Posts Tagged ‘hope’
Being wheelchair-ridden and crutch-bound for the next three months will no doubt provide much fodder for my writing and speaking. That’s one of the upsides to doing what I do—most every experience offers a life lesson to share with others.
Here’s one that struck me this morning…
Life carries multiple uncertainties, right? Last Friday morning I woke with every intention to complete my new devotional manuscript by this weekend. Instead, I spent the last six days trying to figure out how to do life on crutches and in a wheelchair after partially rupturing my left Achilles tendon.
This is only one example. We could put our heads together and make a mile-long list of examples that prove life is uncertain:
- We marry and assume we’ll have a family, but infertility proves to be a problem.
- We conceive and assume we’ll bear a beautiful, healthy child. But the baby’s born with serious medical issues that will last a lifetime.
- We raise our kids with biblical standards and pray for them everyday, but they get into their teenage years and make lousy choices. Their lives don’t turn out the way we’d imagined.
- We work hard and put money into savings, but the economy tanks and we lose a huge portion of it.
- We make wonderful plans for our retirement. The time finally comes for us to realize those plans, but our spouse passes away unexpectedly.
The list could reach to infinity and beyond, and the reality of life’s uncertainties could get downright scary and depressing. That’s not my intent through writing this post!
Rather, my intent is to bring hope and confidence in light of life’s uncertainties. Here’s the Scripture that’s encouraged me today: “I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” (Psalm 16:8).
We might not know whether we’ll survive the day. We might not know whether the economy will work in our favor or lead to our financial ruin. We might not know whether our friends and family will stand beside us or turn against us someday. But this we do know – the Lord is always with us. No matter what life brings, we can stand strong and unshaken because He is right beside us.
How does this promise apply to you today?
Sometimes life deals a heaping dose of hurt. I’ve experienced it myself several times recently, either firsthand or via family and friends. Here are a few examples:
- Cancer claims a pastor’s wife and leaves a widower with three children under five years old.
- A young couple’s first child is born with multiple birth defects and dies within three hours.
- Cancer strikes a middle-aged mother of two teens.
- A grown child makes negative decisions that affect innocent others.
- A youth pastor leaves his family for a teenage girl. (Actually, I know of four such cases in the past year).
When life deals hurt, our hearts naturally feel heavy. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on our tasks at hand. Sometimes it’s difficult to feel thankful, and it’s easy to feel betrayed or angry. Emotions can boil into an unhealthy state if we let them. This morning, as I sift through a mix of emotions, I read Psalm 46:7-11:
“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Come, see the glorious works of the LORD; See how he brings destruction upon the world. He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation, I will be honored throughout the world.’ The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.”
How can hope be ours when we’re hurt and feeling heavy-hearted? By remembering these five truths from Scripture:
- God is with us. He is right here, living in us 24/7.
- God is our fortress. Our enemies cannot destroy us because He surrounds us with His presence.
- God will end our battles. That might happen here, or it might happen in heaven. Either way, they won’t last forever.
- God is sovereign. He’s able to bring good from bad, beauty from ashes. As we learn—as we really learn—to rest in His power and love, then we experience stillness of the soul amidst the storm that blows.
- God will be honored. I believe this one’s conditional upon how we respond to our circumstances. If we allow our emotions to spiral into toxic yuck that contaminates everyone around us, then of course, God will not be honored. But when we apply the above four truths, then indeed, He will receive honor. And that’s when onlookers take notice and say, “Something’s different about you. What is it?” Eternal purposes far beyond our imagination are achieved.
If you’re feeling heavy-hearted today, please take a few moments to reread Psalm 46:7-11. Thank God for its truths, and ask Him to help you apply them to your life. Therein lies hope.
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Sometimes my tongue speaks before my brain kicks into gear. It starts to wag and spouts stuff like, “Why in the world did you do that?” or “What were you thinking?”
If I don’t catch it soon enough, it complains about the rain or whines about my workload. Occasionally it slips a juicy tidbit about someone.
Yes, my tongue can be a real pain sometimes. It has the potential to discourage and hurt other people, but it also has the potential of doing just the opposite.
When it behaves itself, it brings hope and instills courage. It plants dreams in others’ hearts, and it spurs them on to good deeds.
My tongue isn’t very pretty. In fact, it’s rather small and odd-looking, but oh, the power it wields. My desire is for that power to be used in a good way—to bless others and bring a smile to God’s face. And so my prayer each morning is this:
“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (Psalm 141:2).
