A New Hope
As we welcome in the new year, I find myself reflecting over the tumultuous past year. Although this past year was filled with many challenges, it was also filled with many blessings. It is important for us not to become so distracted by the difficulties that life can bring that we forget to acknowledge and thank God for the favor He shows us in the midst of a struggle. One word that has continued to speak to me and come up this past year has been the word “hope.” It can be so easy to lose hope in the midst of a trial or challenging circumstance, but the Bible tells us in Romans 5:3-5 that “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 through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
In our own ability and strength, we are not able to say or see this.
When we place our hope and trust in the things of this world, whenever something happens to upset us, we will not be able to maintain a joyful spirit and keep on hoping. But thank you, Jesus, that our hope is not found in this world or what it has to offer! Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is our hope. He fills us with His own strength so that even when everything around us may be changing or even falling apart, we can have comfort, peace, joy, and hope in knowing that He will see us through. It’s like the lyrics in the song Hope Has a Name by River Valley Worship say, “Hope has a name, His name is Jesus. My Savior’s cross has set the sinner free. Hope has a name, His name is Jesus. Oh, Christ be praised, I have victory.”
Our difficult situations may differ. For some, it may be dealing with the death of a loved one. While for others it may be dealing with severance in a marriage. Both are types of separation; however, one is a choice, and one is not. Sometimes, someone choosing to leave is harder than if they had passed on. Dr. Mollie Bond explores the idea of resting in God and seeking His path while in the waiting period of separation within her new book, Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation: 28 Daily Devotionals of Hope for Those Experiencing Marital Separation. It can be difficult knowing what to do. Should you reconcile or seek to go your separate ways? Instead of bombarding readers with opinions or condemnation, this book speaks words of hope and encouragement to the hurting heart with no judgment.
Dr. Mollie Bond describes her own personal experience within the opening pages of Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, “I was separating, long-term. The flight attendant called my name. I walked on the plane, holding in tears, as I passed my nurse friend who just smiled at me. I was on my way to a new start. Still, I wonder today, what if someone had told me in the prior months that there was hope for even me? That my life didn’t have to be like this? That God was close and that He cared? I knew I was bitter, but I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. There was no exit until I saw that nurse’s smile… a bit of hope. And that’s what I offer to you. A bit of hope, a smile when it seems like your life will never change.”
“My prayer echoes Psalm 20, especially the verses for today. When your heart bleeds, I pray He finds and heals the crack. I pray your church supports you or that you find a good group of people to support you.I pray God saves you and that He shows you that He’s got you, that there’s nothing to fear. We trust in God, and that’s good enough.”
Hope Amid the Pain
Sometimes, our circumstances are outside of our control and are not our choice or even the choice of another, they just are. Leslie McKee expounds upon this fact of life and how it pertains to the effects of dealing with chronic illness and how to continue to remain hopeful in her book, Hope Amid the Pain: Hanging on to Positive Expectations when Battling Chronic Pain and Illness. One of the biggest struggles faced by those experiencing chronic illness or pain is the feeling of being alone in their circumstances. We want to know that we are not alone. Within the pages of her book, Leslie seeks to show readers that they are not alone and show how it is possible to “Hang On to Positive Expectations (HOPE) even [in the midst of] the pain.”
“God promises to use all things for His good. For those living with chronic pain and illness, it could be hard to believe that’s true. But He sees the big picture. He offers hope for those who feel hopeless, comfort in times of trouble, courage to squash fears, and strength to take that next step.”
“Life is full of choices. You can choose to be unhappy with your situation, or you can grab on to hope and live the best life possible. It’s impossible to change the past, and you have little influence over the reactions of others. When you are living with chronic pain and illness, your life may often seem out of control. There will be some things you can do nothing about, no matter how hard you try. However, you can always control your attitude and perspective.”
“It’s easy to focus on how things didn’t go as planned and to get depressed. That’s a natural response to grief and loss, particularly in response to chronic pain and illness. However, Philippians 1:6 is a wonderful reminder that while you may not be where you want to be or thought you’d be, God’s not finished with you yet. You can be confident that God has begun a good work in you, and He will perform it until the day Jesus returns. Life may not be as you envisioned, but you can be certain that God has a plan for you. Be thankful for what you can do and have done instead of focusing on what you can’t do or haven’t done. Abide in the Lord daily. Like the Philippians, you are a work in progress – God’s beautiful creation. Nothing, not even chronic pain, and illness can change that.”
“Your plans may have changed as a result of chronic pain and illness, His calling on your life has not. As God’s children, we have no reason to settle for anything less than God’s best for our lives. Years of struggling with chronic pain and illness can take a toll on a person’s mind, body, and spirit. However, God is the Source of all hope. It’s never too late to begin expecting His goodness in your life. You are valuable and precious to Him. There’s no need to settle for anything less.”
Whether we are facing chronic pain and illness or not, these words are true for all of us. God is the Source for our hope and nothing (and no one) can take His place in our lives. We need to stand strong is His truth (the Bible) and His faithful promises over us.
We face many struggles within the journey of life. Marilyn Nutter and April White discuss not only the difficulties of separation from a spouse (through widowhood), but they also discuss the struggle of dealing with chronic illness and pain in Destination Hope: A Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart. Marilyn and April seek to encourage their readers to see loss and hardship as part of life’s journey that defines us, and they remind us to continue to look to our Saviour, Jesus, Who is the provider of all Hope. This is our destination, our resting place, and the only place that hope can truly be found.
In life, we often “travel to unexpected places and live in plans we didn’t make or anticipate. Perhaps we temporarily visited those places and are now on another itinerary. Some find support to manage living in the new location, others find resolution and move on. Still, others struggle and wonder where and when the new road will emerge. Expectations continue to be unmet. For some, however, the unexpected place is permanent. There is no opportunity to leave or fix your loss. It’s not easy. The partly cloudy weather report is the daily forecast.
We all meet itinerary changes. Life seasons bring changes, but some are permanently life-altering. They are accompanied by lifestyle adjustments, changes in relationships, and perhaps, a struggle with identity. Emotions rise and fall, new challenges surface, and loss is present. Like wearing a lanyard for a group tour, loss can mark us and become our identity if we allow it.
In our journeys, we don’t deny where we are. We need to mourn our loss – our disappointments of where we were and wanted to be – but we can learn and grow. We can reach for hope and find our “Holland” [path we didn’t choose for ourselves] may offer something we would have never otherwise seen.”
Although we are not alone and many of us are facing the same (or very similar) storms, “we are not all in the same boat.” What we are going through, or the way things happen to us, may vary. So, what does this look like? “What is the name of your boat? Perhaps your boat has several names. Marilyn, a widow at retirement with grown children, understands grief and the loss of her husband. But her situation is different from a young widow with littles at home. A person who has lost her job and needs to relocate for work has a different boat compared to someone who finds a job locally. Playing financial catch-up from a falling stock market is different at age thirty than age sixty. Each different boat, however, whittles down to grieving over the loss of our former familiar life. The storm is not one size fits all. Losses vary in magnitude from person to person. When and how they occur in our life affects our perspectives. Even family members who experience the same loss, such as the death of a loved one, are impacted in different ways.” But we can be encouraged, because “whatever storm we endure, we can have hope.”
If you are hurting or finding it hard to press on and maintain hope in this journey we call life, I encourage you to read these books on finding hope in the midst of the storm. God did not promise us a life without pain or challenges if we follow Him, but He did promise to be there right beside us in every step of the way.
Stand strong, be of great faith, and continue to hope in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as we welcome in the coming year. I pray this year will be a year filled with rest and Hope in the promises of God.
Happy New Year from our team here at Ambassador.