Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Uncrushable Hope

Earlier in the semester my oldest son Noah and I had a little butting of the heads. He had been invited to a birthday party by one of his friends who wanted everyone to wear their favorite basketball jersey. Noah wanted to wear his upward uniform. Because his upward game was going to be that following Saturday morning, I told him he could wear the jersey, but the t-shirt and shorts he would have to save. Noah was crushed. He was so upset because the jersey was incomplete without the right shorts or shirt under it. He worked himself into such a fit I could barely talk to him. Finally I went to his bedroom and began pulling out other shorts he could wear under it. After a while, Noah began to realize that the clothes I was choosing for him worked just as well as what he wanted, and he would still be able to wear a fresh uniform the following day. He found an outfit he could be happy with and quickly regained his composure. After a little while had passed I knelt down to talk to him. As I pulled him close he began to go through an apology, because he thought he was getting scolded. Instead I said, “You don’t have to apologize. I just want you to know that you can trust me, that I love you, and that I am working things out for you in a way that will be good for you.”

Even as I was saying those words I knew they were Holy Spirit inspired God words. I believe these are the words that God speaks to every person He loves. Yep that would be everyone. Sometimes it is so hard in the middle of disappointment and heartache to hear them, just like it was hard for Noah to see that my plan for him was good, even if it looked different from his.

So many times I hear the stories of disappointment and despair from people who are heartbroken because life hasn’t turned out the way they wanted it to. My heart aches for them. I know deeply the pain of loss; I remember well the sting of my own dashed hopes. When I hear these life stories coming out of a place of complete brokenness and inabilitiy to comprehend, I feel the resonating anguish. The deep places within me recognize it and rush forth to meet the grief with empathy and compassion. But the deep places in me recognize something else that the person in pain is not quite ready to see. It is the promise of God’s love that meets the person where they are, gives them a new understanding of His love for them, and then blesses them with a new vision for themselves that is born out of His uncrushable hope. Ephesians 3:14-21 expresses it best:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom ever family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generation, forever and ever. Amen.

The one thing I have learned about God more than any other is that He is really into redemption. What that means is that He chooses the broken and desperate (even dead) places of our lives to be the birthplaces for His new life revealed in us. It is the message of the cross that He reinvents over and over again through our ordinary lives. He loves to see His resurrection power displayed in the exact spot of our hopeless despair and grim resignation. Often times we are too hurt to see past our own pain to understand the beautiful new thing He is bringing forth. That’s okay. He gets that about us. I believe it is why He gives us to one another. While you are in your grief and can’t see out of it, I can hold your hand and see God’s grace and mercy for you. When my head and heart are weighed down with burdens I can’t carry, you believe in God’s goodness and strength for me.

The gift of disappointment is that it helps us come to know our true identity. We are hurt and disappointed often because something or someone is removed from our lives that we didn’t think we could live without. We believe that without that something or someone we cannot be complete and worthwhile people. Yet when life removes something we believe gives us our value, we have the opportunity to learn that our value comes from Him, from being His child. We have worth because He made us, He loves us, and He is working out His purposes in our lives. When the crutch of that something or someone is gone, we learn to stand in God’s truth of us rather than remaining dependent upon an outside source to know our worth.

And let me just say, once we can stand tall in His love and value of us, He is ready to accomplish abundantly far more in and through our lives than all we can ask and imagine. The hope of resurrection ceases to be an abstract and distant historical happening and becomes to us the very power by which we live our lives. People see and take notice because God is released to do what on He can do: show off His glory!

What does this mean? It means that your heartache is not the end of the story. It means that there will be a day when you can look with joy upon your life, when your disappointment and grief are but a faint shadow. It means that there is coming a moment when you will know your labor and your tears have not been in vain. There will be a day when you will see with your own eyes His power accomplishing in your life far more than you ever thought to ask for or even imagine. You can trust Him to bring goodness to you. You can trust Him to redeem, make right, turn around, make beautiful every disappointment and despair that you offer into His hands.

I share these things as an encouragement, especially during this season of Lent. While you may be in a season of looking toward the cross, the one that Jesus died on as well as the cross of disappointment and heartache in your own life, remember that the end of the story has nothing to do with death and everything to do with resurrection. Jesus didn’t just tell His disciples beforehand that He would be delivered into the hands of His enemies and killed, but He also said that on the third day He would rise again. I am as confident that this as is true for Jesus showing up in your life story as it is for the one He lived here on earth. You are His. He loves you. He delights in You. And He is waiting for that day when He can resurrect the broken places of your life and show forth His power and glory through you to all the earth. Hear His sweet words spoken to your waiting heart: “I just want you to know that you can trust Me, that I love you, and that I am working things out for you in a way that will be good for you.”

This is me trusting,


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