HOPE helps me COPE


hope-bWe have a granddaughter named Hope who is the manifestation of the HOPE that helped our son and daughter-in-law COPE during a difficult time. It was discovered that they were not able to get pregnant because Amy had a tumor on her pituitary glad that was preventing her body from functioning properly. Although they had to COPE with a time of delicate brain surgery etc., their unwavering HOPE in the Lord was rewarded with the birth of their daughter, Hope.

Before I continue to share my insights, I want to clarify some definitions. The Hebrew word “tavah” translated HOPE means “to wait for” or “to look hopefully” in a particular direction. HOPE is an expectation, something yearned for and eagerly anticipated. However, it is also something for which one must wait. The Greek word for HOPE is “elpis” and is defined as a confident expectation based on solid certainty. This type of HOPE is derived from God’s promises. The other word I want to explain is COPE that is defined as the ability to deal effectively with something difficult. Manage and survive as listed as synonyms. With biblical HOPE on my side, I desire to more than survive when I encounter difficult times in my life. HOPE helps me do more than just COPE! When I mention HOPE, I am not just thinking about something I am “wishing for,” but my HOPE is firmly rooted in the person, work and promises of Jesus Christ.

A question most of us ask at some point is, “Why does God allow me to be in situations where I find it difficult to COPE?” Romans 5:3-5 says, “we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Yes, there will be tribulations that I need to COPE with, but there will also be character traits formed within me during these times as the Holy Spirit builds HOPE within me

In the novel Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown, there is a character who says she refused to HOPE because she was afraid of being let down by others and/or by God. She refused to get her “hopes” up because she did not want to be disappointed. Her reasoning was that if she set her hopes low she would be pleasantly surprised if something good happened. She went on to suggest that her lack of HOPE might have been a way of her hardening her heart because she was resisting the love of God that has been generously poured out by the Holy Spirit. She emphasized that God’s love was poured out, not measured out by teaspoons. I like this as a description of the abundance of HOPE being poured into our lives to help us COPE. HOPE does not assure me of a specific outcome, but it does promise me God’s help to COPE. The writer of Romans 8:38-39 states, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is the kind of HOPE that makes it possible for me to COPE!

Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” I gained new insight regarding this verse when I recently read Frappe with Philippians by Sandra B Gleann. I do not have to wait for extreme persecution to share in Christ’s sufferings. In every trial I endure, I fellowship in His sufferings because He is with us throughout my struggles. Christ had to COPE with death upon the cross. And, He did this so that all of us now have the HOPE of resurrection power being released into our lives to help us get through our difficulties whether that may entail a strained relationship, a health diagnosis, a financial need or whatever. Each of us can articulate our own situation in which we need HOPE to COPE. I cling to the promise of Psalm 30:5 that says, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” The HOPE of joy in the morning helps me COPE with the night’s tears.

I encourage my readers to read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. I want to quote just a couple of verses. Daniel 3:23-25, But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire? They replied to the king, Certainly, O king. He said, Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods! This story helps me visualize that the Lord is with me in my fiery trials. His presence not only gives me HOPE but it also assures me of His presence to help me COPE. My Reader, the Lord is there for you as well as for me. Oh, the joy we can feel when we realize the truth of Romans 8:37, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We are more than conquerors! We have HOPE to help us COPE!

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Your Personal Puzzle

puzzle-1puzzle-3A good wintertime activity for families may be putting together a puzzle. For me, the first challenge is to find all the straight edges to make the frame. While working on a puzzle with others, differing opinions arise as to what color shading will go in a specific area. It all fits together for a fun, warm, indoor pastime when no one wants to go outside in the cold. However, do you ever think of your life as being a puzzle that God has planned for you to assemble? Let’s put together some puzzle possibilities today.

puzzle-2There are various options of how to consider your personal puzzle. You could think of each piece representing a year of your life creating one big picture. You might want to shrink your puzzle to symbolize one year of your life. Maybe you want to add one piece per week. Each piece will be uniquely shaped by the experiences you encounter. The length of time for a particular circumstance will alter the size of the piece while your attitude may influence the coloring. Your responses and responsibilities have an influence upon each puzzle piece. A good goal to consider when thinking about your part in your puzzle is found in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

puzzle-2When our family puts a jigsaw puzzle together, we keep the box with the picture of the final scene in view to give us a few clues as to what the final outcome will be. However, with the puzzle the Lord has for each one of us, only He knows what the outcome will be. He is the only one who sees the big picture. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.‘” Ephesians 1:11 tells us, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” These scriptures sound like the formations of a puzzle. II Timothy 2:19 states, “the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,.’” Personally, this verse suggests that the Lord has laid out the foundation or framework of my life, or the straight-edged pieces of my puzzle. He has my puzzle pieces designed to fit together for His purposes.

