Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where is My Hope?

Over the last seven days, our family has been through a tragedy. One of our family members died unexpectedly. Like many friends and family, I find myself speechless, and a flood of emotions still overwhelm me: anger, shock, grief, loss, confusion…

Where is God in the midst of this?

Where is God in the midst of disappointment and storms and sickness and unwelcomed circumstances?

When I got the news, I was working on a sermon about hope, but now struggle to find what it really means.

So I run to the only place I know that makes any sense during these times – the Bible.  I have to turn to scripture, because it offers hope, even in desperate times.It’s powerful in that it is honest about our feelings and our circumstances.Specifically, the book of Lamentations has a lot to say about pain and suffering. This is a book about pain as the author vividly addresses the extremes of human pain and suffering as few other authors have done in history. It expresses the hard questions that arise during our times of pain.

Lamentations gives no easy answers to the difficult questions, but it helps us meet God in the midst of our suffering and teaches us the language of prayer. Instead of offering a set of techniques, easy answers, or inspiring slogans for facing pain and grief. Lamentations supplies us with a voice for working through grief and instruction on how and what to pray. It also provides for us a focal point on the faithfulness of God and the affirmation that He alone is our portion.

Before reading it, I would encourage you to examine its context. Read why this book was written. Understand the historical setting. When you do, you will see that the writer clearly understands what we are going through as it pertains to pain.

Lamentations 3:21-26 says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (NIV)

The Process of Restoring Hope:

Being a follower of Jesus, I have learned that no matter what we are going through, we are people of hope. Sin has robbed this world of hope, but Jesus has restored it.
Here are four things that I trust will help:

1. Remember:
“Yet this I call to mind.”  Literally says, “Make return to my heart.”
Even though everything around me lies in a heap, and countless lives have been lost … Even though everything I knew and loved has come crashing down, I have a hope.
Hebrew prayers had two consistent inclusions. The first is that they referred to God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The second consistent theme is a reminder that God delivered them from Egypt.

They were constantly reminded of who God is.
Fill in the blank, “God is my _______________”

2. Repent
Lamentations 3:39–42, “Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.”

To repent is to face your failure and allow God to cleanse you. This is the only path to forgiveness and freedom. The consequences of not repenting is continual struggle and guilt without the hope of healing.

3. Refocus
Psalms 42:5, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and My God.”
The battle is in the mind. You have to intentionally fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Don’t play for second place. Fix your eyes on what is most important.

4. Rejoice
Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalms 30:5, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

There is no greater need than hope and no greater opportunity than now. Some men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope. Our hope is not built on frivolous sayings and shallow experiences. It is built on the fact that Jesus died and rose again.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

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