Life Interupted

A couple of weeks ago I received an email thanking me for teachings about hope in difficult situations. To be honest, I couldn’t remember what I’d written until I looked at my website and realized (with a shock!) that my last post, Hope When All Seems Hopeless, was two years ago (though hope has also been a theme in previous posts). Has it really been that long? Yes; and as a result, I’ve had to update all of my pages!

Life has a way of interupting, whether those hiccoughs in our agendas are wonderful, tragic, or anything in between. The blips in my own life have traveled that spectrum; but in the midst of it all, God is as He has always been – faithful.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthias 1:9 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

It’s an often-observed fact that when times are tough, people cry out to God and draw nearer to Him. It happened in the early church when persecution of Christians was the reason the gospel initially spread throughout the known world, flourishing under the Roman Empire:

But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
Acts 13:50

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1 Timothy 1:1-2 ESV

Turnng to God in tough times remains relevant today, and there are many reports of how Christianity is booming underground in Muslim nations. Meanwhile, here in the USA, Christians are making a big difference by standing up in courts of law to overthrow unjust laws that discriminate against them, with some victories reaching as high as the Spureme Court.

Certainly, most of us are familiar with the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The implication is that in the midst of situations when life becomes very difficult or unpleasant, people with strength and determination will take action and find a way to keep on keeping on. Sadly, when oneself is the source of that strength, we often fail; and anxiety, depression and hopelessness result. But, when God is our source, even in difficult situations we can still be at peace.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT

I learned of God’s sufficiency during 2006, while battling breast cancer; it was a struggle that I’ve written about extensively in I’m Still Standing. When your life is interupted, He wants to proove Himself to you too:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalm 46 ESV

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Hope When All Seems Hopeless

I am usually known for a steadfast faith, which proclaims that God is sufficient through every circumstance. I try to live it; I write about it; I teach about it; but I also recognize that it’s only possible because it is a spiritual gift that God gave me very distinctly. Driving on the freeway one day in 2003, struggling to worship instead of cry; His voice spoke more clearly than probably any other time in my life saying, “I have given you the gift of faith, for without it you would not have survived.” Believe me when I say that any faith I have is from Him!

The Bible is full of faith stories, not the least of which is the summary account of the Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11, often referred to as the Hebrews Hall of Fame. Like them time and again, our faith is challenged; yet we are encouraged through God’s Word, where we are instructed:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.[1]

I must admit, over the past couple of days it has been awfully hard to keep standing! After a year chock-full of hardships (just like everyone else in the world!), I’d had about all I could take. As if shutdowns and masks, health issues, political unrest, and rampant injustice and unrighteousness weren’t enough, two nights of practically no sleep just about did me in. Like so many others these days, I felt trapped in the sludge of hopelessness and despair. The peace I’ve felt lately, regardless of the fact that everything around me seems negative, was suddenly gone. I didn’t like it—not one bit! Where was God now? The only cry in my heart yesterday was that of the psalmist:

Why are you cast down O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?[2]

It’s a verse that’s repeated three times in Psalm 42 and 43; but wait—there’s more, because as soon as the question is asked, the psalmist continues:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.

I agreed in my heart, but my soul still wasn’t feeling it. My spirit knew without a doubt that I could rest in all of God’s promises, but holding onto hope remained a struggle when all I wanted to do was escape the physical reality of everyday life. Yes, I would hold onto my faith, but there were still the questions that countless other believers have asked down through the centuries:

Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave.[3]

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?[4]

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?[5]

Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?[6]

Thanks be to God that He didn’t leave me hanging there very long, even though those two days seemed interminable. This morning, after a night of blessed sleep, I awoke and everything seemed different. Why? While journaling, I had the thought to do a Logos search of the word, ‘hope’, and was astounded that the very first scripture that popped up was Psalm 33:17:

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 

That got my attention!!! We cannot hope in any person, place or thing aside from God. Even when the plans of man are inspired by God and led by the Spirit, He must always be our ultimate source of hope, for a God-given strategy can easily fail when derailed by a bit of self-will, pride or sin of any. Psalm 33 continues:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. 

As evil swirls across our land and around the world, what better scripture could there be for the present physical reality? Has there ever been a time closer in history to the second coming of the Lord, that day for which we all hope? No, by if only because with each day that passes His return draws nearer; but however long He tarries, it appears more and more imminent as we encounter all of the things of which Jesus warned in Matthew 24. Fear of such end times threats as well as every other obstacle the enemy can throw at us threatens our peace on a daily basis.

Another thing I often write and speak about is the importance of waiting on the Lord, as we are advised to do time and again throughout the scriptures. All too often though, waiting and patiently trusting Him flies in the face of our desire for quick action; His mysterious ways that frequently seem so slow can challenge our faith. But: 

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [7]

Continuing my research with Logos:

Hope is the expectation of the future attainment of a desired object or outcome. It is often associated with trust, whether in God or others.

