Category Archive: Discouragement

When Hope is Lost

Posted by Carol Nicolet Loewen on 11/22/2020

Laura Bennet is a wonderful author I first met in a writers’ group in Santa Cruz. Since we are both finding hope from opposite ends of the country, we swapped this week. Be encouraged as you read her wonderful post. You can read more of her posts or subscribe to Laura’s blog at www.laurabennet.com. You can also read mine this week at https://laurabennet.com/2020/11/21/blessing-in-an-annus-horribilis/.


WHEN HOPE IS LOST

by Laura Bennet

The past year has devastated our world with natural disasters in abundance. Fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, as well as raging violence leave us reeling with anger, grief, questions and perhaps hopelessness. And now the news media has taken over our nation with election controversies.

One nation under God.

A nation started by those seeking God’s ways and freedom to live in them the way they chose. A nation whose pilgrims initially embraced help with gratitude from those who lived here before them as they all celebrated the unique offerings their differences yielded.

But now that nation is torn apart.

Hatred, racism, politics, disrespect, and tragic disaster reign as each person tries to fix the issues in their realm or in their own heart. Many turn their anguish and heartache toward God with a shaking fist asking,

“Where are you, God?”

I’ve certainly had moments of wondering what God is doing in all of this.

And I believe the answer to the question isn’t that God is absent, but that he’s present in each circumstance and life offering love, hope and something good to come out of all the bad. Maybe the good is a sense of unity. Perhaps it’s reaching out to our neighbors, and asking how we can help each other. Through it all, many are turning to God for comfort. Whatever happens, God will be seen and known for who he is.

God with us.

It’s interesting to me that when good happens we are quick to point to ourselves—how we invented, accomplished, or created something great. But when bad happens we are quick to point at God with an accusing finger. 

It’s our glory and God’s fault, right?

What if we flipped that around? What if all the mess of the world is actually us doing our own thing, going our own way, believing that we have answers and know what’s best, but in reality we’re arrogantly messing things up?

What if God truly has the answers, has a way for our lives to work well, offers us good for the taking?

This side of heaven, nothing is going to fix this world. Oh, we can improve things by loving each other, feeding the poor, and taking care of orphans and widows (as Jesus told us to do). But since man chose to do his own thing from the beginning of creation, God turned the world over the to the father of lies, the one who kills, steals and destroys, the current ruler of earth.

Does that mean God isn’t in control?

No. He’s much greater than his and our enemy. His love far surpasses the evil of the world. But he also doesn’t force anyone to follow him, love him, or obey his ways. He gives us a choice. And much of the crisis in the world has been our choice.

Maybe not yours or mine in a given situation, but certainly ours as a nation.

I love that even if we choose not to follow God, he pursues us, woos us, and stays close to us waiting for us to turn around and embrace him. Like a lover—the lover of our soul desires relationship with us and longs for us. He will even allow something difficult to put up a roadblock so we will turn around and see him there with open arms.

In the end, God is our only hope.

He creates life in the face of death, streams of water in wastelands, rescue from bondage, and offers an eternity in his presence. Each day, when I keep my eyes and heart focused on the One who loves me most and best, I am settled in peace and hope no matter what rages around me.

The same can be true for all of us.

Maybe it already is. But it’s not easy. Keeping our thoughts focused on someone we can’t see isn’t an easy task. That’s where faith comes in. Creation around us, God’s word, and the testimony of others who know and follow Jesus help keep us on track. Listening to and singing worship music helps keep me focused because it focuses on Jesus.

Hope is never really lost.

We may feel hopeless at a point of crisis or loss when we look at the devastation and wonder what we can possibly do to make a difference. But for each simple act, like a prayer, or a few dollars given, or a bottle of water offered, we offer hope and our hope is restored.

After all, God, who is love, is also our hope.

If you are feeling hopeless, I would love to pray for you. You can email me at laura@laurabennet.com, or check out my blog at https://laurabennet.com/.

