Tag Archives: hope

Little by Little

15 Nov

Are you yearning for the future, eager for a dream to become reality? Perhaps you’re single and longing for a soul mate. Do you have a great idea for a new business, but can’t seem to scrape together enough money or investors to make it happen? Would you like to change careers but can’t afford the schooling required? What aspiration have you discarded as hopeless?

When my ex-husband left, I taught at a Christian school that paid poverty level salaries. I changed to public school to feed my kids, but the great desire of my heart was to become a psychotherapist. I wanted to help others as my counselor helped me. However, there was no master’s level course in counseling at the local university. I couldn’t imagine moving my hurt and confused children away from family and friends, so I gave up my dream. Disappointment piled on top of an already full load of grief and rejection.

Eleven years later, I took my first class toward getting my degree and becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor. It was easy to spot fellow students who needed to work on their own stuff before they considered tackling other people’s problems. I saw myself in them as I had been eleven years earlier, with many issues to work through and much growing to do. I simply hadn’t been ready when God first planted that dream in my heart. God’s route for me was much like God’s message to Israel concerning the Promised Land.

“I will not drive [your enemies] out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land” (Exodus 23:29–30 ESV).

God know our capabilities, our baggage, and future obstacles. His timing is flawless and we can trust Him with our dreams and disappointments. Little by little, He prepares us to possess His best, but most of us aren’t crazy about “little by little.” We think we can handle our big dream now. That’s why I want to explore the context of an especially popular and encouraging verse—Jeremiah 29:11.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (NRSV).

I base my life on God’s goodness and the hope He offers in Jesus Christ. I’m absolutely sure God’s plans for our lives are best and we should cooperate and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish the good works He has for us (Ephesians 2:10). However, just like Israel, our choices affect our future.

Israel’s tribe of Judah wound up in Babylonian captivity because they chose to serve other gods and disobey the LORD . False prophets announced God would send Judah’s captives home within two years. Yet God’s unpopular prophet Jeremiah tells exiles to make a good life in their current situation (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Then he continues with God’s promise for their future.

“For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:10–14 NRSV).

Perhaps you’ll realize your dream tomorrow, perhaps not. Perhaps first God will grow you, strengthen you, and prepare you. In the meantime, call upon Him. Seek Him with all your heart, not just for what He can do for you, but for who He is. Christ Himself is our hope and our future.

If you have a story of postponed dreams, please share. We’d love to hear from you.

How Many Chances?

25 Oct

Do you ever get tired of yourself? A friend recently said, “I get so tired of me.” This person had misplaced something—yet again. Sometimes our bodies disappoint us by not performing as they once did. Maybe we’re sick of an endless cycle of busyness that prevents us from intimacy with God. We may feel defeated by a disagreeable habit. Perhaps we exercised or ate healthy for a time but gradually fell back into our old identity as a snacking-couch-potato. We intend to spend more quality time with family and friends, but good intentions dissolve into procrastination.

At such times, we’re tempted to give up and convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. Jumping off the merry-go-round seems to take more effort or self-discipline than we possess. That’s where I was not long ago.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23 NRSV). Every day is a new day with God—for us and for others.

Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21–22 GW). That’s the standard for second chances for others as well as for us.

Rabbis traditionally taught an offended person should forgive three times. Peter, no doubt thought he was generous in proposing seven chances. Not even close. Jesus declares 490+ do-overs. We’re to offer the same limitless forgiveness God offers us. The situation isn’t hopeless even when we offend God by not loving and serving His people, not taking care of His temple (our bodies), or wasting the time He gives. It’s never too late too late for a fresh start.

Receiving another chance doesn’t mean we won’t experiences consequences of past behavior. We lose things, forfeit precious time with God, put on weight, and damage relationships. We may need to ask for help or seek an accountability partner, but a new start is possible.

The solution remains the same—renew our minds and be transformed. Believe the truth. Without realizing it, when we feel hopeless, we believe a lie about who God is and how much He loves us (John 3:16). We also believe a lie about ourselves. We forget Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV). I can’t claim this verse and begin performing brain surgery. However, I can accomplish all God uniquely planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).

I find both peace and excitement living in the center of God’s will. I experience anxiety, stress, and frustration doing life on my own. I need the Spirit of Christ to forgive and empower me. I’m so grateful for second chances.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5 NLT).

Our Hope and Helper

5 May

I’d never heard of dementia with Lewy bodies until my brother, Jim, received that diagnosis about 2006. Victims suffer hallucinations and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Jim died 2010. Later we were saddened when our son-in-law’s mother received the same diagnosis; she already had many other health concerns. Almost two weeks ago, our extended family celebrated her life and grieved the loss of our beloved Linda. Our prayers and tears mingled with people in Boston; West, Texas; and around the world as explosions, disease, war, and famine claimed lives. Sometimes such sadness and discouragement can be overwhelming.

That’s the way Christ’s disciples felt when He spoke of going to the Father. Jesus offered them hope as He promised His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help them (and us) live by faith.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:16–19 NASB).

The Greek word for Holy Spirit is parakletos, which may be translated Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, or Counselor. Parakletos literally means one called alongside to help. God’s love that sent Jesus to the cross and the power that raised Him from the dead is available to all believers. Christ’s death meant agonizing change, lost hope, and broken dreams—feelings most of us have experienced. Because Christ’s Spirit abides with us and in us, we don’t have to be discouraged. We can handle whatever life throws at us with strength, courage, and even joy.

We celebrated Linda’s life with laughter and song as well as tears. The pastor said, “She taught us how to live and how to die. Her husband, Lanny, taught us how to love.” The service was beautiful—bittersweet and sad, yet beautiful. What a legacy and example for their children and grandchildren.

The world also recognized multiple heroic examples that week as first responders’ courage and selflessness amazed us. Our country once again united in support of other suffering Americans. Perhaps you (like my husband and I) renewed your gratitude for life and love, conceding we’re not promised length of days. There is great good on earth, which we can appreciate and celebrate. We also need to do our part in alleviating pain and suffering through prayer, hard work, time, and money.

However, we are all just passing through this world. The Bible promises the best is yet to come. Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3 NASB).

And from the Revelation of John we have this promise.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4 NASB).

One day we will join Linda, Jim, our parents, and thousands more—all healed, whole, and singing, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” What a glorious reunion that will be.