Category Archive: Hope

Don’t be Anxious!

We’re just over two weeks into the new year! Have you made any resolutions? If so, are you still keeping them?

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions. But, like many, they were usually broken within a few weeks’ time. Losing weight, being more consistent in certain areas of my life, living a more balanced life…and then inevitably, life intervened!

We’ve had lots of intervening issues in 2020, and I’ve written about many of them. But right now Don and I have two neighbors (on either side of us) dealing with terminal cancers; a friend in a difficult marriage; a niece struggling with an ongoing illness and Covid, surgeries, isolation, more friends and/or church members dealing with Covid, either illness or death of a loved one, etc. etc. etc. I imagine you face similar concerns.

So I’ve been trying to think of my word for this year. God brought us through last year’s global pandemic (still ongoing), the loss of my mother, national disunity and natural disasters (fires, floods). By His grace, my trust has grown. There’s an old hymn whose chorus says:

“Where could I go, oh where could I go,

Seeking a refuge for my soul,

Needing a friend to help me ’til the end.

Where could I go but to the Lord?”

Written in 1940 by James Buchanan (J.B.) Coats

Coats was an American. World War II began in 1939 and the world was in turmoil. America joined the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. J.B. knew that stability was not to be found anywhere but in God’s love and sovereignty.

We’re in a small group studying Max Lucado’s book, ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING. Lucado says,

“Do not assume God is watching from a distance. Avoid the quicksand that bears the marker ‘God has left you!’ Do not indulge this lie. If you do, your problem will be amplified by a sense of loneliness. Isolation creates a downward cycle of fret. Choose instead to be the person who clutches the presence of God with both hands.”

Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado, p 70

When I look at who God is, at His sovereignty over everything in this world, I feel more at peace than if I just look at the circumstances around me. He knows exactly what is happening in this world He created.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Colossians 1:16

And He knows my needs. He knows my past, present and future. And He will be with me each step of the journey.

So I think my word for this year is SOVEREIGNTY, a word to remind me of His power, wisdom, and love. Nothing slips by Him unnoticed. He is my God, my salvation through Jesus. Even when I don’t understand what He allows, I can trust His loving heart.

Have you chosen a word for this year? How will you remind yourself of it day to day? I leave you with this blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.

Why do Good People Suffer?

How would you respond if everything you had was stripped from you…

  • Your Finances
  • Possessions
  • Car
  • Home and
  • Children

…within the space of a day?

Some of this is happening now, to those losing businesses or jobs due to the Coronavirus.

And after all this…you got a terrible, wasting sickness of painful sores from head to toe that hurt and itch so much you take broken pottery to scrape your skin, top to bottom?

On top of that, your spouse or family members tell you to curse God and die to leave this agony behind?

Many of you will recognize I’m talking about the Old Testament character of Job, the oldest written book in the Bible.

Is God capricious? Is He playing with Job?

Does Job have a right to question God about how He’s handling Job’s crisis?

Is sickness or loss (finances, property, family) always a judgment of God against sin in a person’s life?

God told Satan Job was a righteous man. Blameless.

Satan argued that Job was righteous because God had blessed him. If God removed His blessing, Job would curse God.

So God gave Satan permission to torment Job, first with loss of oxen, camels, sheep, servants, and his ten children. And Job remained righteous (“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21).

So Satan came back and said, “Yes, God, but if you take his health he’ll surely curse you.”

Again, God gave permission for Satan to touch Job’s body, but not to kill him.

Job had four friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, who came to comfort him. For seven days they sat quietly with him, seeing his agony. This was good, supportive.

At the end of his rope!

Then they began to tell Job, one at a time, that he must have sinned or he would not be suffering like this. “It must be your fault!” These are not the friends I want with me when I’m in trouble.

While the friends judged his heart and talked to him about God, they never talk to God about Job. They never asked for him to be healed, to have his fortunes reversed, to stop scratching the sores on his body.

This question is often asked. Why do good people suffer and evil prevail?

Is all misfortune the judgment of God against an individual, all blessing a result of the good someone has done?

God was pretty clear on this. He continued to declare Job righteous.

The four “friends” tried to identify sin and guilt in Job. He responded to each challenge: he treated his servants well, sacrificed to God after every celebration his party animal children gave in case they cursed God during their revelries, gave to the poor, helped the widows, did not lust after other women or rely on his wealth as his security. If he had done any of these things, Job declared, he would have denied God and should be cursed. But he maintained his innocence.

