October 24, 2016

to dwell in hope


Ever read/hear something and it smacks you fresh and new and applicable all over again even if it may be the dozenth time you've read it?
Be it a story, a song you've loved for ages, an article, a quote or a Scripture verse, I have a feeling God loves to teach us, His children, with a spiral approach.
Typical the spiral approach is used in textbooks. My homeschool colors are showing here.
But I am learning this method of learning is used in life. Whether we like it or not.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Last year, especially around this time, was when I learned what the "In my weakness, He is strong" really looked like when the lesson manifested itself in my immense physical weakness post-surgeries. Now though? What goes around comes around.
The last two weeks or so have been full. Mainly with good. But one disappointment in the midst of me just trying to do my best by my job, my family, my friends, my edits, et cetera. And that disappointment left me reeling, if I'm honest. I've tried to write it out in a post three times now. This is what I've come up with finally.
Have you ever been there?
After being in a place where you thought you heard God's voice loud and clear, the peace was inexplicable and bright and so you followed through. Dusted off hopes cautiously, took them off the shelf and tried to open your heart, keep expectations reasonable and just enjoy the process. But then it was not to be--and it wasn't your choice.
It hurts.
Doubts swell, trust dwindles, but you power through, do the next thing, busy yourself and zero-in on work. Anything to take your mind off those nagging thoughts of, What wasn't I enough of? What was I too much of? Am I not deserving enough? What did I do wrong? among countless others.
I think a more apt term for this type of exhausting disappointment is a hope deferred. And even Scripture talks about how hope deferred makes the heart sick. It's in Proverbs.
I will never not entirely forget the fact that my ultimate hope for eternal salvation is Christ. That that is my end goal, that this life is just a temporary home. I asked Jesus into my heart at five years old and even with everything that's happened to me and my family thus far in my young life, I have never renounced that. My faith and trust in the Lord has had its fair share of blows. And I'm sure before I die there will be many, many more.
But can I be honest here?
Keeping an eternal perspective is incredibly hard in the day to day. Especially if you're like me and can swing too far to one extreme in this thinking and stomp on your heart's hurts with a harsh, "It's not the end of the world. Be grateful. So many people have had it worse than you. How can you claim to be a Christian if you don't trust God unswervingly and happily 24/7?"
There is a difference between self-pity and being kind to yourself--treating yourself and speaking to yourself in such a way as God wants you to. And I'm still learning that. Can I get an amen?
But that's a topic for a different time.
This last week after this latest particular hope deferred has seen me tired. Both physically and in heart. I've tried to keep my eyes on eternity, count my blessings, preach truth to myself--but I've failed. I'm that weak. It reminds me of how baby-deer-like my legs were this time last year. When it's a physical weakness, especially of such magnitude, we're forced to rest it. Why don't we do the same with our hearts when they're tired, wrung out, hurting, stretched too-thin or drowning?

We dwell on the hopes deferred and insecurities, the anxiety and worry, the pain and soul fatigue and let it consume us. Until we're paralyzed. It's just like what I was cautioned to be aware of last year in physical therapy: keep up with the exercises. Even if its just one set one day if you're sore. Keep it up or the muscles will atrophy.

And for hearts? Especially the sore ones? This may mean just simply crying and admitting your pain, bewilderment and weakness aloud. Because even in this communication that can feel like we're far from "good Christians," we are uncurling our arms from around our middle, opening up, glancing up if even for a few seconds, and letting God carry us. It is humbling, it is hard, but we have to let God carry us. He can take our weakness, our feelings of utter failure and disappointment and insecurities battering our thoughts.
For those of us that know Him, our hope for eternal salvation is secure. Unmoving.
But more than this--oh, so much more--the hope our gracious Father God extends goes before us, hems us in from behind and flanks us on either side to light our way. We just have to remember to look up to see it and not dwell on the hopes deferred for the umpteemth time--but on the Truest Hope whose name is Love. The sweetest of Loves that came down and is never not pursuing our weary, wayward hearts.