In the morning

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

I Peter 1:3-9

Thursday morning, I wrote of being blue. I wrote of grieving. I shared a tiny glimpse into my last several months. I wrote of feeling directionless, passionless, at a loss.

I’ve identified with suffering in the last few months. I’ve experienced testing. It’s been a tough go.

Friday evening, after a draining day of grieving, I read Romans 15:13 “Now 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.”

I realized then that I couldn’t conjure up joy or peace or hope. But God is the God of hope. He is able to fill me with all joy and peace. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can not just experience hope, but abound in hope.

Saturday evening, I was reading Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler’s On Grief and Grieving. In a section on denial, the authors say: “There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” I laughed a bit as I read it, noting their mis-attribution. Nature has no role in this. But I can see the gracious providence of God as I’ve walked through some of the various stages of grieving. God has provided me with everything I need, and has apportioned the seasons of my grieving as He wills in order to accomplish His good purposes.

And then this morning, I was curling my hair and reading blogs when I came across the oddest Easter morning post. Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like wrote “You’re not naked.” He wrote of Adam and Eve sinning and hiding from God–and God’s question to them. “Who told you that you were naked?”

“There is hurt in God’s voice as He asks this question, but there is also a deep sadness, the sense of a father holding a daughter that has for the first time ever, wrapped herself in shame.

Who told you that you were not enough?
Who told you that I didn’t love you?
Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?
Who told you that you were ugly?
Who told you that your dream was foolish?
Who told you that you would never have a child?
Who told you that you would never be a father?
Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?
Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?
Who told you that you’ll never know love again?
Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?”

I saw the valley I’ve been walking through and it was as if I heard the voice of God: “Who told you that this valley would be forever?”

Acuff ended his post with these words:

“But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the question, “Who told you that you were naked?”

And He’s still asking us that question because we are not.

In Christ we are not worthless.
In Christ we are not hopeless.
In Christ we are not dumb or ugly or forgotten.
In Christ we are not naked.

Isaiah 61:10 it says: “For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”

The world may try to tell you a thousand different things today. You might close this post and hear a million declarations of what you are or who you’ll always be, but know this.

As unbelievable as it sounds and as much as I never expected to type this sentence on this blog:

You are not naked.”

The truth is, I am not without hope. This valley will not be forever. So I have had a glimpse of identifying with the death of Christ–but I have also and shall also identify with His resurrection.

Through His resurrection, I have been begotten again to a living hope–and when the trial is over, I shall praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Weeping may endure for a long night, but joy comes in the morning.

Thankful Thursday: Blue

Today I’m thankful…

…for the blue bike that I’m loving to ride

…for the blue sky that greeted me as I rode my way on to campus

…for the blue water bottle that keeps me hydrated as I fight against the wind

…for the blue backpack that enables me to tote all my books and papers about on my bicycle

Thankful Thursday banner

Today, I’m blue. And when I’m blue, I’m thankful…

…for my aunt, who can relate

…for my uncle, who reminded me that I am not without hope

“We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Grief is real and good and must not be glossed over. On the other (better) hand, there is joy in trusting in the Lord with all your heart and leaning not (at all) on your own understanding. I wonder to myself (truly, – not directed at you or anyone but myself) does God have contingency plans in case His plans don’t work out? My mind and especially my heart cannot conceive of it. — Peace”
-Uncle Nathan

…for my mom, who brought some clarity to my confusion and finally convinced me to look into some resources on grieving.

…for my dad, who tells me that God hasn’t given up on me, who asks me to consider whether my lack of interest in the jobs that have been coming across my desk might be God’s leading–that He’s holding me back from getting a job for a reason? (Dad said that while some people might experience God’s leading in a sudden interest or a kick in the pants, maybe this uncharacteristic lack of interest might be His leading for the generally go-gettum, make-things-happen me.)

…for God, who is ever-present, who is with me when I cry myself to sleep, who knows the heart I don’t know myself, who hears my every contradictory petition and works all things to accomplish His (good) will. I’m thankful that He hasn’t given up on me, that He hasn’t lost His plan for my life. I’m thankful that even when I don’t understand my own heart, my own emotions, my own will–God knows, and has a plan to work all things together for His glory and my greatest good.

Hope in God

For the past few months I’ve been contemplating the concept of hope. Hope is such an elusive thing to my mind. When I try to define hope, more than often I come up short. Hope is expectation, anticipation. Yes. That’s true; but that’s not definitive. Hope is believing, knowing and acting in accordance with that belief. Yes. That too is true, but more apt in describing faith than hope. But what then is hope?

If I were asked to describe my concept of hope as of right now, I would describe it in this way: In Luke 8:22-25, a great storm rises over the lake and the disciples wake a sleeping Jesus, saying, “Master, we are perishing.” Like men who had no hope, they panicked in the face of the storm. Jesus, on the other hand, personifies hope–as the storm passed, He was resting in the back of the boat, secure in the arms of Almighty God.

Hope is the faith that sits back and lets God do His work. It is the trust that rests in His arms when every earthly shelter fails. It is the faith that, rather than jumping to take on God’s tasks, stands back and lets Him complete it without our having to be in control. If faith is what enables us to step out when God says “Go” not knowing where our destination will be; then hope is what enables us to relax as we take the step, certain that whatever we may encounter on the journey, the end is beyond our wildest dreams.

Within the approximately 15 Greek and Hebrew words that are translated hope, three common threads can be discerned. The first element of hope is trust–the words betach, batach, bittachon, kesel, mibtach, chul, yachal, chasah, and elpis all carry this connotation. The second element of hope is anticipation–miqveh, seber, tocheleth, and tiqvah allude to this. The third element of hope is rest–displayed in the definitions of the words machseh and chasah (refuge), and in the definitions of seber, chul, yachal, sabar (meaning “to stay” or “to wait upon.”) These elements are never more clearly seen than in the Psalms, in which nearly a fifth contain hope and its corollaries as a major theme.

As I learn more about hope as God reveals it in His word, I pray that God would also teach me this hope–hope that trusts God completely, anticipating His goodness, resting in His mercy.

My Grace is Sufficient

The Scripture that never ceases to be on my mind: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

A test is coming up–“My grace is sufficient…for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I wonder whether that means I’ll fail in order to display my weakness, or pass in order to show God’s strength. I learn something I never wanted to know. Is it a test? Is it temptation? I want to know. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The problem with my questions is simple–Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” I cannot know the mind or purposes of God in the minute details I wish I knew. All I can know is the great mystery–God choosing to use my weakness to accomplish His glory.

I went on a whim to GreekSide last night. Chase Pettis said something that resonated with me. He mentioned the apparent contradiction in Psalm 43:3-5. The Psalmist starts off saying that God’s presence is his greatest delight–then turns around to say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Chase said he identified with this passage as being part of the human condition–knowledge reaching from head to heart. I identify too.

Too often, this is the story of my life. Even this morning, I struggle with the paradox. I know that God is perfecting His plan in my life–but I fear to step out in obedience. I know that God will never allow me a temptation I can’t andle–but I despair in my situations. I can feel so close to God, but still a part of me resists His dwelling place. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

Such an easy answer, yet so hard. Hope in God. Hope in God. What is hope? It is looking past the circumstances at the one great goal. It is seeing beyond the darkness and looking to the Light of the World. It is not giving in to despair, but seeing Christ as above all. Hope is recognizing who God is and placing your trust in Him.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?…Hope in God.”

Teach me to hope, moment by moment.