I whisper this prayer and then trust God to answer it. When I’m tempted to say something I shouldn’t, I often hear His voice warning me to pause and ponder first, or to refrain altogether. Most of the time I heed His warning, although I’m embarrassed to say I ignore it occasionally. Doing so always brings regrets.
Yes, my tongue is an interesting character. A bit tough to tame, but full of potential. Knowing its tendencies, I think this little prayer is a good one to apply every morning for the rest of my life. How about you? Can you relate?
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There it is. My word for 2012 – joy – has popped up again. This time it appeared in Psalm 30:5 and 11 – “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning…You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.”
What a promise for those who grieve! What a statement of hope for men and women in pain.
Last night my heart broke when I read my emails. Two women shared stories of losing their husbands recently – one through cancer, and the other through a marriage breakup. Both women are mourning their loss. Their nights are long and lonely, and their days are empty as they seek to make sense of what’s happened and how to embrace life with its new normal.
Joy isn’t part of these women’s vocabulary at this point on their journey. It might be difficult for them to even imagine that it will one day return, but it will. Slowly, slowly the pain will dissipate. Darkness will turn to dawn as God fills their hearts with an ever-increasing peace that passes human understanding. Laughter will live again.
I read these emails and whispered a prayer for these women. A prayer that they will soon be clothed with joy. That each morning will bring renewed hope. That each new day will bring restored faith and confidence in the One who loves them and knows their deepest hurts.
If you’re experiencing a nighttime of the soul, then this is my prayer for you, too. May God ease your pain and fill you with joy. May today put a dance – a joyful dance – into your step. You are loved!
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Christmas approaches bringing familiar strains: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head…”
I love that carol, especially when sung by children’s sweet voices. The lyrics transport me to another place and time, to that star-studded night in a distant land. They take me to a dark and lonely stable where a nervous young husband coaches his bride through childbirth’s groans and writhes. They help me envision a young couple wrapping their infant in a blanket and gazing on His face with wonder, awed at the privilege of holding God incarnate in their human hands.
Imagine the baby Jesus cooing, crying, sucking at his mother’s breast. Squinting through newborn eyes. Wrapping his wee fingers around Joseph’s man-sized thumb. Demanding nighttime feedings. Spitting up on Mary’s shoulder.
Now imagine baby Jesus all grown up. Need a little help with that? Try this description, courtesy of John the Baptist:
“And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave’” (Revelation 1:13-18).
Wow. This season, we celebrate the baby Jesus—the newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger fast asleep as sheep and cows stand reverently nearby. He deserves our adoration, but let’s not forget to worship Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is indeed, the living one who holds the keys of death and the grave. He’s our Savior, our Hope, our Peace, and our Joy not just in this season, but forever.
Take time this busy season to ponder John’s description of the grown up Baby Jesus. What part of it grabs your attention the most? Why?
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“It’s complicated,” said a young man with whom I spoke recently. In the past year, he made some life-altering choices, and those choices carried negative consequences. Now he stands at a crossroads and wonders which way to go.
I admit—his situation is indeed complicated, but it’s not without hope. How can I be so sure? Because the Scriptures tell the story of another young man whose life became complicated and how he navigated the course successfully.
The young man’s name was Daniel. He and three buddies were captured by the Babylonians and chosen for an elite training program. During their training period, the ruling king of Babylon suffered from disturbing dreams. He demanded that his wise men tell him what his dreams were and then interpret their meaning. They argued with him, saying his request was unreasonable. This infuriated the king, and he ordered that all wise men in Babylon be executed. Unfortunately, Daniel and his buddies were on the hit list (Daniel 2:1-13).
When the executioner showed up at their doorstep, Daniel knew what to do:
- He asked a question to clarify the situation: “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?”
- He listened to the answer: “So Arioch told him all that had happened…”
- He took immediate action: “Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant.”
- He shared his concern with godly friends: “Then Daniel went home and told his friends…”
- He asked his friends to pray, and to do so specifically: “He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon.”
Daniel’s life suddenly grew very complicated. He could have gone on a rant about the king’s foolish decree. He could have curled up in a fetal position, paralyzed by fear upon hearing the decree. He could have let the executioner do his job. Instead, he asked a question to gain a better understanding of the situation and then took deliberate action to prevent unnecessary deaths.
