My One Word: Hope Leads to Gratitude

Gratitude

A new word for a new year. A word I knew—last September—would be my focus for 2018.

Last year, my One Word was hope. Holding on to hope carried me through a difficult period. Hope held fear at bay when hubby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hope carried me—and us—through months of chemotherapy and radiation and more chemotherapy. And hope strengthened us as we sat with the doctor to hear his prognosis at the completion of the treatment protocol.

My One Word for 2018 is gratitude. I became convinced of it after Hurricane Irma and before we learned the results of my husband’s last PET scan. Regardless of the test results, I knew my One Word for the new year had to be gratitude.

Here’s why…

I’m learning a thankful perspective has nothing to do with whether I get what I want. What I’m wishing for. What I’m hoping and praying for. A thankful perspective has everything to do with what I already have.

Someone once asked me, “If God never answered another prayer with ‘yes,’ would you still be grateful?” Still love Him? Still serve Him?

If He never again provided physical healing.

Or financial provision.

Or restored another broken relationship.

What if He never again answered yes?

Would that be my cue to say no to Him? To tell Him I won’t follow Him if He doesn’t give me what I want? That I won’t live for Him if He doesn’t provide what I think I need?

Or will I say yes, regardless of the number of times He says no?

Will I say thank You, even when my heart is aching…or breaking?

As we waited for my husband’s PET scan results this past October, I knew I had to make a decision. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Because whatever happens, this life is temporary. It’s a stopover—a glorified bus station—on the way to my eternal destination.

That’s the real reason I choose to be grateful. Because the most important thing God ever did for me—the one thing that outshines all else—is that I’ve been given the gift of eternal life. Nothing else I could ask for could ever compare. And added to my joy is that I know my husband has that same assurance.

The PET scan results would test my resolve. What if the cancer still hid in hubby’s body?

The news was good—the cancer appeared to be gone. And we are grateful.

Still, there will be more hurricanes. And more PET scans. And the results won’t always be what I want. But for this new year, gratitude follows hope. I choose to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. To focus on what I’ve been given, even temporarily, rather than what I don’t have.

I choose to focus on gratitude in difficult circumstances, knowing the Lord will work in me and through me by His Holy Spirit, regardless of my situation. Because one thing will never change…I belong to the God of the universe, the One who calls me His child because of His Son, Jesus.

And that alone is reason enough to always be grateful.

Have you selected your One Word for 2018? Leave a comment to share it!


Two Types of Hope – Which One Is Yours?

Hope

If there’s one thing in short supply these days, it’s hope. Politicians promise, but fail to deliver on their promises. Family members make commitments, but disappoint us. Terrorists strike with seeming impunity. Jobs are scarce, money is tight, and the more we wish for positive change, the less probable it appears to be. Good things seem more and more like a function of luck than anything else.

Sort of like what the nation of Israel must have been feeling 2,000 years ago. The glory days of King David and King Solomon had passed 1,000 years earlier. The Israelites – God’s chosen people – didn’t feel very special anymore. They lived as a conquered people for more than 700 years, first under the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Medes-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans. Four hundred years had passed since any prophet spoke the words, “Thus says the Lord.” The peoples’ hope had been sapped, little by little and year by year.

Still, Israel hoped for freedom from their oppressors. They hoped to hear from their God once again. Yet when God did speak, most of them did not recognize his voice. When God sent them the Savior they needed, they were too busy looking for the military leader they wanted.

Fast-forward 2,000 years. Some of us are holding on by our fingernails, clinging to hope because there’s nothing else to cling to. And along comes the Christmas season. Four weeks of stress added to already stressful lives. Decorate, write cards (personalized), cook (like the banquets pictured in the magazines), bake (perfectly shaped cut-out cookies), wrap presents (with color-coordinated bows)…and for what?

The “for what” is Emmanuel – God with us. Christmas is coming, a day when we celebrate the birth of the One who has saved us from sin and from ourselves. A day when God became man.

Jesus came to earth the first time in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. His coming proved that hope in God’s Word was not misplaced. His first coming proves something else. It proves that when God’s Word speaks of His second coming, we can rely on this yet-to-happen event as much as if it has already occurred. It’s not a question of if it will happen, just when it will happen.

That’s biblical hope – so different from how we usually use the word hope today. Today we say things such has, “I hope it won’t rain,” but we have no idea whether it will or it won’t. Biblical hope is a certain anticipation, a knowledge that the only uncertainty is in the timing, not in the promise. God leaves nothing to chance.

