Maintaining Hope

Some days are harder than others for maintaining hope. But, maybe that’s the problem, maybe we’re not supposed to maintain hope at all — to expect it to look the same for us each and every day — maybe it’s supposed to maintain us.

I like to believe that I can hold onto hope and make it wax as large as I like, but on days when it’s harder to hope, I wonder that I seem to be on the verge of falling apart. But, maybe I have always been in a danger I didn’t realize because I thought I was so resourceful in my optimism and cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid when hope seems to come at a higher price on days when I would rather it was cheap enough to buy up enough shares to feel a cushy level of secure again. Maybe hope seems so expensive because it is so rare — only seeming like there was enough to go around forever.

The truth is, only Christ is enough, and has enough for us to be able to go on forever. Why? Because this very world is held together by the breath of His mouth and the Word of His lips. Not one of us is an accident waiting to be forsaken, but a creation God made on purpose to showcase His faithfulness.

He lets our hopes fail us, so that we don’t have to live in ignorance of His infallible mercies anymore.

Then, if this be so, may God let me be able to let go of all these empty hopes — idols that promise me life in certain quantities, but limit my expectations of and delight in God — and hope, instead, because my Source is not short-handed and will never become obsolete. You will always refresh Me with your living water, God, filling my cup to overflowing when I ask. Thank You for teaching me, again, how to ask for what I didn’t realize I needed above so many other things.

What I’ve Finally Figured Out

Call me “the Quester.” I’ve been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there’s not much to write home about. God hasn’t made it easy for us. I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.

Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.

I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-17

I’ve thought about it, if my life was so “good” that I could say that it was exactly what I wanted, would it truly be better than the life I have now? If the things God uses — which I often don’t appreciate in the moment — to humble me and correct what needs to be straightened in my character, were not apart of so much of my experience with Him, would I still love Him?

Sound like a silly question? Not if you consider something He has been showing me again and again and again and again — yes, I’ve needed to see it that much — in this season: If I did not know I needed God, and it was not a fact and an emotion and a definition of who I am that faces me every day, than I would not love God.

This idea takes me back to the verse in the Bible where it says:

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

(1 John 4:9-10 The Message)

So, the very idea that I would believe that I could love God without Him acting in my life, to push me toward Him, is choosing to believe what is absolutely opposed to the gospel. And to find fault with the tools He uses to accomplish this is arrogant; I am questioning God’s knowledge of the nature of my sin and my primary opposition to Him — I am telling Him He doesn’t know what He is talking about, and I know myself better than He does.

Yet, who knows sin better than God? Who has seen its devastation more clearly, and knows from whence this destruction came? Whom can I trust with this grievous heart of mine more than One Whose holy heart can wrap mine up with mercy that can only belong to a God like this One?

Faith in Relationships

Faith in relationships…what does that look like? For me, it is being able to trust God that He is working out all the big and small details that I can’t handle on my own — details that concern more than me, and what’s going on in my heart, but someone I love who seems to see things so entirely different than myself.

That’s what it starts with at least, but from there God consistently leads me into the next stage, pointing out the lessons He has set up for me in this misunderstanding or apparent distance between me and another.

There is always so much to learn through the daily dynamics of our interactions with the people we share this life with. The experiences we have together are what pushes us to work on more than just what will improve ourselves, but will make us more focused on the interests of others.

It can be easy to pursue growth that makes us look good, serving as personal accessories, to trump up what already makes for a wonderful person. It is far harder to choose to see ourselves in the light that others see us, accepting their observations as being capable of being legitimate representations of us.

No, what others think of us will not ever tell the whole story, and their sentiments should not discourage us with the idea that we are not worth anything unless we live up to someone’s expectations of us, but we should not dismiss them either. We should take the  assessments we receive from others to our Father, who is faithful to present to us our true identity along with all the flaws that He is not lax to confront and correct.

The Way We Were

Remember way back when, when you first discovered Christ? What was your response? What did you think He was all about? Or were you too distracted by the offenses you had against His followers to look as far as the Guy this whole thing is really about?

I hope that was not the case. I hope the main object for you never really was His followers, but Who is to be followed. Not a consideration of whether you could really “do” following Him, or whether you wanted to be connected with this bunch that come with Him, but whether Christ really mattered, whether He is the Way, Truth and Life that He claims to be. The One who won’t let you get by without letting you hear His voice.

And, no matter what your original response was, I hope that isn’t all that remains now. I hope you haven’t stayed with a “yes” or a “no” that is so old it has grown stale. You wouldn’t even know that it ever had relevance because it has lost its affect. Does what you said then line up with what you live now? Have you learned anything in the interim that should have inclined you to search deeper into what is true, and is really worth believing, or have you ignored a multitude of opportunities to discover a reality you never knew?

Have you rationalized that there is no more to God than you already know/believe because you don’t want to hear any more? You are determined that you will not set yourself up to receive any kind of information or influence that will potentially discredit your ideas or pressure you to adjust what you’re grounded in?