Finally God interrupted the conversation, speaking in a whirlwind, thundering His own perspective on the situation. But He never directly answered the question of “Why”.

He is God. He created the beauty around us, the animals and huge beasts and people and all we see. He challenged Job’s thinking.

  • Did you make the stars?
  • Do you make the sun rise and set each day?
  • Did you make the earth, mountains, sea, lightning, thunder, rain, animals and plants?
  • Were you there when I did this?
  • Does the thing created question why the Creator made him that way?
  • Do you have the right to demand He explain His decisions?

Instead of answering the “Why me?”, God overwhelms Job with his majesty and sovereignty.

In Job 42:5-6 Job responded.

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

He no longer defended himself. Rather, Job recognized He could not approach God as an equal. He heard these truths about God’s majesty but now he heard it from God Himself and so, Job changed his mind about the truth of who God is.

Job’s need for truth went deeper than getting an explanation for “Why”. He needed to know that, in all, God was and is God. He is the only One wise and powerful enough to be in charge, to handle everything.

Job’s fortunes were restored in the end, and he and his wife had ten more children. And while those ten didn’t replace the ten who were lost, they did give new life to Job.

After my mother died, I grieved deeply. But her death appeared less peaceful than I would have wanted for her. My sweet, gracious mother who loved Jesus with all her heart, seemed to struggle to let go. I didn’t understand. I wanted an explanation that made sense to my rational mind and hurting soul.

But I began to realize I also felt abandoned by God. I imagine Job felt the same. My deepest pain came from feeling separation from my Father, Savior, Lord.

“I can’t live like this,” I confessed, a statement of agony, not of intent.

And slowly, He reminded me of who He is, that He indeed held my beautiful mother in His hands and she was/is His. Through prayer, scripture reading, sermons, I was reminded of His deep love and care for me, and I began to heal.

So what’s the application for you, for me?

When we suffer, we don’t need to know why so much as we need to put our trust in the One who sent His Son to die for us, to rise from that stone cold grave, conquering death and promising us eternal life in His presence. He has promised to walk with us, never to leave nor forsake us, through any challenge He allows into our path.

Faith doesn’t need to know all the whys. It does need to know God is in charge and is wise enough to handle life properly.

There is a throne in heaven. And it is occupied!

And He is worthy of our praise.

Truth Won Out

Abandoned. Left behind. Completely alone. Terrified. I recall when, as a child of nine, my parents drove away from church–-without me!

Thankfully, my childhood abandonment was short-lived. Mom and Dad heard the silence in the car, realized they’d forgotten one child and returned to church, to my great relief.

I think of the former acquaintance who, along with his waste collection buddies, found an abandoned, live infant in a garbage can. I grieve for the many children who are abandoned emotionally, physically, spiritually by addicted, incapable, or uncaring parents.

But for Christ to say “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” from the Cross expresses incomprehensible pain.

sky sunset person silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At that moment, Jesus, carrying all the sin of the world on Himself, identified fully with my sin. Although He was sinless, Christ felt the separation from God that we sense when we doubt Him or have unconfessed sin in our lives. In heaven the Son was One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The three experienced perfect communication, complete alignment, sublime love, total Oneness. Leaving all that only to feel forsaken and abandoned-–how great a gap that must have been!

But Truth won out when Jesus rose from the dead, just as He had promised!

After a God-honoring memorial service for my first husband, I fell into a deep pit of abandonment, aloneness, despair. I was crushed by the question “What if everything I have believed is a lie … there is no eternal life with Christ … and I will never see Jerry again …” My conclusion was that if that were true, and faith in Christ a lie, life as I knew it was over. No hope. No sustenance. No future. I might as well quit now.

I was alone in another sense. Because I had experienced God’s faithfulness, presence and hope during Jerry’s illness and death, people often commented on my example of faith, and how they were learning from me how to respond in adversity. How could I now disappoint them by revealing my doubts, the anguish I felt, my separateness from God and others? So I kept my agony to myself, rather than reaching out for help, and wandered through murky darkness for several weeks.

One day God brought Peter’s words vividly to my mind: “Where else would we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.” And suddenly, my heart was free.

Truth won out.

The gap closed, and I was again in union with my Lord, who went to the deepest of all pits in order to give me hope and life eternal.

A dear friend once told me that God wants to be God even in my deepest ditch. However deep our pit, God has gone deeper still. He understands our joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams and wants us to talk with Him about each.

