The Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation.

And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with his love.

—Romans 5:3-5, NLT

Is it really possible to rejoice in our sufferings? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes moan and groan instead of rejoicing. I am klutzy by nature and tend to do things that cause pain. A few years ago I got out of the passenger side of our truck at church and backed up while trying to keep hold of my Bible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay attention to both my Bible and my steps at the same time and tripped backward on a piece of wood that was sticking up as a marker for our parking lot. I fell down hard, whacking the back of my head on the gravel. We never did make it to the worship service because Rick had to take me to the ER for some staples in my noggin. 

Last week I did almost the same thing as I backed away from our mail carrier’s car while laden with packages. I completely forgot that the concrete driveway right behind me is about 2 inches higher than our rock landscaped front yard. Down I went onto the rock but somehow I remembered to keep my head up so I wouldn’t hit it hard on the rocks again. I don’t recall rolling to my right side but in the process managed to bruise my right elbow and hip. Sigh… it’s not easy being me at times. I can’t say I was rejoicing after those spills, but I did thank God that I was not hurt worse. 

I tend to be quite optimistic, but what is there to rejoice about when you wake up with the same pain you had when you went to bed last night? When I rest my aching head on my pillow while trying to ignore the various aches and pains that plague me, I still hope to wake up without any pain at all. However, the nature of chronic pain is that it is almost always there in one form or other plus add to that the extreme exhaustion of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)  that has decided to stay with me at all the times now. 

Beloved, please believe me when I say there is hope for those of us who feel like things will never get better. We have a hope that transcends anything here on earth and that hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will experience no pain … ever.

How’s that for the hope that doesn’t disappoint? In spite of how I used to react to such things, I have been purposely trying to hold on to that hope as I persevere through the pain I live with during the short time I am here on earth. Compared to living in heaven for eternity, my time here is thankfully very limited. I live in hopeful anticipation of a pain-free eternity with my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what would I do without the promise of Your hope? Help me to remember that through my trials I can develop the kind of character that leads to the hope that does not disappoint. May I always be found faithful to lean on Your strength for help in my earthly suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

How to Find Joy in Our Circumstances

Sometimes God needs to teach us certain things several times. I wrote something very similar to this in 2011, but the message still holds true for me today. I know Whose I am and the value He sees in me, but apparently, I need to keep relearning this. Every time I try to do more than I know I can handle, I’ve compromised my health—again. Praise God that He doesn’t give up on me! I decided to share this today in hopes that God will use it in your lives too.

Genuine, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, goodness, and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which “he saith, shall come to pass.” 
—E. M. Bounds¹

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But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
—Job 2:10

Don’t you wonder how Job could say this after everything he went through? Does it make you shake your head and think, “yeah, right”? How could Job even think to say this after everything—and I do mean everything—was taken away from him?

Job had it all: a loving family, great wealth, a thriving business and good health. He was loved and respected by his family and the community because he was a very gentle and loving man. He indeed had it all … until suddenly it is all taken away and he is left helpless and hopeless.

Oh, did I say hopeless? Hardly.

Like many of you, I live with daily chronic pain. Among the several illnesses I endure, my most persistent “thorn in the flesh” was daily migraines. I say was because I do not get them every day because they are finally under better control from some special treatments I have been having. Although I can still tell I’m having a migraine because of blurry vision and sometimes nausea, I do not have the head pain most of the time.

Over the last 19 years I have tried many migraine medications and treatments, as well as for Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Either they did not work at all for me, or the side effects were horrendous.

So many times over the years I have felt as if I was sliding through what I called wasted days—when all I was capable of doing was sleeping, resting, eating and some light household chores. I have spent lots of time praying and asking God why these things were happening to me and if they would ever end. I thought my days were wasted because I wasn’t doing anything that I deemed valuable, but in reality, God was doing a work in me that I finally understand… and hopefully will remember.

Before this time of pain and frustration, I understood how to be joyful in spite of my circumstances. However, I finally understand that God has shown me how to be joyful and thankful because of those same circumstances. In effect, God increased my faith by allowing me to travel through those tough times in order to bring me to the realization that not all bad things are bad!

God allows circumstances and situations in our lives that are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and all He wants us to do is trust that He knows what is best for us. It is all about having faith in spite of not seeing or knowing the why of it. When we cannot understand the meaning behind our suffering, we immediately want to tell God how angry and frustrated we are. I know, because I’ve been there.

Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for,
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Faith essentially does not make sense to our human way of thinking. I guess that’s why it’s called faith— “a belief that is not based on proof,” according to the dictionary definition.

When we pray in faith, we are saying in effect that we believe God knows what is best for us—in spite of what our circumstances appear to be and that we ultimately acknowledge what we know to be true: God knows all and we do not!

In spite of that, we want to breeze through life without experiencing any kind of pain or disappointment. We think that “if only” this or that wasn’t happening in our lives, everything would be so much easier or better. If only we had more money or more time or better health or a larger home or a different job… and the list goes on. What if the circumstances in our lives—good or bad—are there to make us stronger? What if—bear with me here—we try to change our outlook so that the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad after all?