But, isn’t the final decision for what you believe one that rests with you? With all this power and responsibility weighing on you, wouldn’t it be best to research the options you have as much from the inside as you can? To refuse to investigate the truth, we will always be satisfied with lies that are just close enough to the truth for us to be at home but not too unnerved.

That is no place to live out a lifetime, no place to put down roots and declare ourselves firmly established. If we do, we are deceived.

We were not meant to be masters of our own fate so much as we are told by others who want this quantity of independence so badly. We were meant to have the fullness of life in dependence. I know, this can sound like an oximoron. But it only fails to apply to our lives when we see our lives in the wrong light.

If we still believe we can have everything here and now on our own and be fully satisfied, then we truly do not have any need for anything else to further “complicate” our lives. But, if we are people who can agree that we have any need at all, then we must confess that we are needy people.

We cannot look at our lives as a million different pieces of a puzzle that must be all in place for us to enjoy life at all, or as a youthful lark that we need make no provision for, but as an adventure, which must be planned for and fully entered into to be fully enjoyed; an adventure that would make no sense if it ended in a deep, dark hole with no one at our side because we just followed where the road took us.

No, instead, we have options when we set out on our way. You may be saying at this point that you’re not really interested in adventure right now. Well, the truth is, whether you see yourself as the adventurous-type or not, you have been born into an adventure that is already in full swing. Your job, since you were ushered into this, was to make the most of where you are, using everything you have to find out the whole point of what is going on all around you.

Don’t be fooled by philosophers and their pets who tell you that this is all there is and you are not to dream that there is any meaning behind what you can see with the naked, physical eye. There is so much more — whether you find it or not, it is still there, dictating the deepest realities in life, holding you together in spite of yourself.

Waiting Here

So many of the lifestyle skills I have become proficient in are proving to be a hindrance to truly living. I want everything that is good for me, but I don’t know how to get it. I can’t go by appearances, though they can often seem so reliable, so desirably representative of the outcome I’m looking for in everything I do.

Yet, instead of waiting to find out the end of these things, I live in the hope of even greater possibilities — possibilities too great for me to have the ability to dictate. I should not even be anticipating such broad planes of blessing, except that when I go with God, none of my limitations can limit what God has chosen to give me.

For truly, this is all about God. If I could totally control what I got from/with God, I would undoubtedly miss Him completely in my hustle to obtain endless rewards and resources. I would miss the fact that He is my one true reward and resource.

Surrender to Live?

I can say I want God’s way in my life and try to leave it at that, but I will soon find that I am dissatisfied, feeling the incompleteness that comes with living life apart from our One central point — the One who holds together all of what we know and see and yet wonder about.

Or, I can realize that there can be no other way with me; it must be His way, or I have chosen to live with less than all I could have in this life. I think that I can have it all if I just live for myself, but this only seems like it is a legitimate hope because I am securely at the head. I think that I will lose out if I step aside so God can take that place that I so fiercely covet.

Yet, will I truly lose out? Can living for more than I can hold onto and keep in-check really prove to be a misuse of my passion and potential? Is it worth it to gain if I have not lost? If I am not willing to lose something I value for the sake of something more valuable — can I really expect to be able to hold onto anything at all?

If I’m already surrendering, I don’t have to fear any loss or disappointment or chaos, because I am not ultimately trusting my circumstances to deliver what I need, but my God. He alone knows what I truly need; He knows what is necessary in mistakes and trials to release me from the power of secret sins, teaching me to realize that life is in Him and not in me or what I see.

If I will live in surrender, I will live in hope. And, if my hope (Christ) is able to hold me, than I cannot fear any significant loss. I cannot rationalize unbelief because I am setting myself up to succeed according to my own resources. Considering all these petty “resources” I have now will ALL ultimately fail me, I must ask myself, “What grounds do I have for trying to convince God that I am right in my ongoing resistance to offer myself wholly to Him?”

I don’t. I would be a fool to believe my own ideas about what is best for me apart from what God has said since the beginning of time — long before I was born, or had any ideas about what I would like to have in this life. God knew what I needed, and was eager to reveal it to me. I have been the stubborn one.

I have been the one who is constantly insisting that I know what is up and what will do great things for me; and all my life I have been convinced that that is not God or anything that comes with Him. One, I cannot control Him. Two, I do not know what to expect with Him. Three, I would rather just be able to do everything on my own.

But, do I think He will not ever-so-patiently whittle down all that opposition in me? Do I think that I have to lead this? Do I think that He will not accept exactly what little I have to offer now, and with that make a way for me to give Him all the rest?

Yes, I often do think all these things, but even this He can deal with. He knows what He’s doing — including where sin begins and the only One who can bring it to an end — because He holds the keys to all the freedom that His perfect righteousness has to offer. I will trust Him.