puzzle-2The Lord may choose the shape of my puzzle pieces but I have an influence upon the coloring of the pieces. If I joyfully accept a situation I encounter, the colors of that piece will be brighter while if I complain about it, the hues will be more muted. However, the nature of the experience I am facing will have some bearing upon the overall coloring. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” When I think about my supernatural puzzle, maybe I should say, “I can put all kinds of puzzle pieces together with Christ who gives me the strength to complete my life’s puzzle.”

puzzle-2In my mind I think of the supernatural puzzle being more of a mosaic while the natural puzzle being more of a physical depiction of a scene. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” It is reassuring to me that God is forming and conforming every event of my life into a puzzle piece that will ultimately fit together to present an image in the likeness of Jesus Christ. My life has the potential of becoming a magnificent mosaic! I desire for my  life’s puzzle to be created to glorify God and the beauty of His manifold perfections. When complete, there will be both vibrant and dark pieces in my puzzle, but each piece will be according to God’s design. There will ultimately be a bright and awesome radiance in the portrayal of my puzzle that reflects a visible manifestation of God’s perfect character. It is amazing for me comprehend that God is designing my life into a puzzle that will be preserved throughout eternity.

puzzle-2While the Lord has designed my life’s puzzle, I still have the responsibility to put the puzzle together. Some pieces will fit into their proper places easily with love and joy while other pieces may require more patience and self-control. Either way, the fruit of my labor will be more pieces to my personal puzzle. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” As I assemble the puzzle, I may try to jam some pieces together to get them to fit but it just will not work. There will be pieces that look similar but the Lord has specifically fashioned each piece to fit in only one place within the overall picture. I must not try to rearrange the order or location. Some pieces will simply be puzzling at a certain time. When that is the case, I should put the piece aside and wait for a better fit. I must “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” according to Proverbs 3:5. Just because one piece does not fit the first place I try does not mean that the piece does not have a place in the completed puzzle.

puzzle-2I like the quote, ““You can’t find peace until you find all of the pieces.” (I have heard this statement made by Troy Dunn on the television program The Locator. It is also the title of a book by Marie Maiden.) These words remind me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” True peace, which is the peace of God, transpires only when we find and accept all the pieces of our life’s puzzle. We may not understand the shape and color or the meaning and purpose of all of the pieces but God knows; and He will guard our hearts and minds in Christ while each piece of the puzzle is being placed in our lives. We have the assurance that the peace of God will come into our lives when we have put together all the pieces of our personal puzzles.

puzzle-2My Reader, how are the pieces of your life’s puzzle shaping up? Do you have some pieces that do not seem to fit properly? Jesus says in John 13:7, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Since your puzzle is not yet complete, you do not yet understand or see every piece fitting together perfectly but our gracious God knows the beauty of your completed puzzle. You have your own personal puzzle to assemble. It is a unique puzzle designed from all eternity by God just for you. Your puzzle is infallibly formed with every event of your life. When all your pieces are in place, you will experience true peace.

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Another viewpoint: Think about a bigger puzzle that the Lord is putting together. Consider each person God has created as being one piece of His perfect puzzle. You are one special piece of that puzzle! Without your piece, His puzzle cannot be complete.

My Impression of Depression

I am very fortunate to be able to say that I have only experienced one day of real depression. However, that was enough. The Lord never wastes anything, and that includes my day of depression so I want to put into words what I learned through that difficult day.

single flower 2hope deferred makes the heart sick
Proverbs 13:12 NIV

This is a Proverb I never really comprehended. My son-in-law not only shared this verse with me during my depressing day but he also shared a meaning that I could understand. Jamey explained that when something a person is hoping for and waiting for continues to be out of reach, one can become discouraged to the point of not being able to emotionally handle the situation. Like a carrot dangled in front of a horse, if hope continues to be delayed it can cause a person to become discouraged. That I could understand! I was waiting for healing from physical discomfort that was taking longer than I expected or wanted. So I discovered that it was not uncommon for me to feel discouraged emotionally since I was feeling uncomfortable physically.

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My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever
Psalm 73:26 NET

I was amazed to find this scripture that connected physical health and emotional health. I realized that if God correlates flesh and mind, or heart, then He knows I could struggle with both when I struggle in one of these areas. I did not like how I was feeling and acting during this emotional downtime, but it was comforting to hear that God understood how I was feeling. It is recorded in His Word that He was still with me and loved me even if I did not presently like myself. God knows we can struggle in both of these areas simultaneously and He offers a way for us to handle these times.

