Monday, March 2, 2009

God is HOPE

Five years ago, I was walking (on my knees) through one of the most painful times in my life. God took me through the death of some relationships that had been important to me and through the death of my own self, plans, and ideas so that He could bring me to true, abundant life in Him. It was such a bitter pain that carried on for months leading unto years, and I truly began to despair. I began to lose hope. I wanted to give up on ever having abundant life again, and I was tempted to also give up on God. Why had He brought me to that terrible place? I could not understand it at all at the time. I could hardly see past the pain I was feeling. Why had He previously been so intimate with me, shown me and spoken so much, and worked in amazing, miraculous ways to only lead me straight to the longest and driest wildering desert experience I have ever known?

As I write this now, it reminded me of the psalmist saying, “…my tears have been my food day and night…” and thought how my life had been just like that during those times. I just went to look up those words in the psalms and found Psalm 42. As I read Psalm 42, I recall that Psalm 42 was also part of my food day in and day out. This Psalm summarizes my life perfectly during that period of time, and I cried it out to God countless times:

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

My soul panted day after day as I kept replaying the events of what had brought me to all this pain. It was beyond my human capability to find any comprehension in how insane things had suddenly become and how people who had been some of my closest friends and church family now only seemed to despise me, wanted nothing to do with me, and believed the worst about me. It was beyond my human capability to understand why their hearts had been made so hard against me and why they chose to believe things about me that were far from the real truth. There were days I would even start to believe all the awful things that had been said of me and thought of me by others. After all, why else would God have allowed this to happen?

He had to tear Mary Ann down, that is why. He had to tear me down that He may raise me back up. I had to die that I may live again. There was too much of Mary Ann’s self and the world’s influence upon her. Too much of her thinking and ideas were tied in to the ways of the world, even the religious world. There was a new work to be done; a new creation to bring forth. He had not given up doing the work in me and through me that He had told me He was going to do. But I had to traverse the storming seas and walk through the valley of the shadow of death to arrive at the other side; the other side He had assured me that He was taking me to.

When I was at one of highest points of despair and feeling like the season of pain and abandonment surely would never end, and while God continued to be silent—present, but silent—I was led to write something about the truth that God is THE Hope in our lives. There is no other name by which Hope can be called or described. I wrote the following in my journals of April and July 2004:

Are you feeling on the edge? Tempted to jump over to escape your sorrows and sufferings, your troubles, your fears, or doubts?

What keeps me from going over the edge? God alone!

If I surrender myself to going over the edge into utter despair, utter loss of hope, utter loss of faith, and turn my back on God, who is my one and only true Hope and Friend, I would simply have leapt over the edge into an abyss of hell.

When I make the decision to leap over an edge in my life, for whatever reasons, I am determined it will not be to jump into the pit of this hell and utter despair. I am determined to leap just at the perfect time to catch flight on the wings of the Eagle. I will leap into the air just as the Eagle of God flies beneath me and catches me that we may soar together to the heights of the heavens. This I know can be true because God says, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

What hope is there if God is not your HOPE? There is none!! If God is not our Hope then only despair and torment are waiting to catch us and hold us in bondage.

“To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob (Mary Ann), and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired, his understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:25-31)

For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). (Isaiah 51:15)

The same God who brings the hurricanes in your life is the only one who can bring out the rainbows and the sun afterwards! After the hurricane has come and gone, He’s the only one who can put together what the storm has scattered; the only one who can truly make the wrongs all right again. He is the only one who can mend what is broken, heal what is hurting, and bring joy to sorrow’s door.

He is the only ONE! There is no other. To whom will you compare Him? If you were to try, He would not be the God who He really is. Our finite human minds cannot contain the fullness, the greatness, or the power of God. He is the only ONE! There is no other. Jump! I dare us to jump, right into the arms of God, our complete Hope for today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

July 2004

God showed me the lesson with the last two paragraphs above…He brought the hail storm on Friday night and it wrecked havoc on the beautifully growing vegetable garden. I had no control, I could do nothing…yet, as He is the one who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar and causes the hail to fall, He is also the one that can put things back together after the storms. He is the one who makes the garden grow; I leave it unto Him alone.

I was prompted to write about this today for two reasons. I was recently listening to a song by Natalie Grant called “Our Hope Endures”, and the song reminded me of the time in my life when I came to first-hand experiential knowledge of God being Hope itself. And last night, as a dear friend and I were sharing our hearts regarding the choices and actions of our children and how we long for better things for them, God kept reminding me that I must continue to put my hope in Him regarding my children’s futures. Just as He has done a miraculous work with me, so He will do with them.

You would think only so much can go wrong
Calamity only strikes once
And you assume this one has suffered her share
Life will be kinder from here
Oh, but sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

How do we comprehend peace within pain?
Or joy at a good man's wake?
Walk a mile with the woman whose body is racked
With illness, oh how can she laugh?
Oh, 'cause sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

Emmanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient
We never walk alone
And this is our hope

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

HE endures when we feel that we will not. He holds us up when we cannot hold on. And we never walk alone. This past weekend, as our home church was partaking of the Lord’s Supper and sharing memories of Christ, I shared that in the last few weeks I have been shown how Christ has been with me all the time. Through every day of my life, every season, every mistake, every joy, and every doubt, He has ever been with me. He will meet with us wherever we are. He is ever with us.

Trust in Hope, He never fails…

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