tapping into hope

“The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’” Lamentations 3:24 (NKJV)

A town of about 600 people in Morocco was recently reported as not having water for three months during the summer.  A three month dry spell with no running water is a long time.  It’d be really easy and tempting to just shut the tap off and be done with it, but if you choose to live expectantly then the only logical thing to do is leave the tap open because today might be the day that the water once again flows.   And when it does you want to be ready to capture every sweet drop because there’s no guarantee as to how long it will flow for these people.  It could be on from here on out, but it could be just a momentary surge lasting only a few hours.  Regardless of how long the water flows how terrible would it be if you were to find out later in the day from your neighbor that the water had indeed come on, but just for the morning, so you missed out on this opportunity because your tap was purposefully turned off?  No, this is so important that you need to experience it first hand for yourself.  You don’t need to be found waiting to be told the good news too late to do you any good by your neighbor. Your neighbor, by the way, didn’t tell you sooner because she was busy in her own house filling as many containers with water as she could at the time leaving you with that woulda, coulda, shoulda sinking feeling.  “Gee, it was so dry before, but now somehow it really feels even more dry,” you say to yourself as your neighbor heads back to her own house for a cool drink.

When times get hard or tough it’s easy to fall into the spiritual trap of pulling back, of giving up.  While it’s true you managed to keep your spirits up for a few weeks by remaining faithful with your devotional and prayer time, as the “dryness” of your seemingly unanswered prayers continued on day after day you gradually spent less and less time alone with the Lord, until one day you threw your arms up in the air in “what does it matter?” futility, turned the “tap” off, and walked away.  Maybe you didn’t walk permanently away for good, but the wonderful times of closeness you used to feel when you were with Him just didn’t have that same intimacy that they once did.  So now your time spent with Him is much more like a quick 5 minute hit.  You hurriedly walk up to the faucet, give it a quick flick of your wrist, nothing comes out, so you turn it “off” just as quickly as you turned it “on” all the while muttering to yourself,  “Why did I even bother? I knew nothing was going to come out.” And so you continue on with your day with an ever growing sense of hopelessness.  The very thought of leaving the faucet open all of the time as some of your friends have suggested is simply more than you can bear.  “Why that sort of expectation encouraging me to wait on Him is only setting me up for even more heartbreak,” you say to yourself as you kick the rock on your sidewalk off into the street.  “Besides, they don’t have a clue at all about  what I’m dealing with over here.”  Before you know it you’re spending less and less time with those friends who used to be so close to you.  In his book, “The Making of a Man of God, Alan Redpath says, The burden presses you down to the point where you have begun to doubt God, and even to doubt your friends.  The one always follows the other; when a man begins to loosen his hold upon the promises of God he begins to lose his contact with spiritual friendships.  A chill in our relationship with heaven is always followed by a chill in our relationships down here.  Oh, how readily the sheer pressure of some situation that is absolutely overwhelming throws us completely off balance, until we learn the lesson that God has for us right in the middle of it.”

In our season of dryness, of difficult circumstances, and as believers we all experience them, what lesson is the Lord trying to teach us? Or is the pain of your circumstances so great you prefer Him not to even be present?  If so, essentially you’ve turned the tap completely off.  Unless you invite and embrace the Lord’s active presence into your life regardless of your circumstances you are left to fight a battle you cannot win in your own strength.  Surely there must be a reason, His reason, for this drought in your life, right?  Life quickly becomes meaningless especially in bad or difficult times when viewed from only our own limited perspective.  Such a perspective can find no reason for suffering whatsoever leading one into despair and hopelessness.  One must believe God has a reason for this dry time of trial in your life, otherwise what is one to do?  Where can hope be found apart from Him?  Hope leaves the tap open no matter the circumstances.  It has to, it has no other choice.  Circumstances in our lives that put our hearts right up against the choice to leave the tap open or leave it closed are defining moments in our faith journey.  It’s as if God is saying to us, “You say you trust Me, but do you really?  In the face of trials do you really believe I am good and always have your best interest at heart?”  The faith rubber hits the road like a jet airliner’s tires give up that tell-tale puff of smoke once they touch the tarmac during landing in trying times.  He’s asking if we will embrace His rightful place as our Heavenly Father and give Him the reins to our lives so that He can accomplish His good and perfect will in our lives for His purposes as found in Isaiah 61:3 (ESV), “to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Surely you didn’t think becoming an oak of righteousness would be an easy journey did you?  A heart after His own heart does not, and cannot, magically happen overnight with the wave of some magic wand.  It is a road that calls for perseverance.  It is a road that calls for us to leave the tap open.  Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV), “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance,; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Why do we face various trials?  What is the purpose?  Is there a purpose? His desire is that we become like His Son, our Savior, as found in Romans 8:29 (NKJV) which says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  Knowing this should our expectations for this sort of life journey to such a glorious destination be much different than Jesus’ own path that He walked while here on this earth?  Praise God Jesus embraced His purpose and left the tap open all the way to the cross!  He placed Himself second to the Father.  And so must we.

