I need hope in God. Do you? One look around and dismay fills my heart. Darkness abounds and it threatens to swallow me.
How does one stay hopeful and light-filled in a world of darkness? By finding refuge in the living God.
Last fall I wrote a series on Refuge Living. Today I revisit those articles because I’m discovering that hope is a lot easier if I make God my refuge. So, as we conclude The Hope Series, we remember God as our refuge.
I wrote this one because I deal with the difficulty of expectations versus reality. You know those times when you’re absolutely positive of one outcome and another one blindsides you? Yeah, those times when you feel like you hopped on a roller coaster and then realized the effects that spinning and twirling has on your stomach? Expectations, disappointment, and hope are entwined and if we can learn how to handle them, our hope grows.
Words matter. What you say to yourself impacts your beliefs about yourself, God, and others. In one short session of “stinking thinking,” we can dig up the seeds God plants in our heart or cut down the life he’s trying to grow in us. If our thoughts are hopeless, then how can we grow in hope? This article in The Refuge Series makes a way for us to re-write the words we say towards ourselves so that we don’t undo the work God is doing in our life. So that we might know hope in God.
When hope seems far off, and I’m broken, busted and bleeding, I remember the great eight. And I consider my circumstances to the great eight and know that as I make God my refuge, I will be blessed. I will find hope. There are circumstances that we can’t get away from, but we must live through. Prodigal children, wayward spouses, sickness, death, and abandonment. These are just a few of the things we live through in order to get through. But we can have hope in God even in the most dismal of circumstances. Consider the great eight.
Hope grows when we share it. I need to hear your stories. You need mine. Can I tell you one? I’ve struggled with rejection and fear of man for years. It’s my achilles heal, my thorn in the flesh, and my burden. But God is with me and as he peels back the layers, he reveals something more. Maybe it’s my own bitterness, my misplaced priorities, or pride that plays into this rejection issue, or maybe it’s resting in who he says he is and who he says I am. It’s all this and more, but the best part of it is this: God is giving me an opportunity to put these lessons about rejection into practice. I’m watching him rise up within me, and I’m seeing the healing hope he’s wrought, flourish like newborn seedlings. We need each other’s stories.
Hope in God. It’s part refuge living and part trust. It’s surrender to God within you.
The Hope Series: Trust and hope grow side by side. As trust grows so does hope. As we declare hope, trust grows. Both find their root in God’s love. How well do you receive God’s love? Do you receive it with arms wide open or do you feel you have to bring something to him first?
When we turn to our own efforts to earn God’s love, we cheapen grace. And when we live from a place of cheap grace, we have flimsy hope. This is what it means to look at God’s love through the lens of our own brokenness. But what if we exchanged our broken lens for God’s lens?
When I view God’s love through my brokenness, I see warped love. But when I view God’s love through His lens: I see a perfect love that casts out fear. I see a love that watched His son bleed a violent death so that I might know Him intimately as Father, Hope, Light and Life. I see a love that gave all so that I might know a hope and peace that defies all human explanation.
When I base my understanding on God’s love by what He does or does not do for me, I am doomed to struggle. But when I base my understanding on God’s love on His character and His word, I am unshakable.
Unshakable. Who wouldn’t love that? Who can really, truly understand that? Nothing in our finite world is unshakable. Buildings collapse. People disappoint. Jobs fail. Governments corrode.
But God is faithful. He is unmovable, unwavering, resolute, constant, and devoted.
When we get hit with bad news and our world is shaken. We equate God’s hope with peaceful, pleasant lives. But Psalm 23 says that God will prepare a table in the presence of our enemies. We’re invited to taste and see that the Lord is good even when the enemy of our soul surrounds us.
Can you sit peacefully and hopefully in God’s presence in the midst of devastating circumstances? Is your focus laser beamed on God’s good heart for you? Can you withhold from judging God based on how good or bad your life is?
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
Hold fast to hope. Confess hope to yourself. Turn down the voice in your head that tells you it’s hopeless. Focus on God’s faithfulness and center your hope there.
Stir one another to love. Love spreads. It’s the best kind of contagion. It’s the kind that spreads hope and gets passed around to one another.
Reach out to one another. That phone call you’ve been feeling nudged to make? Call that friend or co-worker and tell them you appreciate their kindness or dedication. Spread encouragement and watch hope blossom.
Hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ and bestowed on us when we believe in our hearts and confess with out mouth that Jesus is Lord. Hope becomes our heritage and inheritance and it never disappoints. Stand in the hope Jesus provides. Don’t fight for hope, fight from a position of hope.
“Where there is life, there is hope,” is an old Roman adage. But it’s not a certainty. It’s not a guarantee that just because you’re alive, you have hope. Hope is so much more than being alive–it’s nebulous and concrete–it can’t always be explained, but must be experienced.
