The Hope that Does Not Disappoint

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 ESV

Hope. We long for it and fear it. We excitedly soar on the wings of possibility only to crash to the ground when what we expected or hoped did not happen.

But God promises a hope that will not end in a spectacular crash, a hope that will does not put us to shame.

This hope is not some pie in the sky, dream. It is hard won on the battlefield of suffering, endurance, and proven character. It is hope that God is near, in us, with us, working around us. The God who created the stars in the sky and holds the universe together in all its intricacies, He is near enough to work things out according to His perfect plan and purpose.

His nearness changes everything. It provides light in darkness, direction in confusion, and possibility in seemingly impossible situations. In those dark places He whispers encouragement and correction, we only need to listen. This hope comes as our character is forged in the fires of suffering. It is a hope stronger than steel, purer than silver, and certain because we know the God who promised is faithful.

So when darkness covers all we can see, we get to decide. Will we keep searching for the light, knowing God’s light is coming? Will we cling to the hope that God’s ways are best, He has plans for our good and His glory? Or will we place our hope in things that disappoint? Will we boss around our emotions and our minds? Or will we let our fear and worry steal our joy and hope?

Our God is able, He is strong, He owns everything so He can do anything. And when He choses not to do something, we have to trust His ways are best when our hope is in Him.

Father God, help us to choose to hope in You. Help us to see how you are working and trust that Your ways are best even when we do not understand. May we remember Your promises and Your plans so we remember our hope will never put us to shame. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Angela

Sovereignty: Three Ways to Trust God When Failure Looms

Last week I watched Clemson trounce Alabama in the NCAA’s Football National Championship game.

Clemson was up 31-16 at halftime and never looked back. After a botched fake field goal at the beginning of the third quarter Alabama’s loss seemed imminent. Failure, at least in that game, was coming. Still Alabama did not walk off the field and quit. They played out the game. They stood strong, played hard, and lost.

Sometimes failure seems imminent in life. Business ventures, relationships, or careers can seem to be on the brink of total destruction. Failure seems to be on the horizon – just a few minutes away. And life feels heavy, burdensome, like a battle.

How do we trust God when failure threatens and loss seems certain?

1. We remind ourselves that God is sovereign.

I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 ESV

God is in control. This does not mean that we are not responsible. Somehow as God works we do too. It is a mystery, but it frees us. It frees us from fear that immobilizes because we can trust God to guide and direct us when our hearts and minds are set to glorify Him. It frees us to do the work God called us to do and leave the results to Him.

2. We remind ourselves that God works all things out for our good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

For those of us who are called to God’s purpose, who are in a deepening love relationship with God through Jesus, we can trust that God is using all things – the imminent failure, the painful loss – for good. Sometimes our good is painful, but all things that are deeply important require hard work.

3. We cry out to God and then trust He will answer.

But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.  Psalm 55:16-18 ESV

Yes, we cry out to God and trust He will save us. He will work out and redeem our souls in our battles. Our battles may not turn out the way we hope. We may still sustain loss, but we know we can trust God.

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.  Psalm 100:5 ESV

May we cling to God’s sovereignty, trusting His ways, and calling out to Him when failure looms and losses weigh heavy.

 

Angela

The New, the Not Yet, and the Gone: How to Live Fully When Now is a Struggle

“The struggle is real,” is our snide mantra over laughable “struggles” like not having coffee in the morning.

But real struggles do exist.

Depression turns just getting out of bed into a war. The struggle for parents to love, guide, discipline, and direct children who want their own way. The battle to overcome addiction. Physical pain that debilitates. Watching a loved one finish their time on this earth. Loving well a person with dementia whose personality and memory is slowly fading away. Longing to do well so that your business succeeds for God’s glory. Working and praying hard to keep a ministry going. Doing what is right when it seems every corner you turn someone or something is against you.

Struggles are real. So how can we live fulfilled when right now is a battle?

The new. Every minute of every day God is doing something new. We just need eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and hearts and minds to perceive it.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19 ESV

The struggle we are experiencing now is not always going to be. God is doing something. He is using this struggle to mold and shape us, to guide and direct us. He is doing something new in the midst of the battle. To live fully in the battle, we have to look for the new thing God is doing. Look for His presence, guidance, peace, wisdom, and grace.

The not yet. God promises that one day all of these battles will be won. They will be finished and we will be at peace.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:4-5 ESV

There is a time coming when God will be living fully in our midst. Our sin will be gone and victory will be ours through Christ. This is our hope in the not yet. We are victors, but our victory is not yet complete. We can rest knowing our current uncertain battles have a certain end, victory in Jesus.

The Gone. Some battles end and their effects still linger. They haunt our current struggles as we carry around labels like failure, unwanted, unloved. But God never intended us to carry those labels. Learn from our past, yes. Grow from our losses, certainly. But never be defined by them. Instead He wants us to forget so we can stretch forward.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

To live fulfilled in the midst of struggles we must forget the labels of the past and press forward through the struggles of today. We must let the past be gone and let God, our creator, fill us with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He will fill us, we just have to trust expectantly in Him.

What do you need to do to live fully today, look for the new, remember the net yet, forget the gone?

May the God of all glory, grace, and peace fill us with His Spirit so we can live fully now.

Father give us eyes to continually look for the new thing You are doing. Remind us that we have a hope not only for this earth, but for eternity. May we forget what lies behind so we can strain toward what You have in store for us. Father fill us with You so we can live fully even while this life is hard. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Angela

Newly Broken: How to Live Fulfilled

2018. A year of breaking. God broke my comfortable world. He called me to teach high school seniors (a leadership class), enroll my kids in the school where I work, and step back into nursing by becoming a school nurse. Nothing felt comfortable. Nothing normal. In the midst of all the change my brokenness became apparent.

I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t do it well. My house was periodically in shambles. I missed appointments, learned how much I did not know, failed my kids, snapped at my husband, and felt the stretching snapping breaking of change. I wish I could say I embraced the change, grasped for grace as the cracks became evident. Instead I allowed the newness to deepen my brokenness. I gave into frustration. I knew the truth, but I didn’t want to admit it. I am not enough. I am broken.

And yet, broken is where God wants me. Not so He can hold it over me or ridicule me, He wants me broken because when I am broken He can use me. In fact brokenness is what pleases God.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:17 ESV

When in our brokenness we turn to God, He will take those broken pieces and make something beautiful. Instead of broken vessels leaking purpose, joy, and hope, God makes broken people whole. He makes us whole so He can fill us with His Spirit, purpose, joy, hope, love.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13 ESV

So how do we lived fulfilled? We bring our brokenness to God and He makes something beautiful and whole. We admit we are not enough, we cannot do it on our own. In our messy broken state God will fill us with hope, joy, peace, and His Spirit. May we all take our brokenness to God and exchange our emptiness for His fullness.

 

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Angela