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father
will send in My name, He will teach you all things,
and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
John 14:26 NASB

When I was feeling depressed, I knew I was not thinking rationally, but I could not help myself. I needed a helper! The Holy Spirit became my helper teaching me through two specific words. The words were “release” and “diligence.” I asked my daughter what she did when she felt like she was in a hole and could not get out. Jill’s response was to remember that it is OK to admit that something is too much. If it was too much for me to have extra people around that day, it was OK. If I couldn’t make a decision at that moment, it was OK. I felt a release from heaviness when I realized I did not have to do more than what I felt like I was capable of doing at that time. I did not have to do what I thought I needed to do. Maybe I was expecting too much of myself both physically and emotionally. It was OK that I was saying, “I can’t to this – I’m tired of this!” The Holy Spirit always gives me power for what needs to be done. If I am not able to do something, then it probably does not need to be done. The Holy Spirit released me that day by reminding me of John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Diligence may appear to be the opposite of release, but this was not the case for me. Although I could not control when I would return to full physical health, there was something I could do to promote it. There were exercises I had been given to do for restoration of strength, however I was also told only to do them to the point of feeling pain. Was I being too cautious? It was hard to tell, but I decided to be more diligent with my exercising even if it meant doing fewer exercises at a time but doing them more frequently throughout the day. In addition to being diligent with my exercise regimen, I also needed to be diligent in not overdoing. I needed to be content resting and waiting until my body was ready to return to full activity. I was reassured by a quote by A. B. Simpson, “Often there is nothing as godly as inactivity on our part, or nothing as harmful as restless working for God has promised to work His sovereign will.” My outlook and my actions could help me overcome both physical and emotional difficulties. Galatians 6:9 encouraged me by the different wordings in two translations. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (ESV) and “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (NASB)

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But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with patience
Romans 8:25 ESV

My hope was renewed. I cannot say that I continued to wait for full restoration of physical health patiently but I was able to dig out of the day of depression. I was able to agree with David when he said in Psalm 38:15 ESV, “For you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” I was able to keep a better perspective of the whole situation and if I started to feel overwhelmed I would remind myself of “release” and “diligence.” Proverbs 4:23 NASB says, Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” So I try to fulfill this scripture. Then, Jeremiah 15:11 reminds me that “The Lord said, ‘Surely I will set you free for purposes of good…’” I think one of these good purposes is for me to be able to identity with others who may be struggling with depression and for me to encourage them at that time.

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There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:18 NIV

This scripture allows me to smile and move forward. I began sharing about hope deferred and I close with the promise that hope will not be taken away! This does not mean I will never feel hopeful, but it does assure me that my situation is not hopeless.

So, My Reader, if you are feeling a little down today, I pray that these words from my personal experience and from scripture may help you through your struggles. Your physical and emotional feelings are valid. I understand and the Lord understands.

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Help Wanted

the gospel commands us to give up and hang out a help-wanted sign
(this is the basic meaning of prayer)”
Desiring God by John Piper

While reading Desiring God by John Piper,  the above quote caught my attention. It has given me something to think about regarding my prayer life. The primary concept Piper develops is that God desires to help us more than He desires for us to help Him. “Let go and let God” is a quote worth remembering. God’s uniqueness is that He strives to be the Workman for us, not vice versa. I can hinder God from working out a situation according to His plans when I try to help Him by taking things into my own hands. I need to remember what Paul says in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God is the One who works, not me! My prayer life should look like a Help Wanted sign requesting the Lord’s help. Today I want to develop the idea of hanging out this kind of Help Wanted sign.

help-wanted-1My prayer is the Help Wanted sign that I post in the window of my life. God hears my prayer and sees my sign. He submits His resume’ in the form of the Bible that lists all the works He has done and reveals His qualifications according to the power and promises He is willing to use on my behalf. It is my choice whether or not I will allow Him to fulfill my plea for help. Using business terminology, will I hire Him to fill the position for which I have posted a Help Wanted sign? God is waiting to determine my sincerity of offering Him the job and to see if I will retain Him to complete the task. My prayer is my way of admitting that I am helpless unless I call upon His power for help. II Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” To quote the words of John Piper, “God is not looking for people to work for Him, so much as He is looking for people who will let Him work for them.”

help-wanted-5When I am on my knees praying, I sincerely ask the Lord for His help, but if He does not answer my request in the way I want and when I want, I may take matters into my own hands. In other words, I not only remove the help wanted sign but also fire the Lord from intervening on my behalf. It would be as if I asked the Lord to come work for me and then when He arrived, He found that there was no work for Him to do because I had chosen to go ahead and do the job myself. The Lord, will not do for me what I try to do by myself. John Piper points out that the ironic thing is that by not waiting for God, I forfeit the blessing of having God work for me. Isaiah 64:4 concludes by saying, “(God) acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

help-wanted-4John 14:26 NAS describes the Holy Spirit as the Helper. His name assures me of His Help. I need not question His qualifications for the position I extended to Him through prayer or His capability to complete the job in the best way possible. I want to embellish the scripture of Matthew 7:7 and say, “I will ask for help and it will be given to me; I will seek His help and I will find it; I will knock and the door will be opened for me to receive help. From one respect, I can say that I must always keep a Help Wanted sign in the window of my life because I will always require the Lord’s help. From another respect, I can say that I never need again hang a Help Wanted sign in the window of my life because I have hired the Lord for all eternity. I just must remember to allow Him to do His job. I have hired Him to be in charge of my life and I must allow Him to be the foreman of my life’s project. He knows best!

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