This one word for 2016 is changing my life. It really is.
The thing is, the enemy knows my word. And he keeps kicking it back to me, almost like a challenge.
Really? You still dare, huh? Have you seen your bank account? Have you checked your debt lately? How many job offers are there?
I’ll be honest. Sometimes I have to tell him to just shut the (insert choice expletive here) up already.
And if I’m really being honest, sometimes I just listen to the lies.
This dare to hope is a funny thing. Without hope, we are hopeless. Obviously. But with hope we have something to cling to. But just because we have hope, it doesn’t mean that life is a breeze. It doesn’t make hope easy. And if your hope is in the wrong place, hanging onto it doesn’t really help you at all.
How many times can I pray the same prayer? Ask the same things? Feel like I’m not hearing anything. Feeling stuck and not knowing what to do next. Feeling like I just want to throw in the towel, go back to Egypt, go back to what felt like slavery.
Because even though those days were hard, those days safe.
And now the days still feel hard, but unsafe.
I have to remind myself, that in my safety, I was unmoved. I was unchanged. Where was I exercising faith? Really, how was my life lived a representation of faith and hope?
I’m convinced you can’t just “have faith.” You can live faith. You can walk by faith. But you have to do something that shows faith. The steps might be small, the steps might seem meaningless. But to just say “I have faith,” is passive. Faith is active. Faith looks like something.
Sometimes I ask God, “Why did you put this call on my heart? Why does something as simple as the call of full-time motherhood present so many challenges? What are we missing? What else should we be doing? Where is the hope, God? How much longer can we do this?”
Just this week, those questions poured over me. It was one of those times where my eyes were not where they should be. Where I was caught up in my own selfish world of more questions than answers. When hope seemed so far away.
And then came the same message to me twice, both from different places. The word was to remember. One place this came was words from Bonnie’s blog in this post. She writes, “Listen as he whispers to you now, just like he did one night in the upper room, lifting a cup and broken pieces of bread: Remember me. Remember how far I’d go, just to be with you. Let go of whatever you’re holding onto. Let me hold onto you instead. I’ll love you to the very end. Today.”
And then from one of my pastors, Brian Connolly, in an email to the church. “Ask… and it will be given. Seek… and you will find. Knock… and it will be opened. Precious promises from the mouth of Jesus. And then there’s this:…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? This is what I’m asking for, more of the Holy Spirit. This is what I’m seeking, to know Him more. This is what I’m asking to be opened, the door to His presence. Cleave to these precious promises, guys. He who promises is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). Let your hunger for more drive you closer to His heart. Let your thirst for Him cause you to drink from the One who promises you living water. And as you taste and see how good God is, everything begins to change.”
I was standing in my kitchen, pondering the words I read, finishing clean up duties, and felt the tears just welling up in my eyes as I was praying. I felt at a loss for words. I literally just fell on my knees and cried. Right there in the middle of my kitchen. I didn’t even try to hide it. Tears were my prayer as I just didn’t really have words.
And I heard the gentle whisper, “Child, you’re still trying to do it on your own. When will you finally let me take this from you?”
You know, as much as I’ve learned and changed and walked and grown over the past few years, my hope still wavers. My hope that our circumstances will change. My hope that this season will end. My hope that all that has been lost will be restored. And even in writing out those things I’m hopeful for, I recognize that my hope cannot be in those things. My hope is in the One who called me to this place.
So I had to stop and remember. I read over my old journal notes from three years ago, when the calling on my heart to leave my job and be home with my littles was so overwhelming. When God was answering that cry by telling me to trust Him over and over. The message was being given to me in all kinds of different forms; from friends, from strangers, from a prophet visiting our church. People who knew me but didn’t know that I was struggling with this decision. I don’t know if any of you dear readers have ever felt you wrestled with God, but I can tell you that for me, this decision was a true wrestle. I’ve cried wrecking sobs from the depth of my being until I knew in my spirit what I had to do. I knew what God was telling me, but it took me three years of confirmation for my flesh to finally say yes. I promise one day I will write out all the details, but that time isn’t yet.
When we took this step of faith, to try to live off one incredibly minimal income, we hoped that a job would come soon. We hoped that we wouldn’t drain our savings, we hoped that we wouldn’t have credit card debt. Sure, we put our hope in the word I had received again and again, “trust in Me” but without realizing it, time and time again, I put my hope in the wrong things. People, circumstances, finances, jobs. I don’t think I even realized I was doing it. So when disappointment would come over and over, I would place blame on those things.
It’s only occurred to me recently, in moments like crying on my kitchen floor, in moments when the soft whispers come, that my hope truly hasn’t been where I’ve said it was.
In this journey, one of my greatest struggles has been knowing when to be still and wait, and when to take a step and move. It’s a delicate dance of not wanting to get in God’s way, but also knowing when we need to be doing something so He can move. Stepping out in faith and leaving my job was just the first step. An incredibly scary step. But that was just one of many that were to come. There are steps we’ve taken recently that I didn’t want to take. I felt like taking them was not demonstrating faith. That it showed I didn’t really trust God. When in fact, they are steps to show we do trust Him, because we’re willing to just go deeper than we thought we’d go. We’re willing to let the waves crash over us again and again. We’re willing to go where we don’t want to go. Why?
Because we are clinging to the hope and promises of God.
You know, for as many times as I’ve felt that I have surrendered, I’m learning that surrender is constant. It’s not a once and done thing. It’s laying it down at the feet of Jesus, day after day. And recognizing that my hope is in Him and Him alone. Not in circumstances or people or whatever in the world.
When I surrender my burdens to Him, hope rises. Because my hope is in the right place.
And so I dare to hope. I dare to hope not in the world, not in my circumstances changing, but in Him and His promises.
That He is greater than the one who is in the world.
That His love for me is far and wide and unfathomable.
That with Him, all things are possible.
That He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I think sometimes as believers, we tend to think that once God tells us to “go” or “move” or “trust” or whatever, that once we do that, the journey is over. We expect that He should move and act quickly. And when that doesn’t happen, we just give up and think we must have heard Him wrong. We’re not willing to stick with it and keep asking and seeking and knocking and believing in expectation for those promises. Guilty, friends. I’m not perfect. But I’m learning this and growing in this and writing it here to encourage you to not give up either.
I wrote this down years ago and don’t remember where I read it so I apologize to the author. These words were true for me then, and they are still true for me now. I’m glad I wrote them down because my hands are still open with the same question, “what now?” And I’ve opened and clenched my fists over the years, but reading the words again are a reminder to remember. To remember that my hope is in the promises of God.
What now? is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now? can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open, that we may well do more than anyone expected of us, that at every point in our development we are still striving to grow…One way to ask that question is with a frantic soul, a furrowed brow and two tightly clenched fists, ‘What now?!’ Admittedly, that is always a temptation for me. But there is another way to ask–same words, different posture. In the midst of waiting, of the wondering, of the time of transition, we can rehearse the things we know for sure. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Nothing can separate us from His love. We will never be alone. And so we ask with hopeful expectation, with open hands and a willingness to sit with our questions as we whisper these words before God. What now?
So I sit with open hands and dare to hope. Dare to repeat the promises of God until they are sealed in my heart. Dare to believe in the One who has my heart, who I will continue to seek and follow and love.
Dear reader, do you find that you are asking God this question? Let Him take it. Let your burden fall and let hope rise. Dare to hope. Dare to hope that He is who He says. Dare to hope that His promises are for you too. Sit before Him with open hands and let Him speak to your heart.