Redpath goes on to say that each of us as His children have a “stone of destiny in every circumstance of life.”  He bases this on the story found in 1 Samuel 20 concerning how Jonathan would let David know of Saul’s intentions toward him, whether of peace, or death.  As the story goes once Jonathan determined Saul’s intentions toward David he would shoot arrows into the field in which David was hiding.  If the arrows came close to David then it was safe for him to come home, but if the arrows were to fly over his head then he must leave in order to live.  As they had planned David hid next to his own stone of destiny known as Ezel (I Samuel 20:19; “the stone that sheweth the way” AV) and upon seeing Jonathan’s arrows fly over his head David knew he could not return home but must leave immediately.  Redpath describes the situation like this, The decision, however, was out of David’s hands completely.  All he had to do was to stand by the stone Ezel and wait for an arrow from heaven unerringly to hit the target-an arrow that would tell him either to go out into the wilderness or back into the palace of Saul.” (emphasis mine)  Are you able or willing to keep the tap open by recognizing at some point in your circumstances that the decision is out of your hands and solely in the Lord’s?  Or as summarized by Redpath, “If I truly belong to Him, if He has filled me with His Spirit and marked me as His, then whatever the pressure upon my life at this point, the issue is out of my hands altogether.”

Please allow me to once again to quote Redpath as this particular writing comes to a closeI think what he says is beautiful and rather than attempting to paraphrase his words, I simply choose to let his heart speak directly to our hearts. “Jesus Christ is our stone of destiny, rooted in a green hill outside Jerusalem.  The burden of the pressure of circumstances, whatever it is, may be rolled away as you bring it and leave it at His feet.  What else can you do?  You are in a predicament, unable to turn this way or that.  It is a glorious position to be in: the government is upon His shoulder and your hands are right off the situation; only He can guide.  All you can do is what David did, as he took his stand at his stone of destiny and waited.

It is a great thing to be in a position like that, when all you can do is to take your stand at Calvary, and wait.  There are so many paths, and naturally some would seem far more attractive than others.  Left to choose our way, what fools we make of ourselves!  There may be many alternatives that seem, humanly speaking, more reasonable and attractive than God’s way.  But there is only one way that leads to the throne, and that is God’s plan for your life and mine.”

We’re all familiar with that television commercial from a few years ago that used to end with “We’ll leave the light on for you.”  My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we struggle to find our way through various trials let’s determine right here and right now that we will choose to leave the tap wide open and not closed because He is indeed worthy and good, and yes, He always has our best interest at heart.  Yes, it’s a risk to our hearts, but consider, if you will, the risk He first took that day on Calvary for each of our own eternal sakes.  He held nothing back…He’s asking us to do the same.  You know it as well as I do, my friend…He would’ve died for you and you alone even if no one else would’ve chosen Him generation after generation after generation.  You are His.  He is yours.  Tap into His heart for it is good beyond measure.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

meanwhile, behind the seens

Isn’t it funny how sometimes the Lord moves excruciatingly slow from our perspective, but then…

by J Perey

mole cross 2-crop edit

“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”  Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.”  Isaiah 64:4 (NKJV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
  and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord  your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Not long ago I was in a very lonely place of discouragement.   It’s easy to find yourself in just such a spot when you find yourself in your 60’s and unexpectedly no longer employed by the company you successfully worked at for almost 20 years.  One afternoon weeks after the layoff in an effort to find some relief from the downheartedness I was feeling I reached out to some people I hoped might provide me with some encouragement.   I thought that perhaps “this time” when I reached out to them it would not be like all of the other times I’d made myself vulnerable to them.  Those times always seemed to result in me finding myself saddled with the additional weight of their judgmental and discouraging attitude.  Sadly, and predictably,  this attempt at finding relief and freedom from my heaviness was no different than all the other times and resulted in my feeling even more captive and oppressed than before the conversation began.   “What was I thinking?  What in the world made me think that this time it would be different than all the previous other times?” I said to myself as I blindly stared at the floor in front of me as soon as the conversation ended.  Yet, sadly, I must admit I do.  I went to bed feeling even more beat up than I had before the phone call.  So, as I lay there enveloped in the arms of the dark’s stillness and silence I turned to the One who is always there, the One who has never failed me, the One who truly understands and loves me.  As I lay there in bed with a downcast heart that night I asked the Lord for His encouragement before finally falling asleep.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes the Lord moves excruciatingly slow from our perspective, but then there are other times He moves with such quickness and in such a way that your jaw spontaneously drops wide open all the while leaving you speechless?  I can’t help but laugh at how wonderfully ironic it is that He would playfully use something we all consider so slow moving to answer the nighttime cries of His child’s wounded heart so quickly.  Friends, let me pause here for just a moment before continuing on with this story, and encourage you to truly embrace and rejoice in our Lord’s creative genius that knows no equal who also just happens to possess an equally arresting and absolutely delightful sense of humor with an uncanny sense of comedic timing that translates into an unmatched manner of teaching girded by the tender and gentle rock of His love.  He is the multi-faceted teacher’s teacher and so much more…He is our Father!  The very next morning I was invited into His classroom, no, His living room, to receive just such a immensely kind, generous, personal gift that completely lifted the fog of discouragement that had surrounded me.  He spoke life into me.

