Marking the Moments of Hope

Marking the Moments of Hope

A little over four years ago, I had to have surgery in Bangkok. A routine appointment revealed a small tumor and my doctor didn’t want to mess around. I wasn’t in the hospital long but needed to remain in town for the results of the biopsy.

That week of waiting was hard.

I tried to trust that God had it all handled. He had filled my heart with peace as I walked up to the hospital the day of surgery in the steamy Bangkok heat. Whether I found out I had cancer or not, I knew He was still good.

I found a couple of books in the nearby mall and spent a lot of time at the Starbucks down the street journaling and reading and trying to keep my mind occupied. Western coffee shops were a luxury, and I savored the AC I didn’t have to pay for.

It was in that Starbucks that I spotted a bright pink mug. Even before I knew the test results, before I knew whether I would need more surgery or treatment or would get the green light to go home, I got this mug. It was a memorial stone for me.

In the first few chapters of Joshua, we find the hope-filled story of a river crossing miracle. After their wasteland wandering it was finally time for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, but this obstacle stood in their way: the harvest-stage overflowing banks of the Jordan River.

Joshua trusted God and God provided with dry ground. In Joshua chapter four, after everyone had crossed safely, God told Joshua to gather 12 stones to mark this provision and protection.

“In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all peoples of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:20-24 (CSB)

Memorial stones remind us of God’s faithfulness in the past. But I think we also need them to prompt us to look ahead with hope.

We have hope because God doesn’t change. When the lockdowns started in 2020 and it literally felt like the world was falling apart, God hadn’t gone anywhere. I still don’t understand the whys or allowances or the ultimate result of a really pain-filled year, but I know that He is still good.

When things feel uncertain or hard, I pull that pink mug down off my shelf. I wrap my hands around the warmth of a fresh-brewed cup of coffee and I remember. The God who carried me through those scary and uncertain days in Thailand is the same God who walks with me in the wilderness today.

And this is my reason for hope.

How do you mark the moments of hope in your life? What is pointing you toward God’s faithfulness as we start 2021?

Photo by Sohaib Ghyasi on Unsplash


  1. Spring January 6, 2021

    The director of the faith based health clinic I worked at had a fishbowl full of memorial stones. I really loved that concept, and wished I had done it. It does seem rather silly to travel with a jar of stones though so I am not sure of the practicality of it. I do like something physical to hold on to/ look at when hope seems low. Thank you Sarah for sharing about how you walked that out.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 7, 2021

      Spring, I’ve never thought about having a literal set of memorial stones! 🙂 It would be a little impractical for cross-cultural workers. I know I definitely need a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness or what He taught me or what I want to hold on to from different experiences. I have a small drawing my sister did from an impactful season overseas and that has been an easy-to-bring-with-me reminder. Sometimes something small is really powerful!

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