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.


Little purple flower - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Focus on the solution instead of the problem

Consistency is one of my biggest problems. I don’t have problems with consistency from a big-picture standpoint. Give me a vague problem to fix, and I can fix it. But when it comes to details, any consistency I have flies out the window.

We need 25 stories written for the upcoming magazine issue at my company? No sweat. Give me five days, and I can get it done. You need them proofread and copy edited to be flawless? That’s where I may have trouble. Details are difficult for me because I can get bogged down in them very easily.

Details overwhelm me. If there are five major problems staring me in the face, I might get a little stressed but it’s nothing I can’t handle. But if you throw 30 little things at me simultaneously, I will shut down.

And I think that’s what happens to me in life. As long as I can focus on the big problems, I’m okay, but the moment I start focusing on the little problems I get overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how inadequate I am to the task.

Little purple flower - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Little purple flower – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 42:11.

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

The world is full of details. Tiny little details that if you miss just one, you can make a terrible mess. That’s just the way life is. But if you start focusing on those details, you’re liable to end up living with a very narrow-minded view of the world.

When I start focusing on all the tiny little problems I’m facing, that’s when I get discouraged. When I start focusing on the minor, petty issues that can absorb all my time and energy, that’s when I have trouble waking up in the mornings.

Maybe that’s not you. Maybe you are a detail-oriented person. Maybe it’s the details that you live for. And if that’s so, that’s great. But I bet the big picture intimidates you.

No matter whether we prefer to focus on larger problems or smaller problems, the issue remains that we all have problems. And we all usually have more than one problem we have to deal with in a day’s time. So how do we get past the point where our problems are all we can think about?

Well, it may be difficult, but instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solution. No matter what problem you’re facing, there is a solution to it. And you can either choose to focus on how much you have left to do or you can choose to focus on how you are going to fix it.

Similarly in life, you can choose to focus on your inadequacies or all the things you’ve done wrong or all the details you’ve missed or all the mistakes you’ve made. Or you can choose to focus on the fact that God never makes mistakes and that He’s big enough to turn your screw ups into something that will glorify Him and bless you.

No, I don’t know how He’s going to do it. That’s for Him to know and for us to find out, but one thing I’ve learned is that God is both a detail person and a big-picture person. And He loves both perspectives because He’s the only Person I know who can work everything out to the best benefit of everyone involved.

So if all the details in life have you feeling down this morning, don’t focus on them. Or if the major problems in your life have you discouraged, don’t focus on them. Instead, put your hope in God. Lean on God and let Him take care of it. Do what you need to do to get through today, and God will provide an answer for you tomorrow.

That’s kind of the way He works anyway.