A vital element in this process was prayer. The men asked God to show them the secret, and God answered immediately: “That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision.” What did Daniel do next? He praised God for being the source of all wisdom and power, and for sharing that wisdom and strength with him.
If the word complicated describes your life today, then follow Daniel’s example:
- Ask questions to gain a better understanding of what brought you to this place and what your options are now.
- Listen well.
- Take appropriate action with the people involved.
- Confide in trustworthy friends and urge them to pray specifically.
- Expect God to answer.
- Thank God for answered prayer.
No matter how grim your situation looks, rest assured it’s never beyond God’s wisdom or strength. He offers healing and hope, and He’ll bring you through as a stronger, wiser person.
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This week I’ll visit a childhood friend who’s in hospice after a long and courageous battle with leukemia. She underwent a bone marrow transplant this spring. On day 100, the doctors told her that the transplant won over the leukemia. That was the good news. The bad news was that another form of cancer—this one untreatable—had invaded her bone marrow. Her family met and discussed the options. Together they decided it was time for her to rest, and for them to spend as much time together as possible as her journey draws to a close.
When I learned of her situation, I felt an inexpressible sadness on her behalf. We’re the same age. Our kids are the same age, too. And we both have grandbabies. Frankly, I cannot fathom how she must feel saying goodbye to those she loves.
I spoke with her by phone last week. Though her voice was weak and her words somewhat slurred, she said, “I have peace.”
How can my girlfriend make this statement in the midst of such difficult circumstances? Because she knows God’s promises. Psalm 119:49,50 say, “Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.”
As my girlfriend prepares to take up residence in heaven, I imagine that the promise found in John 14:1-3 gives her great comfort:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am.”
I’m wrestling with my friend’s situation. When sadness overwhelms me, I turn to God’s promise of eternal life, and I find hope. His promise revives me and gives me comfort.
What promise gives you hope and revives you in the midst of trouble?
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Traveling by plane as often as I do provides lots of opportunities to speak with fellow passengers. When I engage in a conversation, I’ll admit that my spiritual antennae are up, looking for ways to share God’s love. Often, the other person makes a comment that makes for a perfect lead-in. Last December, a lady seated next to me asked, “I’m on a personal quest for peace. Have you found it yet?” One usually only dreams of such obvious openings.
As believers, we need to go through life looking for and recognizing opportunities to present Jesus. Peter did so, specifically in Acts 3:12 when people showed their amazement upon seeing him heal a lame man. He seized the moment to direct their attention to God, whose power made it possible for the man, born lame, to walk and leap.
“Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd,” says Acts 3:12. Let’s ask God to give us eyes like Peter’s. Let’s ask Him to enable us to see divine opportunities to share our faith, the reason for our hope, the source of our joy and peace.
Those opportunities might happen on the city bus. They might come at the hair salon, or in a restaurant, or at the gym. We don’t know how God is working in other people’s lives, but we know that He is. And we just need to be alert, keeping our spiritual eyes open to see those opportunities when they come.
Question: Describe a recent opportunity you’ve had to share Jesus.
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Did you have a good Christmas? I hope so! We enjoyed spending time with family and friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen for many months. The partying continues—as you read this, we’ll be celebrating our granddaughter’s third birthday and later driving to Pasco, Washington to visit our eldest daughter and her husband for a couple of days. If you’re driving, too, I pray for safe journeys.
It’s hard to believe that 2010 will end in a few days. That thought might cause some readers to say, “Whew—finally!” Their journey held unexpected twists and turns that nearly sent them over the brink emotionally or physically and they’re more than ready for a slower, quieter, calmer pace. Some readers might be sorry to see 2010 end, having experienced a year brimming with newness, hope, and fulfilled promises. Others might feel sorry for another reason—they made poor choices that brought unnecessary heartache, and they’re looking forward to the fresh start a new year signifies.
Whatever your reaction at the thought of 2010 ending, I pray you’ll bid it goodbye and enter the New Year resolved to follow hard after God. Psalm 142:5 says, “You are my place of refuge, You are all I really want in life.” If these words are true of us, then we stand in good stead to deal with the past and to face the future with hope and confidence.
As I ponder this Scripture, I’m thinkin’ the words make a powerful mantra of sorts. Imagine whispering them to the Lord before falling asleep every night. What a great way to end the day—with one’s thoughts focused on God and acknowledging that He is all we need or want. Hmmm…I’m going to write this verse on a recipe card and tape it to the headboard of my bed. Anyone want to do the same?