Yesterday my youngest son, my husband and I unloaded a large rented box truck packed front to back with boxes, furniture and other random things.
We brought it all into the house or stashed it for safekeeping and future sorting in our storage building.
It was-literally-uphill both ways.
A long, long ramp (which I really hated!) up into the truck and steps and stairs into the house or building. Exhausted is too small a word for how I fell into bed last night.
But we did what we set out to do.
We didn’t quit, we didn’t give up, we didn’t stop until we emptied that truck and safely deposited its contents where they would be sheltered from the rain that started falling sometime early this morning.
It made me think: How often do I stop just short of pushing through something (physical, mental, spiritual or emotional) because it’s hard?
How many times have I looked at the work it would require to dig in, dig deep and finally face a fear or a failing or even a future that looks very different than the one I’d have chosen for myself when all I see is a steep uphill climb?
If I felt the same urgency about those things as I did with a rented truck and impending bad weather I might be more inclined to press on. But usually I console myself with the mantra, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow”.
Trouble is, tomorrow turns into tomorrow into tomorrow until there’s a whole string of days gone by and not one whit of progress toward my goal.
The hills will still be there.
Time won’t change the difficulty of the climb.
Beginning and continuing and refusing to stop is the only way.
This morning I feel beat up, worn down and probably won’t get much done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing yesterday was a victory.
It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .
That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.
It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.
When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.
Psalm 27 helps turn my heart back to truth:
13 [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!
14 Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14 AMPC
Other versions render the first part of verse 13 like this: “I would have fainted” or “I would have lost heart” or “I would have despaired”.
Hope is a powerful thing.
Often it’s the thread a heart holds onto when everything else falls away.
And while I am absolutely looking forward to God’s ultimate victorious remaking of this world into the perfect and beautiful place He always intended it to be, I am also confident He will continue to work in me and through me to redeem parts of it even here, even now.
Lots of hearts are impatient with our current situation.
Life has been upended. Retirement accounts depleted. Jobs disappeared. School closings and no big graduations. Plans made for months wiped out by government decree. We are stuck at home eating from pantries and refrigerators full of things that may be nutritious but which don’t quite fulfill our appetites.
I know it’s scary right now. I realize that it might look to some as if God has taken a step back or is not paying attention at all. But that’s simply not true. He is still in control. His plans cannot be thwarted. This is NOT the end.
When we stop expecting God to move, we stop listening to His voice, paying attention to His direction and following His Word.
What I’ve got to do is wait.
Not wait in defeat but wait in expectation!
Because I know my God IS moving I can look toward the future with confident assurance that He is going to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Endurance IS the victory!
Sometimes it’s only a matter of standing my ground, declaring the truth and refusing to give way to the enemy of my soul. I am undefeated as long as I hold fast to the hope I have in Christ Jesus.
Fear can only make a home in my heart if I allow it. Faith is the bulwark against that invasion.
Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.
What is your greatest struggle/fear/frustration right now with the coronavirus situation? Can you rewrite it in terms of what you wish God or the government or someone would do to fix it?
How might patience erase some of your anxiety?
Do you think God has abandoned you (us) in this crisis? Why or why not?
If you have children, are there times when you simply can’t give them an adequate explanation they can understand yet insist they obey or endure? Can you apply that same truth to yourself and your Heavenly Father?
Are you confident you will see God’s goodness “in the land of the living” or do you only hope for His goodness in Heaven? Why ?
I use verses like these and quotes like the one from Elisabeth Elliot to help MY heart hold onto hope. How do you help your heart hold onto hope?
The Bible says that the enemy comes only to “steal, kill and destroy”-he will steal your peace if you let him, he will kill hope in your soul if you listen to his whispered lies that God has abandoned you and he will destroy your confident assurance that Jesus loves you if he can turn your heart and mind to focus on circumstances instead of on the truth found in God’s Word. What practical steps can you take TODAY to shut him out, stop listening to his lies and turn your heart and mind to TRUTH?
These are frightening times.
They are unprecedented times for a world used to flying here and there, running out to the store or a restaurant whenever we want to, having freedom to come and go as we please. Now we are being asked to stay in with the families we created but don’t always get along with. We are told that the things we touch-door handles, cans of food on store shelves, random things everywhere -may be sources of danger.
An invisible enemy is stalking us and we feel defenseless. And yet we are not defenseless because You are still on the Throne.
You are still in control.
Nothing is going to happen to me today that You can’t handle. Help me hold onto the promise that in sickness and in health, You are with me. In times of plenty and times of scarcity, You are with me. You have not abandoned me.
Make my heart stout and steadfast. Don’t let me faint. Help me wait patiently and expectantly for You in the midst of this mess.
There’s unique beauty in crafting an argument so it crescendos to an irrefutable conclusion.
