Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where is your hope?

Being very honest here, I have to say that in the past, HOPE has been one of my least favorite words.  Because of cancer, I was surrounded by hope, hope, hope.

And as someone who was terrified about what cancer meant to my future, every time I heard this word I would panic.  My reaction was not positive.  My response to the word was "yeah I HOPE I survive this."  I got cards in the mail that told me to HOPE in Christ and I just felt sick.  I was surrounded by pink ribbons and told HOPE for a Cure.  I didn't want to "just hope."  I WANTED reassurance!

 Some point in the last 18 months, I heard Beth Moore's definition of hope:
"the Greek word for hope is elpis, and it means the desire of good with the expectation of obtaining it." Isn't that a lovely word? Expectation? I fell in love with her definition...the 
expectation or the anticipation of obtaining your desire. Hope is expectation of your desire fulfilled. In my is survival.  Bethie changed my perspective that hope wasn't about "gee, maybe this will work." Hope isn't about maybe something will be good. It is not wishful thinking or positive visualization. It is to expect that God will answer and fulfill our desire. I still want reassurance, I still want to be healthy and know that I'm going to be here for my family. I am working on accepting all this. But I have the anticipation that God is working in me for my good. But the trust, the believing, or knowing that this battle is worth the pain...(or whatever it is you face) is a little slower for me to embrace. I still long for the assurance but I can now hear the word HOPE without wanting to hurt someone. I endeavor to accept the fullness of hope that whatever happens is to God's glory. I'm not there yet, but I'm closer than I was about 18/ 19 months ago.

But my heart is heavy today.  I have a dear friend who has shared with me that she feels hopeless.  In fact, because God has not improved her situation, she now questions whether God thinks so little of her that He has chosen her to be completely alone.  Chosen to be alone in her marriage, alone in her church and even alone within her family.  So if she is desperately crying out for Him to make Himself known and she is still alone, what is she to believe about Father God?  If she is still miserable and spiraling further out of control, how does she weigh what she has been taught against what she is experiencing?  If He doesn't change anything, then she feels she can only believe He is punishing her.

I certainly can go to that place with her.  I have had my share of uglies in my lifetime, and wondered where God was in the midst of my pain.  I watched friends who skated through what appeared to me to be "charmed" lives.  I never saw them struggle. I never saw them go hungry; I never saw them do without. I never heard them talk about abuse, sexual, emotional or physical.  I never saw trouble in their marriages, or saw their children in trouble.  I never saw them lose a child, I never saw them lose their home, I never saw them without transportation.  I never saw them jobless.   I never saw them say a final goodbye to a loved one.

These ugly occurrences happen to everyone at some point in their lives, whether I saw it or not.  But it's those people who suffer through several of these traumatic events who begin to ask "Where is God in this?"

I understand because I have sat in that hopeless pit myself.  I believed that God loved me, but because He created me, not because He wanted to.  It was one of those kinds of things like "you can choose your friends, but you are stuck with family."  When God looked at me, he was stuck with me.

At points in my life that I felt He should be intervening, nothing happened.    My friend feels like the Israelite in the desert with Moses when God told them because of their disobedience, they would not see the Promised Land.  She has lost hope of ever seeing her promised land.  She battles depression in silence, believing God has set her adrift in the wilderness.  Just like my friend, I began to believe that God was punishing me or at least not blessing me or giving me favor. But what I know now, is that these are lies from the lips of our spiritual enemy.

I know that she or I are not the only ones who felt we fell out of God's favor.  I grew up somehow with the image of God as a lightning brandishing, people destroying avenger. I was not taught that God wanted a relationship with me. I WAS taught that God loved us and He gave His son for our salvation. But I believed that He HAD to do that because He created us - thus He loved us.

Because of things that happened early in my life where God did not intervene, I started listening to the same lies as this dear broken hearted friend. I listened to lies that I was unlovable, repulsive and just too much for him to forget the ugly details of my life.
I have been a Christian since I was about 5 years old. But it wasn't until about 3 years ago that I started thinking that maybe God did love ME. My Pastor is all about being a Christ follower, not a "Christian".  Pastor Jason believes that Christian is just a religious preference, like Catholic or Christian. We strive to be Christ followers, working to walk in the Light as Christ. (Not being Christ of course but making a concentrated effort to follow his example and teaching.) I began to wonder if I had been wrong about my relationship with God.

The first thing I had to deal with was my idea of forgiveness. My old denomination used to talk about Judgment Day. We were told there would be a huge video screen showing our lives and all we had done wrong...a sort of "see how much I had to forgive?" kind of thing. I always felt that the idea of true forgiveness and this kind of "judgment day" wasn't compatible. How could God forgive and remember them no far as the east is from the west? And then turn around and reveal all our faults and sins before the world? 

