Hope and Wait

I love living in Michigan.  I love the trees, the lake and I especially love the people.  I even love the ever-changing climate.  I never tire of watching spring turn into summer and delight when the fall comes with its promise of winter to follow.  Spring was lovely this year as March brought surprisingly warm weather that encouraged the flowers to sprout and the leaves to fill the trees. Then came a hot, dry summer that seemed to go on forever, but eventually the rains came and refreshed the earth again.  We are now enjoying the glory of God’s creative use of color as fall surrounds us.  The evenings are getting nippier causing us to look forward to a beautiful winter.  Each season has something delightful to offer as well as inconveniences.  Yet the ebb and flow of the ever-changing seasons fill me with excitement and anticipation for each new beginning.  All I have to do is wait a few months (sometimes only days) and there will be something new to enjoy and celebrate.

I can’t help but reflect how life echoes the change of seasons.  Like nature, it is never static.  We move from times of fresh, new, exciting events to long, hot, dry spells where we crave relief and refreshing rains.  Other times we revel in the glory of God around us or withdraw into the warmth of our inner-selves to get out of the cold world.  Time seems to fly by as we celebrate the good times with hope and joy.  But when we struggle with the difficult seasons of life, time seems to crawl.  Feelings of discouragement, disappointment, grief, or a myriad of other challenging emotions sap us of our strength and of our hope.  However, I have discovered that it is during these more strenuous times that hope is exactly what we need to choose to do.  Yet just sitting there and having hope when life is seems to be falling down around you can feel like a “cop-out.” We think we need to do something more to get through the worry and dismay.

I learned something new about hope this weekend from our pastor, Dr. Duane Kelderman.  His sermon, “Put Your Hope in God,” was based on Psalm 42 and 43.  In reference to the command that the psalmist gave himself (“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42: 5b and 11b), Dr. Kelderman said, “Literally he says, ‘Wait on God.’  That’s what the Hebrew word for ‘hope’ literally means: wait.  And when it’s God you’re waiting on, that’s not a defeat.  Because when it’s God you’re waiting on, you wait with confidence, with certainty.  In the divine mathematics, waiting plus certainty equals hope.”

Did you hear that?  Hope is waiting on God with certainty that He will answer and He will act.  It is choosing to let go of our need for validation, affirmation, revenge, justice, or whatever is plaguing us and choose to trust God’s sovereignty, His will for our lives, His ability to make all things work together for our good.  In my case, it also included choosing to let God be enough.  I need to wait on Him and place my hope in the certainty that His relationship with me and His love for me is all I really need.  It’s in this place of waiting that I find great comfort and my hope is renewed.  The key is to hope IN GOD!

We all go through times of discouragement – just like the psalmist.  During those times it is so easy to dwell on the reasons for our feelings or the feelings themselves.  When that happens we can learn a lesson from the psalmist and openly and honestly share our doubts, pain, confusion, sorrow, and other negative feelings with the One who understands.  But we must not allow ourselves to wallow in our distress because discouragement when left unchecked can lead to depression and abandonment.  Like the psalmist, we need to choose to put our hope in God – to wait on Him.  As you wait, find hope in God’s faithfulness in your life so far.  Let that hope help you identify reasons to thank and praise Him for the blessings He lavishes on you.  In hope and certainty, trust in His providential care of you now and in the future.  This season of discouragement will pass – just as surely as spring follows winter and summer gives way to fall, God will be there to uphold you with His righteous right hand.

So come, my friends, join me as we rest and wait because we choose to have hope in God.  Let’s proclaim with the Psalmist, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and My God.”

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Do-Overs

Have you ever done some “bone head” thing you would love to undo, or take back?  I call these times “do-over moments.”  My life is full of such times and they usually involve my mouth because it seems to have a way of speaking before my mind is fully engaged (all of you who know me are either smiling or nodding your head or rolling your eyes at this point.).  I shall never forget the time I was speaking to a large group of teens in British Columbia.  I meant to say “should sit” but my traitorous mouth switched the beginning sounds of the two words.  I was profoundly embarrassed and all I wanted was a simple do-over!

Sometimes my actions are the causative agent of my need for a do-over.  Like the time I stumbled as I was going on stage to speak to about 800 middle school students.  If that wasn’t bad enough, I failed to realize that when I had tripped and fallen (I even bounced a few times because I was so “fluffy” then), the zipper of my jeans had popped open.  I stood there for half an hour just flapping in the breeze.  Believe me, that is something young children should NOT see!  I think they wanted a do-over as much as I did at that point.

Other times the resulting consequences of misjudgments are the cause of a do-over moment.  I remember driving to school to pick up our son.  It was a glorious San Diego day with blue skies and balmy breezes and I was feeling good.  I began to sing the child’s song, “God Made Me Special.”  The more I sang, the better I felt.  The better I felt, the faster I drove….until I noticed some flashing red lights in my rearview mirror.  My good feelings came to a screeching halt and I was in the middle of another do-over moment.

But too often our do-over moments go beyond embarrassment.  We say and do things that leave us with feelings of guilt, shame, grief, and deep regret.  The evil one delights in using these feelings to draw us away from God and from people so that we are caught in a downward spiral of self-condemnation.  I don’t know about you, but it is way too easy for me to give in to the temptation to withdraw into myself, away from others.  I find myself dwelling on the lies about my lack of worth, how unlovable I am, what a failure I am, and worst of all, God’s inability to forgive my heinous sin.  We all have areas of weakness that Satan will attack.  Have you ever stopped to identify the areas where you are most fragile?  This knowledge is imperative if we are to fight off the attacks of the evil one when he tries to defeat us and discourage us.  He wants us to give up and wallow in pain, grief and rejection.  He wants us to feel hopeless and helpless.  He wants us to feel that God has given up on us just as we have given up on ourselves.

But that is not what God wants.  He is a God of do-overs!  He’s a God of second chances and new beginnings.  He redeems our past, walks beside us to strengthen us in the present, and assures us of hope for the future.  We can fight Satan’s plans by drawing near to the heart of God and hear Him speak these familiar, yet profound words of truth, love, forgiveness, and grace:

  • Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8:1
  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with my loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:17
  • In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7
  • “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • “The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the people on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.”  Deuteronomy 7:6
  • “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free….SO if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:32,36

There are so many more things He wants to whisper in our ears to comfort and strengthen us so we don’t fall into the temptation of self-condemnation.  We just need to take the time to listen.  And we need to persevere – even when we don’t feel like it.  Whether you struggle with embarrassment caused by your mouth or actions, have to deal with consequences of choices, or fight the lies of Satan, KNOW that God longs to give you a do-over so you can learn from your experiences while gaining a fresh understanding and appreciation of the fullness of His grace.  I leave you with these words of God ringing in your ears, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  Romans 5:2b-5