Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holding on to Hope

When we are walking through trials and difficulties, to trust is challenging, but to hope seems almost too risky.

I sat with a friend today, our feet soaking in a pedicure tub; her gift to me, along with a little statue of a child holding on to a balloon with the word "hope" in it. We talked about the ups and downs of life, catching up on different things. We have some special things in common, one being that we both lived in and love Nashville, Tennessee, and the other that we both have sons' with special needs.

We talked about hope and how hard it is to do so, when life is full of pain and uncertainty. She made a great point: hope is hard, because it means that we have to take a risk. The risk is that if we hope, and it does not work out like we would want, then we have to deal with disappointment. Hope feels costly.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

When I read Jeremiah 29:11, I think of picture frames rimmed with these words, given as graduation gifts, referring to the future of the graduate, as they excitedly look towards their new life.

But actually, the Lord spoke it to His people, the Israelites, when they were in captivity in Babylon, not when all looked hopeful and exciting. This was not a time of great celebration. They were struggling in a foreign land. They were in exile. But God reassured them that He was in control, and that he had good things for them.

And what about us? Our captivity may be an illness, or a grief, or loneliness. Perhaps it is a difficult relationship or situation in which we feel trapped and unable to escape.

It is here that God gives us hope. Not the hope that produces disappointment, but a hope for a deep relationship with Him and for a beautiful future that He has planned out for us, beyond anything that we can imagine. God has plans to prosper us, not to harm us, and plans for a future in the midst of the exile or captivity that we may be experiencing.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering, "Does God really have something good for me?" "Is all this pain and struggle really going to go away?" "Is this really for my good, Lord?" And yet, as I write this, I remember how God has been faithful to me in the past, and even though it is challenging for me to have hope, I am trying to believe that He does have a meaningful future for me. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I do know that as I walk with God, He continues to show Himself trustworthy and true.

As you read the verse, again, insert your name after each "you" -- and let it settle upon your heart, to encourage you and strengthen you as you take each step on the path that He is asking you to walk.

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