Hope and Character: How to Find Lasting Hope

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope… Romans 5:3-4 ESV

Character produces hope…

I always thought imagination produced hope. Imagination that figures out a way through a difficult situation. Or an imagination that dreams big dreams.

But God tells us character produces hope. Not just any character grows hope. Only character developed in the crucible of suffering can result in hope. Endurance is the fertilizer for this type of character. Endurance brought forth in joy because we trust God who suffered so we could live with Him in eternity.

So character refined by enduring in God’s Word and His ways produces hope. While suffering we can point to our loving Heavenly Father and say I will only make it through this by His grace. We trust in His already-not yet victory. So we are able to day, “I am standing today, a sinner washed in Jesus’ blood. A new creation, but still becoming. A stumbling child of God, but walking strong in His grace.”

And there is the hope.

A new creation that God is still birthing new things in and through. Already a child of God, but not yet perfectly perfected. An already righteous saint, but still working out her salvation with fear and trembling. A secure heir, who longs to bring glory to my Father, but often falls short. This is what it means to have character that produces hope.

Character that understands who God is and who I am. Character which longs to make much of God and invest the time and talents God gives to matter for eternity. Character that endures suffering for the joy that God promises us in eternity.

Character that doesn’t lie or take the easy way, but instead does what is right.

Character that loves others, walks humbly, and admits mistakes.

Character that trusts God.

There hope grows.

Angela

The Day After: How Hope Changes Everything

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.   1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 ESV

Jesus died. His heart stopped beating, his lungs stopped breathing. They buried him in a tomb and there he stayed for three days. And yesterday we celebrated His resurrection. His amazing triumph over sin, death, and hell.

For those who do not believe in Jesus, this sounds crazy. And as a nurse I agree. People do not suddenly break out of the morgue or their tomb after three days. But Jesus was more than a man, He was God too. His victory over death gives us hope that we – who believe in Jesus’ offering and humble ourselves under His Lordship – do not have to fear death. Instead we look forward to an eternity with God.

The resurrection gives us hope that no situation is beyond hope.

We cannot lose because we know that God has great plans for us. This certainly doesn’t mean life will be roses and easy.

What it does mean is that God has a plan and purpose that we may never see or understand.

Death no longer stings. (I Cor. 15:55-57)

To live is to serve our risen Savior Jesus and to die is to be with Him in heaven. (Phil. 1:21)

And the resurrection whispers hope.

Hope of healing physically or in eternity.

Hope that broken things can be made beautiful.

Hope that relationships can be mended.

Hope that God knows best.

Hope that God does not waste tears or pain, but will bring about His perfect glory through it all.

So we hope in Christ alone. We hope in His perfect ways and trust His time because He is our resurrected Lord.

Angela

Depression: How to Explain It to Others

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 ESV

Looking back I can see it plainly. I was depressed and desperately clinging to my faith.

No one from the outside could see it. They knew I injured my foot. They knew my house had to have all the pipes redone, but they couldn’t see. They didn’t know about the darkness.

When I told my daughter I how depressed I was she asked, “Why didn’t you tell someone?”

And God gave me these words.

Imagine you woke up one morning and the sun didn’t come up and you couldn’t find a light switch. The sun had been slowly getting dimmer over weeks and months so the darkness wasn’t a surprise. It just was. And the lights, they slowly became like a kerosene lamps, feeble, getting more and more useless. So darkness seemed normal, as if everyone woke in the dark.

Despite the darkness you had to live. You had teeth to brush, kids to feed, bills to pay. All in the dark. Everything became more difficult and there never was enough time. Without light obstacles easily tripped you up, slowed you down, or kept you from trying. And every day some obstacle moved so you could never quite learn to navigate through your day without bumping into something. Any new unexpected event – whether welcome or not – added to your difficulty. And the darkness only deepened.

—————————-

I could not remember what light looked and felt like. So the moments of subdued laughter or excitement I felt seemed normal. But my tears. I noted I may have a problem when I struggled to read out loud a page from a book I was reading to my kids. The story was not particularly sad, no one died, and yet I struggled to read sentence after sentence as tears streamed down my face. I chalked it up to being sensitive. I often cry. Things are just difficult now, but I’m ok.

But I wasn’t. And the crazy thing is I could and did tell people the truth about God and His tender care for me. I saw His hand moving in all the crazy circumstances of foot injury, my husband’s job changing, and service man after service man after service man in my house. I knew God was there working. And I worked hard to find joy even in a knee scooter.

But that didn’t mean I wasn’t depressed, because one day a few weeks ago the light came back on. The heavy darkness that clung to me for months was dispelled.

Suddenly I accomplished more in one day than I had in a month or more. Things that were a struggle took me no time at all. And the joy of the Lord was that much richer and amazing. And I don’t have to cry my eyes out when I thought about it.

Sometimes we slip into depression like a slowly dimming light and we do not even know we are walking in the dark. Sometimes we do not even know we need to tell someone.

That is what depression was like for me. What is your experience? How do you describe it to others who have not experienced it?

Please note I am NOT saying that people who are blind are always depressed. I am just trying to offer a physical example of what depression can feel like for a seeing person.

Angela

New Beginnings: Grace, Growth, and Gratitude

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

God is in the business of doing new things in our lives. Why? For our good and His glory. So that this world that is lost in darkness can see God’s light.

But in order for us to see or perceive the new thing God is doing we often have to let go of somethings that are no longer serving us or Him in our lives.

This flower arrangement, my husband gave me, was quite beautiful for a while.

But it didn’t take long for some of the flowers to start to droop and die out. Interestingly though not all the flowers died at the same time. To keep the arrangement looking nice I had to let go of what was dead and dying so that a new beauty could be seen.

Certainly I could have cried over the dead flowers or clung to the dry disintegrating petals. But then I would miss the beauty of what was next. I would miss the chance to develop a new perspective, to see beauty in something I never planned or wanted. When we allow God’s grace to show us beauty in the unexpected, unplanned, new things in life, we develop gratitude for a God who can bring beauty out of ashes.

He turned a device intended to torture and kill into a symbol of victory and hope (the cross). He transformed the grave from an ending to a beginning.

If only we let His grace help us let go of our dying plans then we are free to embrace the beauty of the new thing He is doing.

So are we ready to lay down our old things, so He can make them new?

What do you need to let go today?

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Angela