When Hope Seems Foolish

I wrote this post back in 2015, and although the news reports in 2018 are a little different, the need for hope remains the same.

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Hopelessness is sneaky. It erodes the hope I’m standing on, as I’m standing on it.

I feel hopeless when I watch the news. Seeing the waves of people fleeing the war in Syria, running from the unimaginable, toward the unknown. The anxious faces of children riding on the backs and shoulders of their fathers, uncles, and brothers. The fear on the adults’ faces as they are stopped by high fences and border patrols.

And the question rings out, mockingly, “Where is hope now?”

The situation is so dire that it seems foolish to even bring up the word hope. It makes more sense to let hope wash away into the darkness and allow hopelessness to take its place.

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Or so the darkness would like us to think.

The darkness does not fight fair. It hits us when we are tired, weak and worn. It whispers to our hearts, “You are just one person. How could you make a difference in this situation? There is no hope.”

But the darkness is wrong.

God has been fighting against the darkness for quite a while. He knows the darkness is convincing, so He sends out sparks of hope in the darkest of times.

He gave the first spark of hope in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve realized the cost of that one bite of fruit, when darkness gave a victorious cry believing it had ruined God’s beautiful plan for mankind. Even then in that moment, tucked in among the tragic, world-changing consequences, God gave Adam and Eve a spark of hope, the hint of a Savior who would defeat the darkness, in Genesis 3:15.

Jeremiah 32, describes another dark time for God’s people. The Babylonian army was outside the walls of Jerusalem, marching closer every day. Defeat was certain. And God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land.

It sounds foolish. But in a city about to be overtaken, for a people about to be carried off and scattered, in the darkest of times, God had a message of hope. He told Jeremiah to buy land and to put the deed into a clay jar because “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

So Jeremiah bought land.

This message did not erase the fall of the city, nor did it take away the violence of the invasion. but it provided a spark of hope. It sent a message that this was not the end, this was not the last chapter, and God would bring good again.

And now, all these years later, God still sends sparks of hope in the darkest of times. For the men, women and children looking for safety from a war-torn country, this is not the end. The story of their lives is still being written. This is a very dark chapter, to be sure.

The darkness would convince us that God does not see, or hear, or care because we can’t see Him working.  We can stand firm,  confident that He is. Or, in those moments when we do doubt, we can take this doubt to Him instead of blindly believing the lies of the darkness. We can cry out, even in the midst of darkness, for God to work in a mighty way.

This holds true for your life as well. As you walk through your days, do you feel doubt rise up and whisper “There is no hope?”

The darkness wants you to believe that you are without hope and powerless to change the situation. It wants to convince you that you are alone.

But the truth shines in the darkness: God is the God of hope.

And because of that, even in the darkness we can plant our feet firmly and cling to truth.  This is not the end. This is not the last chapter. God will work in this.

The darkness is as light to Him. He sees. He hears. He knows. And He will lead His people through sparks of hope.

When you find yourself surrounded by darkness, please remember

This is not the end. This is not the last chapter.

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And, my friend, you are not alone. Keep fighting for hope.

Overwhelm, Abundance, and Walmart

I give myself pep talks –  when I’m about to lose it on my kiddos, when I’m tackling a mountain of laundry, when I walk into Walmart two days before Christmas. Basically when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

The Walmart pep talk sounds like this: Ok, Erin. You can do this. Take deep breaths, stick to your list, and, please, let’s not end up on the evening news.

I have this fear that one day I am going to lose all composure and ability to filter my words and actions in Walmart.

Walmart is the perfect storm for overwhelm. There’s just so much going on. First, there’s the mental stress of remembering what I need to get. There’s a list on my phone, but there’s also a couple of other lists in my head that I’m working off of.  Then there are the shopping carts. Have you ever gotten rammed into from the back with one of those things? When my kids were little and just learning to “drive” they would accidentally hit the back of my feet. I’m still not sure what words came out of my mouth, but I’m pretty sure this will come up with their future therapists.

And then, there are  people, too many people, getting in the way of my ultimate objective: Get in, get out, go home.

When I focus on my objective, then I see people as exactly that – in the way.

During the craziness of the week before Christmas, I made out an extensive to-do list, because it was a week of all-things-extra. I was a bit overwhelmed when I looked at this list on Monday morning and saw the week looming before me.

So I gave myself a pep talk. Ok Erin, you can do this. Just get these done one at a time and you’ll make it through the day. Get in, get out, go home.  This pep talk would been fine if my list didn’t involve people. But it was filled with people. And that ‘s not the way I want to treat the people in my life.

I stopped and thought over the truths from the December series. Jesus is with us, so we are not alone. He gives us strength, so we are not powerless. He rescued us to live in freedom. And then this truth. He upholds the universe by the word of His power.

My pep talk changed dramatically.

I am loved by the God who upholds the universe by the word of His power. If this is true, surely I can ask Him for the energy to enjoy all this extra. Surely He can help me to be fully present in this crazy schedule.

My get in, get out, go home thinking comes from the belief that I don’t have enough in me to handle life. And that belief keeps me operating out of emotional poverty.

I want to operate out of the mindset of abundance. I want the truth that I am not alone to guide my actions. I want the truth that I am loved by God to form my words. I want the assurance that Jesus rescued me to be the fuel that gives my life lasting hope.

God can work through me. He is not limited. The compassion, love, patience, and forgiveness that He showers on me CAN flow through me into the lives of those around me. That’s life in abundance.

That abundance gives me the freedom to walk through Walmart, seeing people as real people instead of seeing them as in the way of my objective. When His compassion, love, patience, and forgiveness is what they see, there are opportunities for words of encouragement, for words of hope.

And I can still avoid ending up on the evening news.