Big Hope Days & Little Hope Days
Hope. Life is joyless without it.
But how do you get it? How do you maintain it?
Occasionally, a friend peels back the layers of her life and allows us to peek inside the inner workings of her heart. In doing so, she unearths a way of thinking, or doing, or living that allows us to see–really see--how to live with hope and joy.
My friend, Debbie, shared this kind of wisdom with me this week. Frankly, her insights on hope and joy are just too good to keep to myself, so I’m giving you a peek into our email trail–with her permission, of course.
Here’s the backdrop: Debby sent me a “thank you” email for teaching the Bible study, Discovering Joy in Philippians, noting how much the study has increased her joy and hope the midst of a year filled with difficult circumstances.
As you know, the word joy has always been a favorite and a focus for me. But this last year I have learned so much more about what it really means.
The amount of tough circumstances are too numerous to list. From deaths, to illnesses, to our crazy flood, to broken family situations, and just recently two of our closest friends having strokes…it has felt like a machine gun fire of fear, sadness and uncertainty.
But what is incredible (and I have tears streaming down my face as I write this) is I see that my God is a GOOD God even more than ever, and my JOY is becoming more and more complete.
I have come to feel that Joy is synonymous with Hope.
The deeper my Hope, the stronger my Joy; the deeper my Joy, the greater my Hope. Woohoo!!!
Debby’s email got me thinking.
How, specifically, did her joy and hope grow?
How did she maintain her belief that God is good, especially in the midst of circumstances that could easily sideline even the strongest Christian?
Whatever Debby was learning, whatever she was doing, or however she was thinking, I WANTED TO KNOW.
So I asked.
Here’s what she told me:
A.) What has helped me see that God is a good God even through all the difficult circumstances?
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “When you seek me you will find me when you search for me with all your heart.” I love this verse. I think one of the ways I can see that God is a good God is by actually looking for evidence of Him in all circumstances. When you look for His hand in something, or His mercy in situations, you are more likely to find it.
If you look for God’s goodness in a circumstance you can find it.
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I noticed very obviously this year that although He may not have stopped a circumstance from happening, He was gracious enough to pour out His mercy in sweet and tender ways in every situation. I know it’s His way of saying, “I am here, I am with you, and I will stay right by your side”. Just like a good friend.
Even in the most difficult of circumstances I could find something good that pointed to His love and His compassion.
B.) How has God developed Hope in me?
The previous question involves a choice to look with expectation. This question involves a choice to live with expectation.
I made a decision long long ago; long before I had MS, but after I had gone through horrific personal situations, that I had only a few ways of living my life:
1. Living in a dark place. Letting the enemy win and keep me in bondage to my past and pain.
2. Living in a numb condition. Not really feeling anything and not really living.
3. Living with Hope every day. Believing that God was with me, that He would be faithful to me, and that even in pain He would not forsake me. Accepting that there are some “Little Hope” days and some “Great Big Hope Days”, and being okay with that.
And choosing to believe that He would keep his promise to me that the “Joy of the Lord would be my strength.”
So I choose number 3 everyday.
And I have never regretted it once.
Again, with both of these questions, it involves choice. I know that I don’t want to live in a #1 or #2 place. That is not living, and I didn’t like myself when I lived there.
I would rather daily have to deal with pain and suffering with a heart filled with Hope, eyes that see God’s Mercy and Goodness in the most difficult situation, and a Savior who’s my best friend, who holds my hand every day through every step.
He never wastes my pain, but uses it for my good, for the good of others who I can empathize with and encourage, and ultimately, for His glory.
My friend, Debby, is one wise woman (and now, she’s your friend, too!)
When life is tough, we only have three ways of living.
We can live in darkness. We can live in numbness. Or we can choose to see things a little differently, by looking for the myriad of small blessings God showers on our path–even in the midst of pain.
Still, even when we choose to live in hopeful expectation, some days will be “Little Hope Days”, while some days will be “Big Hope Days”. And that’s OK.
But if we choose to live with eyes wide open, in expectation of seeing God’s goodness, and we’ll seldom experience “No Hope Days”.
Here are a few practical ways we can find and maintain hope and joy:
- Ask God to make you more attune to the little ways He’s working or little blessings He’s giving.
- When you become aware of some small (or big!) way God has shown up, write it down and/or share it with a friend or family member. The act of writing it or talking about it will infuse you with more hope and joy.
- End your day with a “thank you” prayer to God, thanking Him for specific ways He watched over you, guided you, protected you, used you, or blessed you.
Lord God, Open our eyes to see Your goodness in our lives. You, Lord, are as near as our next breath. Signs of Your love and tender care are all around us, if we look. Help us be grateful for Big Hope Days, and persevering in Little Hope Days. Help us remember that “those who seek You, find You, if they search with all their hearts.” Amen.
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