Hope makes a way for us to touch life with tenderness, taste life with delight, view life with optimism, and hear the song of life. It’s in our most devastating moments that we can experience the highest hope. But how?
How do we transition from devastation to hope and furthermore to a lifestyle of hope? Is it possible to make hope our first reaction instead of our second or third or last?
The words Peter writes in 1 Peter, resound with the sound of hope in my ears. It’s a guidebook for living hopeful in this devastating world. Peter walks us through the definition, the defining nature, and the determination of hope.
Peter defines our living hope as the resurrection of Jesus and the future glory of his return. He shows us to live defined by hope by getting rid of the things that hinder it, and how to be determined in hope.
As believers we live future minded. Our present choices and actions are governed by the expectation of seeing Jesus face to face. There are three things that we can do in the here and now that will grow our hope.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
A disciplined mind.
Have you seen those toy sticky hands? My kids will occasionally get these plastic, gelatinous hands with a stretchy string attached and they slap it on the windows, the doors, and the sofas, and as it gets used it picks up dirt, debris, cat hair, and crumbs. And pretty soon it’s filthy. Sometimes walking through life can be like that hand. We’re reaching and touching lives and getting a little dirty. Things start sticking to us and pretty soon we’ve lost our hope. If you can center your thoughts on the return of Christ and live accordingly, then you will be effective in the world, spreading hope wherever you go. Outlook affects outcome and attitude determines action.
A sober mind.
Sober doesn’t mean serious. It means a calm, steady, and controlled mind by weighing the things you watch and listen to by God’s word and being secure in it. It stays aware that satan is on the prowl and staying alert to his tricks. Our cat is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We call him Sunny, but he is anything but sunny. He purrs and then bites. He prowls and then attacks. And when we forget his tendencies, we become prey to his tricks. He jumps at us and our hearts race and we remember his nature. Satan is like that. He prowls around attempting to distract us with despair, disappointment, and discouragement. But you have no reason to fear: Christ is coming! And for that reason alone, your mind can stay calm and secure.
An optimistic mind.
Positivity comes easy for some people. It’s like they ooze glitter and sparkles. It’s easy to look at that type of person and wonder if they understand that pain exists. As a positive person myself, let me assure you: I’m aware of pain. Pain has stolen my breath and turned my world dark. But I’m also aware that God is in all and over all and that he has my back. His heart is good and trustworthy. When the outlook is gloomy, have an up-look.
I took a hike along the Northshore of Lake Superior this fall. The beginning of the hike deceptively hid the strenuous middle. At one point I faced 275 stairs. In a row. I have a funny knee that doesn’t laugh at stairs. I knew the view at trail’s end would provide me with a beautiful reward, but I needed to stop in the middle to catch up and to look up. To pause and take in the beauty of the forest, the curling birch bark, and the way the clouds skidded along the mountain. Life is like that trail. It’s starts out innocent enough and then morphs into difficult challenges and the only way through is through. Look beyond your circumstances and see God. He’s there.
A disciplined, sober, and optimistic mind creates a spiritual mind-set that allows us to experience the grace and hope of God in the day to day grind of life. We have the assurance of seeing Jesus face to face at his second coming, but we have the ability to see evidence of him in our todays as we fix our minds on him.
Our hope lies in the living God. He is living. He’s not dead or far off, but near and close. He draws us to himself and as we respond he draws us closer to him. You find joy in bringing him praise. You bring him praise when you choose hope over despair.
Life can be despairing and difficult. Circumstances surprise us. Situations shake and seem to overtake us.
Can you stand unafraid when your earth gives way? Can you trust God to open the doors that are meant to open? Can you trust him so that you stand unmoved? When hopelessness persecutes, can you stand on the solid rock and say, “I stand with God and I will not be moved.”
One secret in times of hopelessness is the truth that we win. Whether in life or death, when our lives are secure in Christ’s salvation, we win. It’s not about praying for victory, but it’s about praising God for the victory.
That doesn’t mean that your circumstances are going to magically change because you’re standing in the victory of Jesus. It means that your spirit is secure in him, no matter what it is you’re suffering.
Can you give all for love’s true name? When faced with desperation, we automatically lean toward running from the difficulty. But as new creatures in Christ, our minds are in the process of renewal. Our default of hiding during difficult times transforms into standing firm on the Solid Rock, with our eyes fixed securely on the One who leads us on and through and upward and forwards.
Come What May
Always guiding us, always with us, always loving us. Always providing rest when we need it. Giving us the tools we need to stand firm in the face of the storm. Faith to believe that he doesn’t leave us floundering, but gives us the wherewithal to stand. Stand in him. Stand with him. Suffer for him. Suffer because of him.
Our joy and hope is found in him. He is our everything. Come what may. Will you obey? Will you find your joy in bringing him praise?
You do this when you fix your confident hope on the living God. Turn to, rely on, and trust in God. Say yes to him more than you say no. Stop fighting your difficulties and ask God to redeem your pain into beauty.
