HOPE for Every Day

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2016 was the year of JOY for me, in which I shared daily posts about JOY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also have a few friends who asked me to share these posts via email. I truly enjoyed delving further into the Bible to find so many JOY posts. I love that whenever I write about something, God also teaches me through it.

I’ve been praying about what 2017’s theme will be and realized that JOY and HOPE go hand in hand. We live in such turbulent times. We finally get over one difficult situation and feel like we can be calm and peaceful again, when WHAM! Something else hits us. Our days start to feel like those mammoth tsunami waves that come crashing over us again and again.

The image above is an acronym for HOPE that came from my friend Pat Knight. Isn’t it the truth! I’ll be writing about HOPE here from time to time as well, and today I’m starting off  by sharing this quote:

“The Christmas message is that there is
HOPE for a ruined humanity–
HOPE of pardon,
HOPE of peace with God,
HOPE of glory–
because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor,
and was born in a stable so that
thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”

–J.I. Packer

Hope for a Difficult Christmas Season

This is from Dayspring by Rachel Wojo.

Hope for a Difficult
Christmas Season

by Rachel Wojo

Christmas carols fill the air; smiles and laughter are everywhere. A stroll through town reveals glistening windows boasting of tasty holiday treats and shiny red ribbon. Twinkling lights dance in unexpected places and bounce off sparkling trees.  Whether you appreciate lots of gold and glitter or simple candles, the blessing of our Lord’s birth is celebrated with expression!

While Christmas is full of joy and celebration, the world is not exempt from sorrow during this season. For many of us, our hurting hearts experience intensified ache as memories flood our minds. Perhaps the memory is of a loved one now in heaven. Maybe the memory haunts as part of a painful past; something we wish could be changed or undone. Pain not only exists from the past, but in the daily present. Discouragement doesn’t stop lurking. Disease doesn’t stop waging its war. Death doesn’t pause for a few days.

When Jesus was born, His parents didn’t plan a gender reveal party. No one ordered a baby shower cake. Oh, Mary, yes, as the mother, she prepared for the arrival of her baby. But a business trip for tax purposes was probably the last thing on her agenda. Riding a donkey most likely would have been her last wish in her ninth month of pregnancy. The point is: Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. Despite the stable which most of us would deem unsuitable accommodations, the Light of the World made His grand entrance in the form of a little baby. Human flesh held the Son of God and the glory of the night could not be contained. Angels sang their glory to God and hope, true Hope for the world was born!

Read the rest here.

Abundant #Joy

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton of Set Apart: Hope on the Road Less Traveled.

Abundant Joy is Found
in the Presence of Christ,
not in the Absence of Pain

“Oh Lord, for years I have prayed for answers, healing, and understanding in this suffering you have allowed. Yet they have seemed not to come. Many have prayed to you on our behalf, as we have sought wisdom from the doctors you provided, and have longed for redemption of what’s been lost. By your grace, we have persevered through trial after trial, trusting  that you would uphold us and bring forth good from all our pain.

Yet, many answers we have hoped for haven’t come in the ways we desire. The world’s solutions to our pain have left us discouraged, confused, and fighting hopelessness, while the trials, burdens, questions, and uncertainties remain the same. 

I have longed for, cried, and pleaded for you to bring us out from under the pain and heaviness of these trials into a place of abundance. I have asked you to lift these crushing burdens, and carry us through the pounding waves and the raging fire that threatens  to consume our hope, testimony, and lives. 

However, in my desire for answers, I have missed something wonderful. You have answered our prayers – though different than I expected. You have been near, intimately working deep within our hearts as we have laid down our hopes and desires of this world. While you have chosen not to remove the heartache and overwhelming circumstances from our lives, you have done something greater. You have brought us into a place of abundance. For while I have been waiting for this place of abundance to come in the form of relief, you have instead brought it in the midst of the very trials I desired to be freed from. 

This place of abundance has been found in the presence of Christ, not in the absence of pain. 

Read the rest here.

Experiencing Happiness in Christ, Even Through Depression and Sorrow

Experiencing Happiness in Christ,
Even Through Depression and Sorrow

By Randy Alcorn

The following is a recent interview I did on the topic of happiness. I appreciated being able to address how someone who is depressed can still move toward experiencing a deep happiness and joy in Christ, which is a question I’ve been asked about frequently since my book was released.

Question:  When you look at happiness, is there a distinction between joy and happiness?

Randy: Interestingly, this has been taught as if it were fact for many years, and there have been many sermons that say joy and happiness are two different things. But we get them both wrong, because people end up saying things like “Joy is not an emotion” and “Joy is not really based on anything; it‘s some transcendental, vague sort of thing. But don‘t seek happiness, because that‘s from the world, and involves sin.”

Well, a lot of people do seek happiness in sin, just like they seek joy in sin. But God is the true source of happiness, delight, and joy. In my study for Happiness, I went back to the Hebrew and Greek words and saw how there are many of them that are translated in various versions as “joy,” “gladness,” “merriment,” “happiness,” “delight,” “pleasure.” These words all have overlapping meanings. Ninety percent of a Hebrew word that‘s translated “joy” overlaps with one that‘s translated “gladness” or “happiness.” (I’m including here a diagram from Happiness, illustrating this.)

