In a season of doubt, in the barren desert, who can hope? Trouble’s gloomy expression, my default, what do I have to offer?
That’s the thing my pride doesn’t want to admit–it depresses me that I am depraved and worthless–but if I allow myself to embrace it and accept God’s grace, it is freeing–so I admit, I have nothing–I come to the table with nothing.
And if I come to the table with nothing, knowing I have nothing to offer God, then I am poor in spirit.
And isn’t the only way I can learn to be or to become poor in spirit–to know that I have nothing to offer–isn’t it through suffering?
But oh–this body–this sick skin I live in does not like to suffer.
“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:2-5 (emphasis added)
And hope does not disappoint…
I am always so afraid within the fragile, confused walls of my heart that hoping will disappoint me. Why don’t I just take the hope being offered me? Why is that so hard?
Why would I choose to not believe? Like the man who, seeking help for his son, when confronted by Jesus about his lack of faith, said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me with my unbelief!” I am this man. He and I are the same. Jesus sees straight through me, and I am undone and I beg him to help me believe. I beg for help.
So I persevere, and I stay in my context…I don’t run away. I hope for a better way to live this life, the way Christ would. And I hope for a better tomorrow in that great, glorious kingdom where for eternity there’ll be no more pain or suffering.
But in the midst of illness, in the middle of God-forsaken, barren desert, and long nights of pain and sin too grotesque to mention–when my spouse and I have reached our fleshly limit and can bear no more suffering, when we lash out at one another in bitterness and grief, how can I hope? When all seems lost to the human eye, tell me, what then?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from the place from which I carried you into exhile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
This, in this barren desert, in this wasteland, this is when I rely on God’s plan, not my own.
This is when I surrender my emotions and pain-feelings in the moment–this season–and relinquish all to Him.
I allow Him to write the story of my life and I trust, and I hope in Him, my Father, my only true one.
I say “Yes!” to God! Yes, Father, I will hope, I will trust in your plan and your promise for my life, in the midst of circumstances that don’t feel like hope–I will persevere, I will trust and by your grace, I will hope–only because the blood ran for me–only by your grace.
And it is because of that bloody, sacred tree, because You were the ultimate sacrifice, because you laid down your body, that I have a hope.
You prayed for a way out–you asked, begged God in the watch hour, ’til sweat and blood–brought forth by physical distress–oozed from your pores. You still said it–though you were tormented in your body, mind and spirit, though you hoped God would pass the cup from you–you said, “Thy will be done”, and you went to your death, praying and believing that if God sacrificed you, splayed your body out, tormented on a skin-splintering, bone-crushing cross, then He has not put more on you than you can bear, and His glory is shining greater than you can see in this moment of flesh and blood.
And because You did this–not easily, like rain filling a puddle, but with flesh-grueling pain, more like Earth’s crust breaking and shifting, a violent, hurculean rumbling force in it’s wake, exerting it’s force against the grain of nature, destructive to man’s way, transforming what was naturally in place by fleshly law and rule, and breaking down walls, ripping the veil from my face, ripping away the sin-barriers that keep me from you–because You did this, because You went before me, and I haven’t endured anything that you haven’t already endured, I have a hope.
I have the hope of glory–the only hope worth having–the hope that when I come out on the other side, all that is broken will be whole, all that is painful will be beautiful, all that is mournful will be joy, and all that is weeping will be gladness and all that is suffering will be at rest.
Some scripture to meditate on–it’s a little long, but worth it–as I went through this scripture today, it really ministered to me–I pray it does the same for you:
*all emphasis on scripture has been added
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom.4:16
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await eagerly our adoptions as sons, the redemptions of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-25
“Even youths grow tired and weary , and young men stumble and fall; but 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.” Isaiah 40:30-31
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”…Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. …We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:13,14,19-20
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be made like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
Join us at Ann Voskamp’s site for The Practice of Hope, reading other Christian sisters’ and brothers’ struggles and insights…
also linking up with Imperfect Prose: