully hope can be grown in our lives. Next week we will look at ways to cultivate hope.

Christians, You Will Suffer

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Christians, You Will Suffer

By Amy Hall

I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:

You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?

That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.

So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion…

A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.

If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.

But Christianity also promises justice for evil. And grace. And life from death. Resurrection. New bodies. Hope. Jesus is the only hope for true pain. Without Him, there’s nothing left to do but rail against God with the most perverse insults imaginable.

The truth is that even if you’ve been taught these things, a time will come when an experience will make this real to you, and then you will struggle to learn how to entrust yourself to God when you can’t trust He’ll protect you from pain and tragedy, can’t trust that things will get better. The only thing you can trust is Him. That He is good. That He knows what suffering is. That if He was willing to give His son over to death for us “because of His great love with which He loved us,” then we know His love won’t stop there—He’ll withhold nothing else from us that we should have. The good He seeks for us is to reveal Himself and conform us to the image of His Son. We will suffer no pain without purpose.

Go to the Christians who learned this before you—Richard Wurmbrand, Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Helen Roseveare, Corrie ten Boom, Kara Tippetts—Christians who learned through torture, death, disability, rape, terror, and terminal disease the truth of Paul’s “secret” to facing a life of pain: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I said to the atheist, “Those who suffer know Him better,” and I meant it. He is the God who knows suffering. He is the God who suffered. He is the God who works beauty through suffering. He is the God who resurrects.

Are you struggling with bitterness, anxiety, depression, boiling anger, and grief as you suffer?  Has your faith been blindsided and you don’t know what to do? Are you looking for hope and healing?  If so, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with one of our helpful coaches or counselors who will walk alongside of you in the healing process.