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. —George Seaton

Beloved, if life on earth was one big picnic would we ever yearn for heaven? Would we truly be able to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?

Oh, and our friend Job? In spite of all the horrible things that happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Obviously, Job was not happy that he had lost so much and did not like what God was allowing in his life, but he trusted God even as he was going through that terrible time. Oh, that we could all be as Job and exhibit such trust in our Creator!

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life here on earth is meant to grow our faith, to show us how to live joyfully and victoriously because of our circumstances, not merely in spite of them. How about if we try to keep foremost in our minds that what we are going through is for our good and God’s glory? That kind of attitude will cause us to remember that we are not alone in our misery and enable us to praise Him for always being with us.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
—Psalm 104:33


¹ The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds

Heads Roll

Heads Roll

By Pat Knight

When I was a little girl, playing with my dolls was a favorite pastime. Imagine the trauma I suffered when my doll’s head fell off! My Daddy was always willing and able to pop that doll’s head right back onto her shoulders again. I would go running to greet him at the end of his workday, hanging onto the two doll parts. He instinctively knew what would make a little girl’s heart happy, performing repairable doll surgery right before my eyes.

One day the three of us siblings were creating a loud verbal commotion inside our house. Our mother announced in measured tones, “I have a headache, and if you children don’t quiet down, my head is going to fall off.” Instantly, I envisioned a frightening mental picture of my mother’s head detached from her shoulders, just like my doll. So I was quick to assure her, “That’s all right, Mom, Daddy will put your head back on when he gets home tonight.” I remember confusion reigned when she broke into peals of laughter. This was not at all funny to me, but if she found humor in my remarks, maybe her headache would go away and we wouldn’t have to witness her head helplessly rolling off her shoulders.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
─1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lessons the broken doll taught me prepared me for tragedies that would strike in my future lifetime, directing me where to turn for relief. Trusting my heavenly Father as the source of all help is the ultimate relationship the God desires all of us to enjoy with Him. He is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:4), the knowledge necessary to navigate this world and its trials. There is no problem too immense for our Lord to solve, no affliction too overpowering for Him to reverse, no grief too staggering for Him to comfort. God is our sufficiency, our answer to all of life’s difficulties.

Job was a broken man, but not defeated. He was declared “Blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1b). Yet one day he suddenly lost all of his livestock, wealth, and family. He was struck with a skin disease of overwhelming proportions. However, he persisted in trusting God. Job knew that “All things are possible with God” (Mark10:27). He was not into the mode of blaming God for his calamities. Job rationalized his steadfast hope: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”(Job 2:10). Job decided to choose victory, as God promised. He took the high road of deep faith that would not shatter during a personal crisis.

I didn’t understand how my Daddy fixed my doll, but I trusted that he would. More importantly, he took responsibility for his little girl’s happiness. Isn’t this the reaction God wants from us, that we trust Him for our delight and joy?

God loves us and wants us to put our confidence in Him as the source for all of our help and protection. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jesus taught His disciples in parables, using common objects to convey extraordinary lessons. He will also find the best way to reach out to us with His truths, even if it involves a simple object like a toy. Nothing in this world escapes God’s service.

Trapped in My Own Mind – Three Lies Depression Loves

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Trapped in My Own Mind –
Three Lies Depression Loves

By

I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ.

Read the rest here.

True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

By Randy Alcorn

Human history is the story of our desperate search for true and lasting happiness. Even those people who appear to “have it all” long for something more, and sadly, they often give up hope of ever finding contentment and joy.

In the midst of hopelessness, God offers the good news of his transforming grace, mercy, love, and eternal happiness: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:17, NET).

It’s the Lord Who Truly Satisfies

Our greatest needs and longings can be fulfilled only in God, the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Despairing people everywhere thirst for gladness, trying to derive it from sources that cannot ultimately satisfy. They eagerly drink from contaminated water surrounded by huge signs with neon letters flashing, “Fun and Happiness!”

Sometimes there’s no fun at all, and usually what little happiness there is quickly evaporates, leaving shame and regret. If the signs were accurate, they would warn, “Deadly Poison,” with the caveat underneath: “May taste good before it kills you.”

God laments the poor choices we make when searching for happiness: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

When we’re thirsty, we don’t look up “water” on Wikipedia. We don’t go to social media to find out what others say about water. We don’t drink out of the nearest puddle. Personally, I go to the faucet and satisfy my thirst by drinking some of the world’s best water from the Bull Run water system here in Oregon.

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, I find God to be pure, refreshing, and satisfying. My happiest days are when I drink most deeply of him. I also know that if I don’t drink of him, whatever else I drink from will leave me thirsty, dissatisfied, and sick.

George Whitefield wrote, “I drank of God’s pleasure as out of a river. Oh that all were made partakers of this living water.”

Most Offers of Happiness Are Fraudulent

Jonestown was a socialist community and cult in South America. In 1978, after murdering a US congressman and four others, Jim Jones gathered his cult members, who had relocated from the United States to Guyana, and served them a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide. He killed himself and 912 of his followers.

Read the rest here.

The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.