In the summer of '09 during our Bible study of Esther and I have NO idea why it hit me during a study of Esther, I came to see MAYBE it was my old church that was wrong. Maybe God did remember them no more.  I grew up under the preaching of ONE minister until I was 15...all those formative years. It was a very legalistic church and I don't remember them being very loving either. So I considered MAYBE it was that pastor who had been teaching me a bad doctrine and that it wasn't God all along. 

It was during this time that I was in deep struggle with "if God loved me, why did he let all the ugly things just keep happening?" I had an epiphany, and had to consider that maybe God didn't just let them happen. Perhaps he could not overcome someone else's freedom of choice to do evil things. So God instead took those things to grow me into a more compassionate person, and create purpose for my good and the good of others.

I was doing dishes and pondering these things...was I wrong? Was I wrong about my concept of His forgiveness and His Salvation? I read how the BIBLE, which is GOD'S word says that He remembers them NO more...despite what I was taught in my early church years...

Isaiah 43:25 - 26
(the Lord speaking to Jacob)
 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence.

Psalms 103: 8 - 12
The Lord is compassionate and gracious; 
slow to anger, abounding in love.
 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve 
or repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love
 for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The Scriptures came singing through my mind while I stood there doing dishes. And then a Casting Crowns song came drifting over the radio waves and I knew. I knew God had heard me and was answering me.....

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

God is not punishing any of us, not me, not my dear friend and certainly not you. We are in a dark place where you cannot see Him. When you have sunk so low down into a pit all you can see is where you were, and where you want to go. You cannot see the Lord right next to you. You will NOT see what God is doing until you are out of this pit and He decides it's time to reveal to you. Even though Ugly things will happen through the efforts of the world, God will use those things to refine the gold within us.

For 40 something years, I thought God could not love ME. Our denomination believed in salvation through grace. But then they gave you a manual on how you KEEP your salvation. And I tried. I tried every way, with every ministry I could to keep earning my salvation.

Then two years ago I found out I had cancer.  One thing I grieved over was that I was too sick to DO any ministry at all. Some days I was too tired to even write an address on a card to mail. I laid in the recliner bemoaning that fact that I was doing nothing for God, that I couldn't show him that he did not waste his salvation on me.  I had no way to EARN my salvation.  No way to prove I was worthy of Him.

Then God started whispering to me. I love you Tina. I love you, Tina.  I love YOU, Tina. I love you TINA.  This gentle, reassuring Presence told me, "Even now, when you are too weak to even raise your voice...I love you. You are too weak to DO anything, trying to win my approval, STILL I delight in you.  There is nothing you can DO to earn my love and salvation because I already gave it to you. I just need YOU to finally accept this and believe me.


God did NOT give me cancer to teach me this lesson, 

but He certainly took the opportunity to drive it home to me. 

That is what cancer taught me.

God is not turning his back on us. The same liar that kept me in bondage for all those years is now coming after you. These things you think about yourself...about God...about people around you...these are all those same lies you are hearing. But remember who the source of the lies comes from. You are just in such a deep ugly, when the lies start to sound like truth. But STOP believing it.

My lovely friend, and beloved sisters, if you were with me, I would pour you a cuppa of hot lemon zinger and push sugar cookies toward you. I would let you talk and talk and talk until you were talked out. Then I would tell you again that God loves you even in the uglies.

Louie Giglio said in his video "Hope for when Life Hurts the Most" that the disciples did not understand the cross. They stood around looking at this man who was dead, the Messiah they did not believe COULD die. They asked WHY? Why him, why now when his ministry was just starting. They were defeated and afraid and alone.  They had no hope.

They did not know Easter was coming. 

They would not understand the significance of the cross until they experienced the Resurrection, when they were able to look back.    They could see how there was a plan all along. We all carry crosses like this. We don't understand until we can look back and then see God in it all.

If anything I have shared strikes a chord within you, if it resonates within your soul, find someone to talk to.   Whether you reach out to a professional CHRISTIAN counselor, a friend, a pastor… just reach OUT.  Get out of yourself.  Find a community of women that can edify you. Call around to different churches and find out if they have a women's Bible study you can join. Speak to a godly woman who can bring light into your darkness.  But don't let your anticipation and expectation of obtaining good be undermined by the lies.  Hope is fragile, but it grows when we nurture it.

Psalm 33:21-22

 For my heart rejoices in Him because I trust in His holy name.  May Your faithful love rest on me, Yahweh, for I put my hope in You.