There’s been a false and negative distinction that‘s been made between joy and happiness. Unfortunately, the message we send to those both inside and outside the church is, “Seeking happiness is superficial and shallow. Go out and get it in the world, but you won’t find happiness in God.” But all people seek happiness, and because they do, we’re basically telling them, “Stop seeking what God Himself wired you to seek.” What we should be saying is, “Seek your happiness in the right place—in God Himself.”

Read the rest here.


Shared by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org

What Does It Really Mean to Be Blessed?

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton from Set Apart.

What Does It Really Mean
to Be Blessed?

I often hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three healthy children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!” or “We are blessed to live in a country of such comfort, freedom, and opportunity, aren’t we?”

But what happens when you don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? For example, all of my children have Lyme Disease and one of them has several disorders that have often left us devastated, broken, and uncertain about the future. Are we no longer considered blessed?

My husband lost half of his salary, forcing us to lose our home and all we had worked for. A year later, he lost his job altogether when his position was eliminated, leaving us with the burden of paying for 5 people’s Lyme treatments with no income. Are we no longer considered blessed?

I have battled multiple health issues for most of my life and finally discovered I have been ravaged by Lyme Disease. Did I just happen to draw the short stick and miss out on the blessings that so many others seem to have been given?

Why do we most often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems? I believe it’s because many of us have a very short term and shallow view of what it means to be blessed.

This begs the question – what does it mean to be blessed?

Read the rest here.

The Gift of Illness

This excellent article about a difficult subject is from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

The Gift of Illness

 

I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not on chemo. I’ve ended up in the hospital only two times, for brief outpatient visits. To see me, you’d assume I’m the picture of perfect health. But underneath this strong exterior lies deep weakness.

I’ve been given the gift of chronic illness. And while I would love to reject such a gift, it has been my invitation into a thousand moments of grace—to feel where I was once numb, see where I was once blind, hear where I was once deaf. It’s been my merciful undoing and my gracious remaking.

You see, in my own strength, pain-free and healthy, I am Pride and Self-sufficiency and The Greatest People Pleaser. But here, in the throes of weakness, I am forced into postures of humility and dependency upon God. This brokenness has surfaced every cranky, weary, impatient, mean, insecure, fearful, shortsighted aspect of my character. So I cry out to Him.

And I find Him.

Read the rest here.

Mourning Yet Praising

Today’s post is taken from one of Today in the Word’s devotionals by Moody Bible Institute. I think this pairs well with my Prayer When Struggling With Depression post. 

Is it really possible to be depressed or in mourning and still be praising God? This might sound like a paradox but it is indeed possible. We can mourn or be depressed about a situation and yet praise God because of who He is and how He is always with us. If we have trusted Him in the past we can trust Him again and again because we know that He will see us through this particular storm. And because He has been faithful to us before, we can count on that faithfulness every single day.

Beloved, please read on. I believe you will be blessed by this as much as I am.

Mourning yet Praising

StreamWaterfall-www.todayintheword.org

Read Psalm 42 

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you. 
—Psalm 42:6 

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Ten years ago, Chuck and Lynette’s daughter Joy died of complications from epilepsy. She was 28 years old. Joy was a vibrant Christian who had lived up to her name—everyone who knew her testified to her sweet spirit. “I miss her so much every day,” Lynette said. “We used to sing together in church, and I have so many special memories of singing and laughing together. When I sing those songs today, sometimes I cry instead of laugh, but I know that one day we’ll be reunited at the feet of Jesus.”

Lynette’s statement beautifully captures the paradoxical tension within biblical lament. We can feel loss and hope at the same time. We can sing hymns of praise even while we weep and mourn.Our reading for today, Psalm 42, concludes our focus this month on lament. Unlike some of the other lament psalms, this one does not move in a straight line from lament over circumstances to trust in God’s character. Throughout the psalm, the poet describes how desperation and faith wrestle with one another.

In the first four verses, the psalmist articulates his loneliness, torment, grief, and longing. The opening image of the deer panting for water vividly conveys the psalmist’s desperate yearning. Verses 5 and 6 serve as both a summary of the psalm and a hinge between its two sections. The psalmist indicates that he is both downcast and trusting God. He has hope that the time for praise will come.

But the psalm doesn’t end there. Expressions of trust in God don’t end the experience of suffering and sorrow. The psalmist experiences God’s love (v. 8) and also feels abandoned by God (v. 9). The psalmist persists in biblical lament—he is downcast and disturbed, but he also trusts in God and looks forward to praise (v. 11).

Apply the Word

Biblical lament defies our cultural expectations to process grief in certain ways or to just get on with things. You don’t have to feel better before you praise God. Coming to Him with your desperation and suffering is itself an act of trust. Make verse 11 your own personal prayer and statement of faith that you will one day praise God at the feet of Jesus.

http://www.todayintheword.org/titw_devotion.aspx?id=142179

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