Artist: Ben Steed

Where are you feeling abandoned? Where do you need God to rescue you from your pit? Be vulnerable. Tell Him. Allow Him to touch you and renew your spirit.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

I pray God’s blessing and peace be with you in this new year, 2021!

Scripture image from https://www.heartlight.org/

The Week that Was

And what a week it was! Two weeks ago we learned our wonderful neighbors on both sides of us are dealing with significant health challenges. We’re watching for ways to love, encourage, pray for, and help them with practical needs where we can.

Wednesday a younger friend called, panicked because she’d been scammed. Fortunately she had not given social security or bank information before she started to question the offer. We’ve tried to help her mitigate possible ongoing implications of this scam.

Thursday morning Paigey was herself, eating, drinking, then going to her bed in our closet when I left to pick up some groceries and get a lab test.

When I returned home I greeted Don with a hug and kiss, then walked into the bedroom to tell Paige I was home. It took her awhile to rouse, then look up to see me. She got out of her bed and stumbled into the family room, looking like a drunken sailor. Her legs splayed beneath her, she was very lethargic, and had trouble keeping her head up, eyes open.

We called the Vet and were directed to their ER. Four hours later and a bit poorer, we left with no diagnosis. All Paigey’s tests returned negative, for which we are very thankful. She is herself again. So what could have caused this significant incident? Did she ingest something poisonous to her? Nothing showed on blood work or ultrasound, so we’re just grateful she’s improved.

Then I learned that an old friend died of Covid very suddenly.

In all this it’s sometimes hard to remember that God is with us, that He has promised never to leave nor forsake us.

But He has been.

And He is.

And He will be!

As we enter 2021 few of us will regret saying goodbye to 2020. But we don’t know what will come in 2021. We have hopes for a helpful vaccine to be distributed quickly and safely (although a few have had significant negative reactions to the injection). We hope to be able to move about more freely, to meet with church, family, friends again. (For those of you in other states, California is pretty locked down.)

So our hope can’t be in 2021, the year. It can’t be fully in a vaccine that gives hope but doesn’t yet have a long test record. It can’t be in politics. It can be in Immanuel, “God is with us”, the hope of all the earth!

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

Psalm 65:5-8 NIV

I have been reminded over and over again these past months that my hope must be in my God, that I need to focus on Him rather than on the chaos of life around me, and allow Him to guide me through each step of the journey He has for me. And while sometimes the way seems dark, when I truly rely on Immanuel, He does call forth songs of joy in my spirit.

How are you dealing with the challenges you face?

Your Favorite Christmas

Do you recall your favorite Christmas? It may be a Christmas gift whose memory has always remained with you. Something you hoped for that came true, or anticipation that made the realized hope even more precious.

When I was a child in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my brothers and I were eager to open our gifts. But we had to wait until Christmas morning. So every Christmas we children wakened about 5, got Mom and Dad out of bed, and were given the chance to open ONE gift of our choice. Then we had to go back to bed or play quietly until Mom and Dad were ready to get up for the day.

doll with grey eyes and brown hair
Photo by James Sutton on Pexels.com

I was a doll girl. So my favorites were the beautiful dolls my parents got for me. I’d open one, take it back to bed with me, and fall asleep holding that sweet gift until we got up later to open other gifts and enjoy the day together.

My memories also include presents I made when I was working in an inner city ministry in Los Angeles. I didn’t have much discretionary money, so made many of my gifts. One Christmas I worked for weeks on a beautiful stitchery picture for my brother and sister-in-law. I didn’t finish it before coming home to San Jose for the holiday. So Christmas Eve I stayed up ’til 4 or 5 in the morning to finish that piece! Fatigued as I was, I enjoyed giving it and seeing the pleasure it gave Arn and Carol. I also painted and fired a pirate’s head bust for my brother Mel. I was quite proud of the pirate’s facial coloring and the infusion of blush on his cheeks by the fingertip application of red chalk.

Fun memories all. And as an adult, I recall those precious times when our family gathered together to remember Jesus, the hope of all the nations. While alive, Dad always read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we opened gifts that symbolized the greatest of all gifts–God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice so we could be forgiven of sin, become His children, and enjoy eternal life in His presence. What joy!

She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

This year will be different. Don and I will be alone with Paigey on Christmas Day because of the pandemic and stay at home orders. But we won’t be alone. We’ll go to a drive-in Christmas Eve service at our church. We’ll remember Jesus, thank Him for His gifts, enjoy giving and receiving presents to and from each other, read, sleep, and enjoy a quiet day together. And we’ll zoom!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus, our Lord!

So what are your plans for Christmas?