Finding Lost Hope

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more” (Psalm 71:14).

I have a confession to make.

I lost my hope.

I had hoped in a dream that I believed was God’s plan for me – it was exciting and I was filled with anticipation.  But when my life turned in a different direction, I set my backpack full of hope down and shuffled off on this unwanted new path.  It all seemed more like a heavy burden – just another unfulfilled longing.  It was easier to leave it behind than to continue carrying it around like so much dead weight.

The Bible mentions quite a few people who stood at the same crossroads.  Moses, Elijah, and Naomi come to mind.  Peter and several of the disciples, uncertain of where their lives are going after Jesus’ death, dejectedly went back to fishing (John 21).  And then there are two of Jesus’ followers  walking on the dusty road to Emmaus when they encounter a stranger.  They tell him about Jesus (isn’t that a kick), sadly saying: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).  They saw their lives going in a completely different direction than they expected.

Part of the problem is our understanding of the word “hope.”  We say, “I hope it doesn’t rain out the picnic today.”  “I hope he asks me to the prom.”  “I hope you feel better soon.” – but these are spoken like “wishful thinking.”  That’s a “cross-your-fingers” kind of hope.  The Bible portrays hope as “an attitude of confidently looking forward to what is good and beneficial.”  It’s a hope that serves as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).  It’s not a hope in circumstances, but rather a hope in the One who called us and sustains us and guarantees a good outcome.  It’s a hope that we can carry with us no matter what twists and turns life takes.  Better yet, it’s a hope that carries us no matter what.  That’s the kind of hope you and I need.

Remember Peter and those disciples on the road to Emmaus – the ones who had lost hope? Their stories didn’t end there.  At the end of that fishing trip was breakfast with the risen Jesus and restored hope for Peter.  At the end of the Emmaus road was the joyful realization that the stranger in their midst was the resurrected Lord Himself.  In the end their hope was renewed, in fact, it was even stronger than before.

One of my favorite verses in seasons like this is Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last there is life and joy.”  I believe this is an assurance that our God-given dreams don’t get cast aside when life takes an unexpected turn.  Because God expected that turn, even if I didn’t, and somehow my dreams will make the turn too. And when He brings them to reality, they may not look exactly like I envisioned, but they will be full of life and joy.  And hope.

Holy Father, I’m picking my hope back up and I’m going to walk this new path with the assurance that “He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).  My hope is in You.  There’s no better place for it to be.  Amen.

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CPR for Your Dreams

“How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. When I was very little, I would draw crayon scribbles on paper and call them my “stories.” I wrote with real words as I grew up, and placed well in writing and poetry competitions in high school. Writing gave me an avenue to express my feelings and order my thoughts and emotions. As an adult, I wrote in journals and developed the habit of journaling my prayers. Yet I kept those writings tucked away in boxes, never letting my words go any further as life and responsibilities pushed those dreams down deeper and deeper inside.

Ten years ago, God began to lay on my heart the desire to attend seminary, to write and to teach, another of my long held passions. He reached out and started plucking the strings of my heart to stir up old songs and old dreams; but once again I let life and the needs of my family and job take over. The more I pressed those dreams down the more discouraged I became. After an extremely difficult season, believing those dreams were dead, I took all those boxes of journals and notebooks and pitched them into the fireplace and shut those dreams out for good.

But God didn’t. He knew the plans He had for my life, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Two years ago, I heard the soft, faint sounds of the song again. This time I picked up the melody and began once again to put the words in my heart on paper. God made a used laptop computer available to me and a dear friend became my “editor,” giving me counsel and guidance in my writing. A sweet friend (a high-school student, no less!) helped me create this blog-site and I took a deep breath and finally put the words God placed in my heart out there for the world to see. Last fall, I began my first classes in seminary, and the Lord has opened doors for me to teach multiple weekly Bible studies in and around my community.

We often let our dreams and passions fade in the demands of work and family and the pull of responsibility. Sometimes we find ourselves chasing the world’s desires for us instead of God’s. When we push those God-given dreams aside, we can fall into depression and hopelessness, as I did while feeding the fire with my writings. But God has always had a plan for you, and He hasn’t let that plan die. Philippians 1:6 tells us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God sets His purpose for your life and He works in and around you to fulfill that purpose, as David testified in Psalm 138:8- “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” God works out His plans for His children. He knows everything about you, because He created you. He knows the desires and dreams in your heart, because He put them there. He has a plan to bring those dreams to reality. Listen to Philippians 2:13: “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

What dream has God planted in your heart? What dreams have you buried under the responsibilities of your life? What dreams have you walked away from? My friend, if God has given you a dream or a passion, He has not given up on it – or on you. Ask Him to restore that desire and show you how He wants to fulfill His plan and purpose for your life. Listen carefully- do you hear the sounds of an old familiar song?

Holy Father, life has gotten in the way of the dreams You placed within my heart. Please stir those dreams back to life and fulfill the wonderful plans You have for me. Amen.

Between Death and Life

“It was preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.  The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”                          Luke 23:54-56

It was the darkest day in their lives.  It was the day after Jesus had been crucified on the cross.   They’d heard the as the nails were driven into His hands and feet.  They saw the soldiers pierce His side and watched as the blood and water drained from His battered body.    They had seen Him give up His Spirit.  Their Jesus was dead.

What must this day have been like for these women?  Were they numb with grief?  Or was it the kind of sorrow that aches deep in the bones?   Don’t you imagine they felt fearful and confused? This day must have left them empty inside.

As we look back from this side of the Cross, we know these grieving women were entering a time of waiting.  We want to tell them, “Just hold on! Don’t grieve. Everything is going to change tomorrow.”  As Paul Harvey says, we know “the rest of the story.” We know death could not keep its grip on Jesus. We know they will soon find the tomb empty.   But they didn’t.  They thought it was all over.  Jesus’ death was final.  The man they believe was going to change the world was dead.

They didn’t know they were only waiting.

No long ago, I felt “dead” – both emotionally and spiritually.  I thought my life and my dreams were gone. I became buried in a dark grave of depression, fear and anxiety.  Feeling of hopelessness and sadness threatened to suffocate the very breath from me. I felt God was done with me.  Earlier I had not answered God’s call to ministry.  I had let it die.  I believed my dead dreams could never be resurrected.  Like the women at the tomb, I was grieving what I thought was lost.  But like them, I too was entering a time of waiting.

But in recent months, God has begun stirring something wonderful and alive in my spirit. His call on my life was not dead.  Just like the women leaving the tomb, I didn’t know there was more to come.  I was only in a time of waiting for God to fulfill His plan.  It wasn’t death – it was the day between grief and resurrection.

Don’t mistake the waiting season in your life as the death of your dreams. Hold on. God promises that an abundant new life is coming through the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Holy Father – You are the Master at bring life from death.  By Your resurrection power, Jesus was brought back to life – and by that same power you will give life to my hopes and dreams.

Amen.