  1. Bless you dear one for sharing your heart, your story, and your victory over the dark night of the soul! I have just come through a similar dark season, and I celebrate that God stays with us until we see His love and light...and when we do, it is even brighter than before we entered the dark tunnel of despair. Keep writing!

    1. Thank you Kathryn, some things are just more difficult to write but necessary to say. But being able to look back and see that was there the whole time is such a blessing of His faithfulness.

  2. Like you, I grew up in church, well that is where i spent a lot of my time because I think it was free babysitting (long story. God had plans for me though and He loved me when no one else in my life did; when I felt abandoned, alone, unfriended He was the one constant in my life. He is the one constant in my life and the one I cling to when times are difficult and for 35 years of my life, difficult would have been the title. But He was whispering all along that He loved me- I couldn't hear it because of the "difficult". And then, one day, He shouted it out so there was no mistaking it and i've not been the same since. Give a listen to Jason Gray's "Remind me who I am"- it's on youtube and it blows me away every time i hear it or see his video! and He does remind me who I am to Him- I am His beloved. God honors the cry of the heart and He hears you and your friend and the father of lies would have us believe otherwise but keep relying on fact and faith instead of fear and feelings. You are a beautiful testimony of how He uses each one of us where we are regardless of the challenges we are facing. And, Tina, He does love you very much!

    1. Nancy, that is one of our FAVORITE songs, and we are watching closely to see what other power message he brings. My husband and I have confused a few people in our congregation by hugging them and asking them to "tell me once again who I am?" Got some quizzical looks and confusion, but we explain and reinforce the message. His video makes me teary every time because I can relate to each person in it.

      I'm sorry for your difficult time, or "ugly" as I call it. I think I've learned so much through it. Psalm 18 was my Scripture for my ugly...until verse 19... "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." That word delighted MOVED me.

  3. Thank you for this. There is so much truth and beauty in what you wrote. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your heart and encouragement!

    1. Thank you Mandy for YOUR encouragement. When you make yourself vulnerable even to other believers, you kind of feel like you left home without your clothes on. I hit that publish button and felt naked to the world. So I appreciate you for reaffirming that God wanted me to hit that publish button and not just keep this to myself.

  4. A very heartfelt post! When we experience the "epiphany" that God really does love US! Love ME?! Yep, THAT is the ultimate confirmation of all hope! When I finally "got" that my life was never the same :0).

  5. Tina! Your "heart words" here are wonderful and so true! So much of your history is my history! I praise God that you and I have been set free from the bondage of legalism and the Holy Spirit has revealed the Truth of His unwavering love to our hearts! Oh what extravagant love He pours out upon His children and oh what joy it is when we know Him in such a deep way! Thank you dear sister for sharing! Your words are encouraging the hearts of many.....Bless you!

    Also, I have a wonderful bloggin' sister I think you would love. Her blog is soooo anointed and I've been blessed by her posts...she and I connected when we both started bloggin several years ago. She too had cancer a year or so ago and has shared her journey on her blog......Her blog is not entirely about her cancer journey but her anointed ponderings and teaching will bless your socks off! Her blog is and her name is Elaine Olsen. If you stop by her blog (and I hope you do :)), please tell her Jackie @ Fresh Oil Today! sent you over to meet her......Tina, you will love Elaine!

    Lastely, (I promise)....I want you to encourage you with something.....When we were doing the BW 31 day challenge, something you wrote in one of your stories was used by the Holy Spirit to inspire me to write a book someday! Yep! He used your words and kinda connected the dots and pointed me in the right direction to start taking steps of faith and step out and begin writing what He put in my heart! SOOOO.....don't ever believe the lie that others are more skilled than you! Sister, we are all in this together and no one has arrived (and I don't care how many followers they might have!..just saying!). When the Holy Spirit puts something on my heart to post about I release it (publish it) and leave the rest to Him. Yes, I believe He wants each of us to grow and become better writers, but I always remember that JUST ONE WORD SPOKEN FROM HIS HEART AND ARTICULATED THROUGH MY FINGERS CAN BE USED BY HIM NO MATTER HOW PROFICIENT (OR NOT) I AM! Hallelujah! If one heart is encouraged and drawn closer to Him that's what it's all about! You had no idea that a gal in AZ would read your BW story and the Holy Spirit use your words to spark the embers of a book He had placed within my heart!!!!!....BUT HE DID!!!!......God connection!!....God thang!! Whoo! Hoo! Thank you, Tina and YAY GOD!!!

    Sorry Tina....didn't mean to write you a post instead of a! :))))

    Have a wonderful weekend!