The Mistake I Pretended to Make

I’ve always liked to pretend. As a little girl I always had my doll with me and all the makings for a fantastic afternoon of playing “house”. But, this isn’t a form of recreation that I have entirely left in childhood. I still appreciate the benefits of consciously removing myself from the present realities of the world around me to make up my own.

I want more out of my life, so I fill in the gaps that I believe don’t truly belong. I trust myself to make a better story of my life than God. I don’t want to leave all the broken pieces in His hand, I would rather just pretend they don’t exist or fill them in myself. Pretending is easier than waiting.

Waiting to see what God will do. Waiting for changes I want to see, only to find progress in other areas — areas I hadn’t really identified as number-one. Waiting to see what God wants, trusting that all the conflicts that arise in my heart from this will be His way of leading me to unconditional surrender of my will.

Choosing to accept what I truly am according to the measure of my sin, so I can treasure grace every day — not just when it seems to belong in my life because everything is right. Choosing to pursue what is genuine, what makes more room for God, what makes me rely on His mercies for all I know of abundant life.

To reject every temptation to put on a face that will leave unpleasant elements of my life covered-up and out-of-the-way. To forsake every false ambition that my pride declares is the only way to enjoy life. To let God teach me to embrace Him out of the most utter brokenness and empty humility that I can handle in today’s every-day moments.

Forgive Me As I Judge

I am angry today. I have to sort through things that I don’t want to, like: awful preconceptions, bitter emotions, envy, faulty judgments, and negative attitudes. So much in me that keeps me from fully loving others and standing in awe of my Lord. So much in me that thinks I’m better-off if I can continue to rationalize my distance from other people because they constantly fail to live up to my standards. So much in me that thinks I always have the best way. So much in me that wonders what everyone elses’ problem is. So much in me that thinks, I, as imperfect as I am, am the closest thing to perfection the world is going to meet. So much in me that just does not even want to receive the Truth for who He is, so much better than I.

I want to think that I am perfect, or shall soon be wholly there, because this is the only way I know to feel good about my world, myself.

I do not “get” that things begin with Christ and the gift He came to give us, and we can never be confident that we have seen the end of something unless Christ has revealed it to us in Himself.

And since I need not try to be the beginning or the end of anything — gratefully leaving all that to Him to expose who He truly is — I can be content with finding myself somewhere in the middle. I can also bless the Lord for the many different individuals He has put around me fill up this middle place. I will rejoice and be glad for how God is constantly working to humble each one of us through our interactions with other sinners saved by His ever-abounding grace.

The Cost of Being Used

All my life I have wanted to be used. I wanted to be a vessel that pointed others to Christ, and caused hearts to rejoice in all that He could be to a person, starting with me. But, I didn’t know that it would come with this price-tag.

To tell you the truth, shopping for and purchasing this is choosing to pass by all the bargain-buys, in search of the most priceless object. I want that priceless object, but I don’t like living in poverty and patience that I may continue to hope I will fully obtain it. I was hoping to gain this, and some other nice things on the side. But, right now, in so many ways, this is all I have.

Yes, it is all I need, but I have not reached that high and lofty place (which I’m not sure exists) where I don’t want anything else. In fact, the more I pursue this one thing I find in Christ, the more persistently He makes me aware of just how many other things I am trying to find satisfaction in simultaneously.

I want it all, but I don’t want it all to be found in One place. I want my treasures to be spread out before me, that no matter where I go, I may have riches in full along the way.

But, that is not so for me. I only have one option if I want lasting rewards. The richest gain I know comes with an across the board loss. I am stripped of all other things, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. No other things are needed for me to find contentment or comfort or care. I need Him. Period.

Now, if I can just learn to live this and love it. If only the treasure would wax so gloriously in my estimation that I could agree with God that the cost of laying aside my dependence on all other things is more than a worthy payment to commit to the advantage of being filled with Him!

You Call This Beautiful?

I have become convinced that my life will never be pretty — at least not according to the guidelines that I believe make something beautiful. Too many things have been broken — including my pride — and through it all God is making me understand that so much of what I would like to hold onto really doesn’t matter.

I don’t have to be the most popular person among the people I know, I don’t have to have the most enviable life, family, friends, or social engagements. I can just be grateful for and enjoy what specific blessings God has given me, and not charge Him with wrong, for the ones that seem to yet elude me.

I wasn’t born with a picture-perfect package, but I am not a picture-perfect person. I need the life- and family-package that God has given me to mold me into a person who does not cling to outward displays of perfection, but one who is able to accept trials from the Lord and still bless His name.

I need to have tribulations that make me long for heaven so much it hurts and tests that make me question why and for whom I live. I need to have pressures that teach me what to let go of and Who I must hold onto.

In life there really is no either/or propositions when it comes to experiencing true, abounding life. I must abide in Christ. I must choose to cling to Him no matter what He allows to come my way. Why? Because I have no other choice — to live I must choose Life.