*Laura Bennet is a multi-published author who blogs and writes books about hope, healing, and redemption emerging from the ashes of crisis and trauma. Originally from Southern California, she currently lives in Fort Myers, Florida where she basks in tropical warmth with her Aussie husband and youngest college-attending son. When she’s not walking on the beach, photographing nature, or sipping her weekly peppermint mocha, she loves to connect with her readers who can find her at www.laurabennet.com.

Paradigm Shifts

What’s the paradigm behind your world view? I’ve been wrestling with this these past months. I wonder if you have been too.

In this time of tensions within and outside our nation, pandemic fears, destruction of life, property, animals, and finances through fire, flood and violence, we see different paradigms at work.

  • The paradigm that we are in control of our lives. (2020 has shattered much of that one, hasn’t it!)
  • That politics, OUR politics, whatever they may be, has the answers we need to right the wrongs in our world.
  • That we are subject to external circumstances that control our lives; or
  • That God is sovereign over our lives, nations, world. His Throne is still occupied! He gives us freedom to choose our behaviors and responses to the world around us. He loves us with an everlasting love, to which we must choose how we will respond.

It seems to me that if we go with either of the first three paradigms (and there are others), we lose hope when a) we lose control over our lives because of illness, election results, loss of loved ones; b) our politics fail to provide the answers we seek; or c) the external circumstances we believe control our lives are unfavorable to us.

Our paradigms, our belief systems, affect our lives. And we can’t change our lives until we change the paradigms. We come to faith through a host of life experiences, education, and belief systems we have learned from our childhoods. These help form the lens through which we see the world.

  • Think of the woman who hates men because her father abandoned the family when she was a little girl, pushing them into poverty and insecurity.
  • Or the one who was abused as a child and doesn’t trust anyone, always fearing the raised hand or voice.

Pastor Rene Schlaepfer spoke last night about the shape of the gospel–a bell curve from weakness to power. Christ’s death looked like an absolute tragedy, a picture of complete weakness. But it was in reality the ultimate in power because of His resurrection from the dead three days later.

A gospel shaped paradigm gives me a pattern for my life when I realize that I can expect both crosses and empty tombs (perhaps figuratively, perhaps literally). If I expect only crosses, I can’t rejoice in the empty tombs. If I expect only graves, I fall into despair.

It changes how I see my future, because my future is in the hands of my loving Father who has promised never to leave nor forsake me. The apostle Paul said it this way.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 

II Corinthians 4:7-11

And, changing my paradigm gives me power for life, because God is strong when I am weak!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

II Corinthians 12:9

Pastor Rene said one way to get this gospel shaped paradigm into our heads is to expose myself to a new idea over and over, for example:

  • “God loves me and has already given me eternal life.”
  • “I know life has its crosses but they lead to resurrection.”
  • “I can trust the God who loved me enough to send His Son to die in my place, who knows my past, present and future. And one day I will worship at His feet, rejoicing in the grace He’s given me.”

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I’m working on my paradigms. How about you?

Dead Battery

I sat in the car, writing a different blogpost than this in longhand while Don went into Lowe’s to pick up supplies.

He returned, loaded his purchases, and turned the key in the ignition. Grrrrrr … nothing. He has a small charger in the car so plugged that in and we sat and waited. My honey was discouraged for a number of reasons so we talked and I silently asked God to encourage him.

Still nothing after about twenty minutes. Then a big pickup pulled in next to us. Both Don and I had the same thought – “he’ll have jumper cables.” We looked over to see if the driver was getting out of his truck. I could tell he was on the phone, but we kept looking to see when he would be available.

He noticed us watching him, opened his window and asked if we needed more space to get out of the car. “No,” Don responded, “but my battery’s dead. I was hoping you’d have jumper cables.”

“I sure do,” Tom responded. “Let me just finish my phone call.”

Tom connected his cables to our battery and, after a few minutes, our car started up like a purring cat.