The “backstory” leading up to this particular moment of enlightenment is like so many of these in my life.  I’d been drawn for some time to the mole burrows that were being added to my yard on an almost daily basis.  Fascinated by the ever expanding and unpredictable rows of bumps, and zany zigs and zags I tried for several weeks to take a meaningful or interesting picture of them, but could never come up with a photo of any sort of substance thanks to the sheer randomness of the burrowing.  I tried all the various ways of taking a photo from different angles with no success at all.  Click…delete. Click…delete.  Click delete.  Yet, still I was drawn to the mole’s handiwork and would always do a visual survey of his nighttime activity the next morning.  This unrewarding photographic pursuit continued all the way up to the night marking the height, or perhaps better yet expressed as depth, of my discouragement topped off by that painful sharp knife of a phone call.   And yes, by this time it’s obvious I had coincidentally pretty much given up any hope of my making anything photographically worthwhile happening.  That pursuit was pretty much shaping up to be a dead end to my way of thinking.  But then…the sun rose again the very next morning just like it’s supposed to and as I opened up the blinds on the back door just like I always do I was greeted by an amazing sight that needed no special perspective to see or understand or feel.  The personal hopelessness I was experiencing personified by the mole’s random burrowing that had perplexed, confounded, and held me captive for weeks was now instantly gone replaced by a glorious message of renewed hope as I stood there speechless gazing at the rugged shape of what was obviously a cross to me.

Moles work tirelessly overnight doing exactly what God has called and created them to do.  Evidence of their work done while we sleep only becomes visible at daybreak.  Let’s face it, moles are painfully slow going about their seemingly random business from our perspective.  After all, moles work in the dark and are well known for having incredibly poor eyesight.  Consider for a moment, though, our perspective of God’s presence in our own lives through this same lens.  Do we not often perceive God’s active involvement in our lives in similar largely blind, impatient fashion?  How easily we can become discouraged thinking He has left us to fend for ourselves because we can’t see His hand moving on our behalf at any given moment.  But then “suddenly” God moves, and  what was once seen as random unrelated events in our lives, exemplified by the mole’s seemingly aimless tunneling that typically wanders about without an obvious purpose, takes on a whole new meaning once illuminated by His light of day.  At that moment we are graciously granted an eternal perspective, His perspective.  Consider that our Heavenly Father is always engaged in our lives regardless as to whether we can see or understand it or not at any particular point in time.  Just because we don’t or can’t “see” evidence of Him working on our behalf at that exact moment doesn’t mean He’s not there for us.  So many times it is not until His handiwork is illuminated the “next day” that we are finally able to see that, yes, He has been striving on our behalf “underground” behind the scenes.  Ah yes, then comes the wonderful morning light of our understanding that boldly proclaims and reveals to us that, indeed, He has most assuredly been beside us all along and that we have never been alone.   As His children we must rest and trust that He is constantly working in our lives behind what is readily seen with the cross of His Son, our precious Savior, in mind whether we realize it or not at the time.  Believe and trust Him to act on your behalf for your good even if you feel abandoned and alone and can’t “see” Him at work.  By faith have you thanked and praised Him for always being there for you regardless of your circumstances at the moment?  Ask Him to open your eyes, mind, and heart to His active presence in your life, and thank Him for all the many, creative and loving ways He communicates to you of His presence that sweetly whispers, “Yes, I Am is right here with you, my precious little child! I Am is trustworthy! Do not be afraid. You have not been forgotten for you are greatly loved such that with an everlasting love and an unfailing kindness have I drawn you to Me!”

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8 (NKJV)

“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)