In Hebrew, hope is expressed most commonly with the verbs קָוָה (qāwâ, “to wait”) and יָחַל (al, “to wait”) and nouns related to these. The verb qāwâ conveys a sense of waiting with expectation.[8]

Get that? I suppose I knew that hope involves waiting, but had never put them together in such close proximity. Essentially, hope requires waiting! A hope that has been fulfilled no longer requires waiting for it to happen. Hope is made evident in the waiting—the two go hand-in-hand.

About this time in my research, I was beginning to ponder 1 Corinthians 13:13:

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Then I read this (bolded text mine):

Hope, it would seem, is a psychological necessity, if man is to envisage the future at all. Even if there are no rational grounds for it, man still continues to hope. Very naturally such hope, even when it appears to be justified, is transient and illusory; and it is remarkable how often it is qualified by poets and other writers by such epithets as ‘faint’, ‘trembling’, ‘feeble’, ‘desperate’, ‘phantom’. The Bible sometimes uses hope in the conventional sense. The ploughman, for example, should plough in hope (1 Cor. 9:10), for it is the hope of reward that sweetens labour. But for the most part the hope with which the Bible is concerned is something very different; and in comparison with it, other hope is scarcely recognized as hope. The majority of secular thinkers in the ancient world did not regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion; and Paul was giving an accurate description of pagans when he said they had no hope (Eph. 2:12; cf. 1 Thes. 4:13), the fundamental reason for this being that they were ‘without God’.

Where there is a belief in the living God, who acts and intervenes in human life and who can be trusted to implement his promises, hope in the specifically biblical sense becomes possible. Such hope is not a matter of temperament, nor is it conditioned by prevailing circumstances or any human possibilities. It does not depend upon what a man possesses, upon what he may be able to do for himself, nor upon what any other human being may do for him… Biblical hope is inseparable therefore from faith in God. Because of what God has done in the past, particularly in preparing for the coming of Christ, and because of what God has done and is now doing through Christ, the Christian dares to expect future blessings at present invisible (2 Cor. 1:10)… [therefore] it is not surprising that hope should so often be mentioned as a concomitant of faith…What is perhaps more remarkable is the frequent association of hope with love as well as with faith. This threefold combination of faith, hope and love is found in 1 Thes. 1:3; 5:8; Gal. 5:5–6; 1 Cor. 13:13; Heb. 6:10–12; 1 Pet. 1:21–22. By its connection with love, Christian hope is freed from all selfishness… Faith, hope and love are thus inseparable. Hope cannot exist apart from faith, and love cannot be exercised without hope. These three are the things that abide (1 Cor. 13:13) and together they comprise the Christian way of life.[9]

Looking back anew at my why-are-you-cast-down-O-my-soul complaint from yesterday in Psalm 42-43, and the first verse out of the box today in Psalm 33, the Lord tied it all together in Psalm 42:8:

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

It is His steadfast love that makes it possible for us to enter into faith, hope and love:, and my soul in alignment with my heart now sings the truth:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” [10]


[1] Ephesians 6:13

[2] Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5

[3] Job 10:18-19

[4] Psalm 10:1

[5] Psalm 13:1-2

[6] Lamentations 5:20

[7] 2 Peter 3:9

[8] Fenlason, A. C. (2014). Hope. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[9] Tasker, R. V. G. (1996). Hope. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 479–480). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Lamentations 3:21-24

Is All Hope Gone?

IMG_1526He’s up well before dawn, already glued to his display of computer monitors.  Hour after hour after hour, he watches; analyzing every dip or gain on his screens; debating with himself the best course of action; celebrating or mourning his bottom line.  His whole life depends on how well he can play the game—the new home, the Lexus in the driveway, the kids’ private schools—all potentially gone in an instant.  He recalls the stories his dad told him of Black Tuesday, that terrible day in 1929 when the stock market crashed and people were literally jumping out of windows to their death.  What if it happens again?  What if he loses everything?

She stares intently into the mirror.  Is that little line a new wrinkle?  Better make an appointment for some more Botox.  Sure is a good thing she’s got great hair—oh, but wait; is that a strand of gray?  Breakfast is on the run with the latest high nutrition/low-calorie energy drink in hand, and she’s off to the gym to run and climb and lift and push and pull.  By the time she’s finished, every muscle in her body will have had a workout, and every ounce of fat will have been burned away.  Her career depends on looking great, no matter how hard the advancing years are pressing in; and she so stressed out by it all that somewhere in the week she really must make some time to see her therapist.

And so goes life for many people; perhaps in ways not as obvious as the illustrations above, but still jam-packed with worry and stress about jobs, family, education, health, the economy, world affairs.  Gone are the legendary ‘good old days’ when life was beautiful all the time.  Hope has disappeared, and the future looks bleak.  Just turn on the news if you think otherwise.  Right?

Wrong!!!

Hopelessness, discouragement, depression, fear; all of them are nothing less than smokescreens designed to keep mankind from seeing the truth that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  God’s light, and His words of love prove it better than anything I could ever say…

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. Psalm 20:7-8

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. Psalm 16:8-9

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5