Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How strong is your hope?

Do you have hope that bounces back when it gets dropped? To really answer that question, I think we need to understand a little bit about hope in general. Hope isn’t some ethereal insubstantial concept that’s just floating around in the void; hope is a real, solid thing. Granted, you can’t touch it, and you can’t see it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Hope is something we experience when someone we trust makes us a promise. When someone promises us something we don’t yet have, we trust that they will keep their word, and we have hope that one day that promise will come true.

I’m working on a trilogy of books at the moment. The first one is pretty much about hope. The second one is about promises. The third one is about trust. And in my studying and researching and praying about this series, I learned something about all three. They’re all connected.

 

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hope is only as strong (and as resilient) as the character of the person who makes the promise. If someone you don’t trust at all makes you a promise, you won’t have any hope that it will happen. Even if that person is sincere in their desire to do something good for you, even if that person means well, if they are untrustworthy, you have no reason to hope that they will do what they say.

But what about someone you trust? What about someone who has proven themselves over and over again? If they make you a promise, would you hope that they would keep it? Well, I would. But the real test comes when it doesn’t look like they’re keeping their word. Right?

Life gets in the way. People let us down, and it’s easy to believe that God will too. But God isn’t like people. God is God. And because of Scripture and because of God’s work in our lives, we know we can trust Him. It’s just that He doesn’t work the way we usually expect Him to.

Honestly, the question isn’t really about how strong your hope is; the question is really about how much you trust God. Hope is an extension of trust; hope is a response to trust. So if you trust God, you will hope in Him, and when it looks like (and feels like) He is going back on His word, your level of trust in Him will determine how long your hope will endure.

So if you feel hopeless this morning, especially this week before Christmas when it seems everyone is depressed about something, stop asking why your hope is gone and start looking at who you’re trusting. Are you trusting the current economy to solve your problems? Are you trusting your finances to answer your questions? Do you trust the talking heads on television to explain why your life isn’t working? Are you trusting your friends to identify you and provide you with self-worth? I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with any of those, but if you put your trust in any of those things, that’s where your hope is centered.

The economy isn’t stable. Neither are your finances. They’ll be good one moment and gone the next. And people are fluid and foolish, especially the ones on television. Even your friends will let you down, including the ones you trust because no one is perfect. Where will your hope be then?

That’s where God comes in because He never lets His people down. He never abandons His people. He never forgets His people. And though we may feel like He’s not around or like He’s not working, most of the time that’s because we’re not really looking for Him. Or if we are looking for Him, our attitudes need an adjustment, like a near-sighted person wearing glasses for farsightedness.

Think about it. How strong is your hope? If it’s not strong at all, you might want to consider re-evaluating who you trust.

 

Wheat and sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Never forget

God always keeps His promises. Always. But we forget because we get so tied up in all the stress and trouble of life. And when we run up on an issue or a circumstance that is too much for us, it’s very easy to think that God is throwing trouble at us that we can’t handle. And some days it feels like He’s doing it just because He can. And I know that God doesn’t do that, but when I make a habit of forgetting the promises He’s kept, it’s pretty easy to start thinking that God isn’t who He says He is.

Wheat and sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat and sky – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 66:5.

Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles he performs for people!

We need to make a habit of reminding ourselves of how God has kept His promises in our lives. Whether we write it down on paper or online or if we share it with people around us, we need to constantly keep God’s promises in the front of our minds. And when He keeps His promises to us, we need to mark it down and remember.

I have a friend in the hospital right now. She unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest on Sunday and wasn’t doing well at all. She is 25 years old, and I’ve known her since she was in seventh grade. So I’ve spent the vast majority of this week praying for her and asking God to heal her. And you know what? He has. Last I heard yesterday, she is still having trouble speaking but her humor and her attitude are intact, which are signs of higher brain function. There’s a good chance she’s going to pull through. And that is an answer to prayer. That is a direct response from God after I (and many many others) asked Him to touch her and heal her.

But this isn’t the first friend who’s been in the hospital who God has healed because we asked Him to.

Dozens of times–maybe more than that–God has shown Himself to be the Great Healer at our request. But the passage of time makes it easy for those memories to dim. And if we don’t actively try to remember those things, they’ll slip away. And the next time trouble comes on us, we’ll wonder where God went. And He never left us. We have just forgotten what He looks like.

I never want to forget.

I have seen miracles.

Not water turning into wine, no. But I’ve seen a small bit of food feed more people than it should have (and I’ve seen that more than once). I’ve never seen someone come back from the dead. But I’ve seen peoples’ hearts change almost overnight because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in them. I haven’t ever spoken in tongues, but I’ve witnessed how God can help people who don’t speak the same language communicate. I have seen things that cannot be explained, and I have seen them happen too many times for it to be coincidental.

I’ve seen a lot. The trick is remembering. Because if I can remember all the things I’ve seen God do, if I can remember all the experiences I’ve had that can only have come through Him, there is nothing that can scare me. There is nothing in my life that can stop me.

And the next time I run into trouble at work, projects that seem too much for me or responsibilities that are crushing me, I need to remember the instances where God got me out of scrapes in the interior of Mexico. Because if God is big enough to help me out of a jam across the border, my little troubles in my dusty little cubicle are nothing.

God has proven Himself to me in so many ways. But once all is well again and life has gone back to some semblance of normal, it’s easy to forget. And I don’t want to do that. I want to remember all the good things God has done for me so that when trouble comes again (and it will), all I will have to do is share the memory of how God got me through before. And that will not only help me, it will also help others around me.

God always keeps His promises. It may not be in the way we expect, but He always does.