He may not calm your external storm, but when you fix your hope on God, he does calm the storm that rages within you.
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.For to this end we toil and strive,because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:8-10 (ESV)
Hopelessness is barren and covered in destruction. It appears as though nothing can grow. Hopelessness strips us of growth, it destroys life, and it leaves barrenness in its wake. It appears as if all is lost.
Call me an incurable optimist, but even when all seems lost and hope has vanished, I look for the positive. Sometimes I have to dig in the muck and mire. At times, I search and search, but eventually I find treasure. And you can too.
Our hopelessness doesn’t have to define us. God can use the circumstances in our life to refine us if we allow him to draw us near, open our eyes, and hear what he has to say.
Turn to God instead of away from God.
When trials come, do you have a tendency to blame God, run away from God, or turn to God? Sometimes I go through the process of all three. The mentality: “I’m a child of God, no troubles should befall me,” gets stuck in our head and when trials come, we stomp our feet and cry, “Why?” Or we run away from God and wait out the trial behind busyness or religious duties. The best response is to turn to God. Ask him your questions, seek him for answers, and choose to trust him.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)
Our perspective for the purpose of trials needs refining. Trust God. He doesn’t waste a hurt, ever. At times that is hard to believe because the devastation we feel is so overwhelming. How can we trust God if he allows so much hurt? is a question that can roll through our minds. When that question plagues me, I remember the cross. I remember what Jesus experienced and know that redemption came through pain.
When we stand strong in the face of our pain, God redeems it and allows our faith to be strengthened by it. We exchange our hopelessness for hope when we set our hope on him, and not on ourselves or whatever vices we turn to when we feel devastated by life.
Rely on God. Self-sufficiency and a stiff-upper lip are positive traits until they’re not. And they’re not when we try and go through this life in our own strength. If we can exchange our self-sufficiency for God’s sufficiency and that stiff-upper lip for eyes fixed on God, we begin to rely on God. He guides us, molds us, and directs us. We simply must respond by a letting go of our own abilities and strength and exchange it for competency in his ability to rescue and renew us.
Set your hope on God that he will deliver you again. He does deliver. Take a moment to remember and remind yourself of how God rescues you.
I’ve battled with anger issues off and on throughout my life, and underneath the anger lies shame. I’m ashamed when my temper gets the better of me. I’m ashamed at the words that fly out of my mouth that do more damage than a club. Words wound in ways that destroy the essence of a person. I battle anger and I battle shame.
We screw up or we make life-altering wrong choices. We doubt Jesus’ blood can truly clean our past. Anger rules us. Our enemy uses shame to keep us locked in a pit of hopelessness.
How do we get out of that pit? How do we exchange shame induced hopelessness for redeeming hope? By not letting the enemy win. By not letting shame rule your decisions or dictate your actions. Let the shame you feel guide you to the redemption Christ offers.
The First Reason
Shame indicates two things: an attack of the enemy or an issue that hasn’t been dealt with. The enemy deals with generalities and the Holy Spirit deals with specifics. When you experience overall shame and condemnation, the enemy is preventing you from knowing hope. Stand firm in God and resist the devil by speaking truth over yourself. Say, “Jesus’ blood redeems me, in his name I’ve confessed my sin and I stand forgiven. God chooses me. God makes me victorious and nothing can prevail against the God’s love for me and in me.”
The Second Reason
The second problem is a little bit more nuanced. Often when shame lingers over a particular incidence, we have a forgiveness problem. Many of us are quick to ask God for forgiveness and he grants it to us. (1 John 1:9). Often we will go to the person we’ve wronged and seek their forgiveness and whether they grant it to us is between them and God, but we’ve done our part. Whatkeeps us trapped in shame is when we don’t forgive ourselves.
If God has forgiven you, why can’t you forgive yourself? God doesn’t treat us with “three strikes and you’re out” so why do we treat ourselves that way? If you’ve said something you’ve regretted and you’ve made it right with God, make it right with yourself. When you refuse to forgive yourself, you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness.
When you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness, you rob yourself of hope. And when you struggle through, you find your way to hope.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5
When we wrestle through the suffering we build endurance. Endurance builds our character because we don’t give in to the easy way out of living in shame, but we battle through to victory over shame. Character produces hope because we’re changed from the inside out. Hope is an outward projection of belief and trust. And hope doesn’t shame us. Why?
Because of God’s love poured out into your heart through the Holy Spirit.
It’s God’s love that starts and ends it all, draws us to himself, and makes a way for redeeming forgiveness. That love resides in us. And when his love is flowing through us and out of us, shame has no place. Hope does.
Hope in God and rest in the confidence that he brings. You are forgiven. Your past is redeemed. Your love is God’s love.
Memorize Romans 5:2-5
Consider anything you haven’t forgiven yourself for and receive God’s forgiveness by forgiving yourself.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!