It’s the hope Israel had 2,000 years ago as they waited for the Messiah to come. It’s the hope we have today as we wait for the Messiah – our Savior – to come again.

As we wrap the presents (or not), and bake the cookies (or not), let’s rejoice that the hope for a coming Savior is already fulfilled. And He’ll be back – because He promised. That’s a hope you can count on!

How has hope encouraged you this year?


Waiting in Hope…Even If

Waiting in Hope

Are you in God’s waiting room? Have you been praying for something, on hold for an answer, hoping for your circumstances to change?

I confess, waiting is not my favorite activity. And right now, I’m waiting for something especially critical…test results of a loved one’s cancer scan.

During this time of uncertainty, I started to wonder…is there a proper way for Christians to wait? Should we be doing something while we wait, or is waiting, well, just waiting?

For the Christian, waiting is not a passive experience. Even though this may sound contradictory, waiting is active.

Here are four things the Bible tells us to do while we wait on the Lord:

Do it with courage

Waiting takes courage. As Christians, we don’t cower in fear over what may happen. The future may be uncertain, but we belong to the One who not only knows the future, He holds it in the palm of His hand! David phrased it this way in Psalm 27:14 (ESV):

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

 

Stay in His Word

During times of waiting, we can be bombarded with advice that may sound good. It may even be what we want to hear. But if we’re not careful, we can be influenced by well-meaning advice that is not consistent with God’s Word. Use this time to soak in what God has said, both to be encouraged and to be prepared for whatever answer the Lord brings. As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 130:5-6 (ESV):

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

 

Wait in Silence

This one can be difficult for me. During our times of waiting, it’s easy for us to make our request the topic of conversation in every conversation! We whine about our pain, complain about the injustice, and throw ourselves pity parties. However, King David reminds us in Psalm 62:5 (ESV):

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our concern and ask for prayer. But it does mean that once we do, we should spend our time seeking God’s heart, growing in quiet intimacy with Him.

 

Persevere in Your Waiting

This one can also be difficult if we’re in an extended time of waiting.

During this time of waiting, do what the Lord has called you to do. Are you in ministry? Continue to serve. Are you working? Work heartily (Colossians 3:23). The prophet tells us in Hosea 12:6 (ESV):

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”

 

The answer will come. Still, it may not be the answer we want. That’s when we need to remember God is sovereign. Although our short-term circumstances might not appear so, He is always at work for our ultimate good and His eternal glory. As God’s children in Christ (John 1:12), we can rest in this assurance from the prophet Isaiah:

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4 ESV).

 

Or, in the words of the group, Mercy Me:


Prisoner of Hope

Prisoner of HopeWhat makes one person a prisoner of hope, while another is mired in hopelessness?

My “one word” for 2017 is hope, so I’m especially attuned to this word this year. And the subject came up again during a recent lunch with a friend. She asked me how to become a “prisoner of hope,” a phrase used in Zechariah 9:12. How is it some people live in hope, while others—try as they might—continually default to a dismal state of hopelessness?

As she asked her question, my first thought was, I don’t know. After all, every person is unique and their reasons for hope or hopelessness could be equally unique. But before I could answer, another thought surprised me even as the words traveled to my tongue.

The Wrong Object?

I believe the answer lies in the object of our hope. For those who have given up hope, it may be because they placed their hope in the wrong object. All too often, I hear people say things such as:

  • I hope I get a raise.
  • I hope the cancer is healed.
  • I hope _______ (fill in the blank).

Problem is, in each of these (and similar) situations, the object of their hope is the desire they seek. If their desire is unfulfilled on more than one occasion, they can easily default to a perspective of hopelessness. Even for Christians, we can fall into the trap of hoping in the gift instead of the Giver.

But consider what happens when we place our hope in God, Himself. The more we understand His nature, the more we realize He is always at work for His glory and our good. No matter what the outcome—whether we receive what we want or not—it will always be for the best, even if we can’t see it now.

So the answer to the question as to why some people are “prisoners of hope” while others are mired in hopelessness might be simpler than we think. If we hope in the thing we want, we’ll be disappointed on a regular basis. But if we hope in the Giver—the One who is both our heavenly Father and Savior, we will always be satisfied.

Perhaps this is a simplistic approach to hope.

Or perhaps we try too hard to complicate the word.

What do you think?


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