“You’re an answer to prayer,” Don told him. Since we were parked in a Veteran’s parking spot, Tom asked if Don is a vet. They chatted for a few minutes and, amazingly, Tom is a Veterans’ Benefits Coordinator! So he gave Don his card in case Don has questions about his benefits.

What an amazing God-moment! Although we could have called AAA (and waited for them!), God provided just the help we needed – and more – in a short amount of time.

Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

Wait–I Will Take Care of You

I recall a time when one of my staff members (let’s call her Betty) tried to stab me in the back in any way she could. She didn’t like it that I actually expected her to work! Because Betty was good friends with the company president and babysat his children, I was limited in how I could respond to her.

During that time I felt attacked and quite lonely. Just about every day I ordered a salad at McDonald’s, then parked in the lot across the street from a huge, beautiful oak tree. There I read the Psalms and prayed, asking God to resolve this issue, to guide me, to give me His grace to deal with Betty and her undermining. And it seemed every scripture, every word to my heart said “Wait. I will take care of this.”

To wait on God means to pause and soberly consider our own inadequacy and the Lord’s all-sufficiency, and to seek counsel and help from the Lord, and to hope in Him (Psalm 33:20-22; Isa. 8:17) … The folly of not waiting for God is that we forfeit the blessing of having God work for us. The evil of not waiting on God is that we oppose God’s will to exalt Himself in mercy.

John Piper

So I waited. I did require that Betty, who handled payroll, be transferred out of my department and into Accounting. Soon after the accounting manager discovered that this woman had paid herself three extra weeks’ vacation. Once the President learned she had stolen from him, Betty was fired immediately.

So waiting on the Lord was exactly what I needed to do and He resolved the issue, as He had promised.

But Betty’s termination was not the most significant outcome of my wait. God was doing His own work in my heart at the same time. I needed to recognize my inability to handle this situation, and entrust it to God. I needed to trust that if she turned all the other managers against me, my Father still had a plan for me. Had I tried to resolve this on my own I really would have missed the “blessing of having God work for me” (Piper).

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor (woman) called, and the Lord heard (her); he saved (her) out of all (her) troubles.

Psalm 34:4-6

How often do we try to fix things on our own? We are such a self-sufficient culture. We avoid asking for help if at all possible. But in so doing, we miss seeing God at work on our behalf, and also miss the joy of seeing others come to our aid, of working together for a solution.

Oh, troubles will continue until we meet Jesus face to face. But that incident was a specific reminder to me of God’s watchcare over me. And now, with a pandemic, physical distancing, and national/global chaos, I try to remember His faithfulness in the past. His character does not change. His faithfulness remains in every situation.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26

So, when in a difficult time, wait. Talk to God about your concerns. He loves you infinitely. You may need to talk to a pastor, counselor, or friend. Then wait with patience. Wait with expectation. Wait with praise. Wait with grace.

The Blessing

Like many in the midst of this pandemic, I am looking for places of hope. Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California encourages us with the following thoughts from the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8.

In the midst of the WHAT is making us anxious, there is a WHO saying “Look at Me.” When our focus moves from the storm itself to the One who is with us on this journey, when our faith in someone surpasses our fear of the something, then we can be at peace. We will face storms–they will come into our lives unpredictably, unexpectedly, inevitably, and impartially.

  1. Jesus is close. In the middle of the storm, Jesus was right there in the boat with the disciples. And in this pandemic, He is here with us. Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
  2. Jesus cares. The disciples said, “Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He does. As hard as this is for some of us, we are to relax in His care. I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
  3. Jesus is in control. In our Western culture we like to think we are in control. A pandemic like this shows us how little control we actually have. But we can rely on the One who is in control. Mark 4: “Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!'”

I rely on these truths for myself and for those family and friends who are ill, have lost jobs, are going through marital struggles, and are just feeling anxious.

I will leave you with a wonderful song by musicians from 25 churches in Hawaii, from six islands. Skip the ad and go to The Hawaii Blessing, hosted by Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM).

May God bless you and keep you and give you His peace.