In January I gave a talk on hope. I struggled in the preparation and went to Derek for help. He asked me one question: “What is the opposite of hope?”
“It’s hopelessness,” I said, and suddenly I identified. I understood. Hopelessness is a deep dejection that nothing will improve, a choking fear that it will always be the same, a desperate feeling of no remedy or cure…
I am still thinking about hope, telling others, and applying it to my life. I trust this ‘Hope Hand’ blesses you as it has blessed me.
In the space of four days, opposite events occurred:
Someone said something with an intent to destroy.
A friend took me to the National Art Gallery in London.
I sat before a painting with my friend – The Raising of Lazarus.* It mirrored my circumstances… Lazarus was dead, and I felt the same. But, four days later Jesus told the mourners to open to tomb. An awful smell poured out. Yet, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come out!”**
…I sat there. Lazarus was me. Jesus was calling. I lived! Lazarus tore off his shroud. I could tear off mine. I could be free!
You see, death-like words don’t have to hold us down. “Come out!” Jesus calls to each one of us. We can choose to get up and LIVE!
Derek bought me a hat, a green one with a bow in the back. We both like it, but others have not been so positive. “You look eccentric!” “You really look funny!” And the best one.. “Your hat looks like a lily pad!”
I appreciate the honesty. But… there is a wonderful verse in the Bible. It says that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”* We don’t need to worry about opinions. God created beauty to stand out as different, for that is what beauty is. Each of us is beautiful, regardless of our peculiarities.
I still wear my hat, and when people meet me, they nod and smile. They even stop for a chat. My lily-pad hat might be eccentric, but so is God’s love.
It hardly ever happens. Derek and I stopped. We stood in a beech wood. There was no wind, no noise, no people, just us. We watched leaves fall from the trees, one every few seconds. We heard the “plif” as each one landed.
Life is like that. We can’t hear anything until we stop. Today I heard an agitated voice. I listened to the silence behind their words, and I heard the “plif.” What that person actually meant was, “I feel so alone. No one listens to me. Please accept me.”
Jesus stops with us in the silence behind our words. He wants us to hear his “plif.” “I comfort all who mourn… I bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” (from Isaiah 61:2-3)
The other day I told someone how I had royally messed up, but that God had used it get me back on track, and good had come out of it. The person went silent for what seemed like a minute. “Oh no!” I thought. “I have offended them.”
When the person finally spoke, it was slow and deliberate. “That… is… exactly… what… happened to me… Thanks so much for sharing… It gives me hope.”
Isn’t this what God’s humour is like? It’s brilliant! The weak make others strong. The poor make others rich. The imprisoned set others free. Those who mess up, spread hope. God always finishes with a surprising twist. He says, “There is a… time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3) Now is a good time!
You probably know how hard it is when those we love push us away…
If you don’t do what I say, you can’t be my friend.
If you love me, you will never disagree with me.
If you care for me, you won’t tell the truth.
What are we supposed to do? We are upset and scared.
But God doesn’t push us away. He says, “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men? … I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.” (Isaiah 51:12,16)
God gives us his dignity. He gives us the wisdom how to respond. He protects us. We can move on.
Memories can become our masters. When we have been broken and hurt, and don’t know how to move on, those memories enslave us. It is as if they take over our life.
In the Bible God’s people were enslaved as well. They knew they couldn’t escape the pain and suffering inflicted on them. God knew they couldn’t… He rescued them. He sent hope. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Let God fight for your heart today. Believe him when he says, “Don’t be afraid.”