For the the master orator, nothing is more satisfying than watching her audience lean in and anticipate the glorious finale.
Paul has been leading us to these verses since he began laying the foundation in chapter one of Romans.
So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.
Romans 8: 31-35 VOICE
In today’s vernacular (Melanie’s paraphrase):
“So here’s the deal, guys. What else is there to say? If God has provided for our salvation through His own Son-bought and paid for us-who else can make a claim? And if He was willing to pay that high a price for us, what is He going to withhold from us? No one can overrule God. No one can deny the evidence that the sin debt has been paid. The only thing that could separate us from God’s love is sin and that’s been handled. So, yeah, life can be really hard. We might even have to face death before we come into our full inheritance. But we don’t have to worry. It’s handled. It’s settled. It’s done.”
Paul’s closing argument is simple.
Remember, this is no contest of equals. There is no yin/yang dual universe where darkness has power enough to overcome the light. God has the devil on a chain. Sin mars creation and wreaks havoc but even all that awful is being woven together into a tapestry of beauty and usefulness that one day will display the glory of God and His love for us.
God is for us. REALLY for us.
So who can be against us? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)
What does it mean to you that “God is on your side”?
Are you ever afraid? Why or why not?
What do you do with that fear?
Consider writing these (and any other verses we’ve looked at) in your own words. When we make them personal, they are easier to remember.
Do you agree that Paul has made an iron-clad case for the supreme authority of God? Why or why not?
What makes it hard for you to believe that nothing separates us from the love of God? Can you bring that to the Throne of Grace and lay it down?
Too often I think the world is like a giant tug-of-war and I can only hope and pray You win. It’s hard to remember that You are still in control when so many things seem out of control.
Help my heart rest on the rock of Your sovereignty and goodness. Open my spiritual eyes to see how You are working all these things-the good, the bad and the heartbreaking-into Your plan of redemption and restoration. Give me strength to believe when my own is fading. Make Your Word my guide. Thwart the schemes of the enemy to tear down my faith and breach my wall of hope.
I hope it rains. I hope I get the job. I hope it’s a boy!
Most of the time we could exchange “wish” for “hope” because we have no power to make the things we hope for come true.
So when we read “hope” in this passage, it doesn’t necessarily evoke the sure promise Peter is trying to convey in his letter to suffering Christians of the first century.
It would be cold comfort to families as they were forced at sword point to walk off cliffs or thrust into the arena with lions if Peter’s hope was just a wish.
But it’s not.
Peter opens his letter with a bold declaration based on his eye-witness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And His living Presence means that THIS hope is a promise.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 NIV
These are some of my favorite verses in the epistles.
Peter packs so much in so few words: I have an inheritance, I have a future and I have joy.
My inheritance in Christ is safe, secure and eternal.
There is no law of diminishing returns in Heaven. Unlike that dress I bought that seemed so wonderful a week ago, I won’t ever get tired of reciting and reviewing all Jesus purchased for me with His blood.
Do you ever fear you might lose your faith?
Peter reminds us we are shielded by God in Christ until the full glory of our salvation is revealed at the Last Day. Jesus Himself said that those the Father gives Him cannot be snatched from His hand.
Doubt is not denial.
If you have put your trust in the finished work of Jesus then you are saved.
Trials will come. But they are not the last word.
When we lean on Christ and trust Him to walk with us through them, take the heat and refuse to melt, then we are refined and His glory is purer, clearer and more easily seen in our lives.
And in the midst of trials I have joy because my hope in the living hope of our resurrected Savior sustains me.
Consider Paul’s words: ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). In the ugliness of intensified grief, the Christian is supernaturally enabled to rejoice.
The hallelujahs of joy reverberate on broken heartstrings. My sorrow touches every part of my life, yet I sorrow not as those who have no hope.
My rejoicing is not that of happy feelings; it is triumph in trial and confidence in a supreme God. The true joy of the Lord is divine enablement, not effervescent emotions
James Means, A Tearful Celebration
Sometimes it seems like it’s hardly worth it. Our circle is small and our testimony just a whisper. But we won’t know the full story of how our struggle glorifies Him until all things are revealed.
Our hope is a Living Hope.
It’s no pie-in-the-sky fairy tale.
Your story matters.
It’s being written to be shared as a testimony to God’s goodness, His faithful love and His enabling grace.
You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever thought about the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the promise that we will also be raised? How do Peter’s words about our “living hope” impact your faith?
Peter denied Christ and most certainly didn’t ever expect to have a second chance to make that right. Do you feel like you’ve done or said or thought something that puts you outside the love and grace of God?
In the midst of a trial are you aware that it’s a refining experience? Do you care?
Does the promise that our steadfast endurance will be revealed in the last day as a testimony to God’s glory and grace encourage you? Why or why not?
What practical steps do you take to hold onto hope?
Lord, sometimes I feel hopeless. I forget that the resurrection proves You have conquered death and the grave. I forget I have a Living Hope and that hope is the person of Jesus Christ.
Trials come and the heat is so intense. I want to shrink away, to hide, to find some safe corner where pain and sorrow won’t find me. But that’s not the world we live in. Whether I’m persecuted for my faith or just the target of someone else’s sinful actions or words, it hurts!
Give me the strength to endure regardless of how intense the struggle.
I want to finish strong. I want to be a testimony for Your glory and to Your grace. Thank You for providing every needful thing.
Speak courage to my spirit, breathe life into my faith.
Thank You that I can rest assured that the hope I place in You is not just a fanciful wish but a sure thing.
Like most of us I am enjoying the change from cold and wet to warm and sunny.
Spring breezes and spring sunshine usher in fresh beauty and speak hope to a heart. It reminds me that the earth will not always be locked in darkness nor be a frozen wasteland.
But spring isn’t all sunshine and flowers for me.
It’s death and dying and tears and heart wrenching reminders that no matter how hard we try to hold onto life in THIS life, we can’t.
Right now I’m holding my dying cat. He’s been a faithful companion for thirteen years.
I’ve had many, many wonderful animals in my life but none have come close to being the constant shadow and empathetic friend that Roosevelt is. His warm body snuggled into my arms like an infant every morning has been a touchstone that kept me from floating away in grief’s inviting fog.
I will miss him.
Death is awful.
I do not equate Roosevelt’s death with Dominic’s. There isn’t a scale conceivable that would measure the distance between the two.
But one of the things I’m learning in this Valley is that every death taps the same wound. Every death hurts my heart.Every deathreminds me that this life is not as it ought to be, not as God intended it to be when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden.
And every death reminds me that Christ came, Christ suffered,Christ conquered precisely BECAUSE death. is. awful.
Resurrection is coming.
But it is not yet.
So I wait.
Clinging to the promises.
**My faithful companion died in my arms- peacefully and without pain. ***
We live in a culture where we see death often but experience it rarely.
Movies, video games, cartoons, news stories all flash images of death across the screen so frequently that most of us either ignore them or they register only as numbers, not as human beings.
Of course many of the images are manufactured-the actors don’t REALLY die, the characters in video games are not real-but how often do we wait for a news report to tell us how many AMERICANS died in a plane crash or terror attack?
As if only those affiliated in some way with our own heritage “count”.
But when death comes knocking at your own door, walks in and settles down, that changes everything.
I can no longer sit and consume death like a meal, meant to feed my appetite for entertainment.
And every single time I hear a report listing casualties I think of the families ripped apart by the absence of a life they loved.
Death is the enemy.
When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he said, “You shall not surely die.”
He was wrong.
A single sin ushered in all kinds of sorrow and woe and the ultimate sadness was death. It meant separation from breath and life, separation from those we love and, without the atoning blood of Christ, separation from God in eternity.
My ninety-nine-year-old aunt died this week. She lived a long, useful and fairly healthy life (until the last couple of years).
You’d think that in light of my own son dying at only twenty-three I’d be more OK with her leaving this life and moving to Heaven.
But I’m not.
Somehow her death-more than all the other souls I’ve known and loved that have left us since Dom ran ahead-has knocked me to my knees.
Maybe it was how hard and how long she fought against our common enemy.
Maybe it was just the time of year.
I don’t know.
But she reminded me again that death is always sad.
And that Jesus is the only One Who can save us from death’s power.
It was a habit started years ago after my mother had a bad spell and ended up in the hospital. I like to start my day knowing how she and my dad are doing.
The other day Papa and I were talking about the movie, “Unbroken” we saw a couple years ago.
There’s a scene where the main character was forced to hold a heavy beam over his head in a Japanese POW camp for hours. If he let it fall, he would be shot and his torture over. Malnourished, mistreated and disheartened, he somehow found the strength to do it.
His courageous example lent courage to the others in that camp. His victory was in not giving up or giving in, though he bore the scars for the rest of his life.
These past months have been difficult ones for both of my parents. Mama’s fall, heart attack and multiple hospital stays have left her very different than she was last summer. Someone needs to be with her all the time.
That means my dad-who has no physical limitations-is as housebound as she.
Papa is absolutely committed to caring for Mama and he’s doing a great job.
But it’s hard on a heart to be confined when you are surrounded by so many chores that need doing and so much wide open space that begs you to get out in the sunshine.
He is enduring.
And I am thankful for his example.
So few of us will have an opportunity to do really grand things that make headlines. But most of us will have a chance to be faithful in hundreds of small things that make up meaningful lives.
Quiet, everyday commitment to not giving up when life is hard and rest seems so very far away is victory even when it doesn’t feel like it.