A Time to Hope, Part 2

This article is the second in a three-part series on hope.

Part 2—A Hope-Filled Faith

Currently, there is war in our world, war in our minds, war on our emotions, and war on our hope. Life is a battle. An uphill one, at that. We labor and calculate to try to get through things, to try to get things to make sense, to survive to fight another day. We groan and weep. We suffer and retreat. We grieve and lash out. Our minds are muddled. Our hearts are bleeding.

We try to pretend we are okay, but we are not. We are deeply wounded. We are exhausted and empty. We are often biting our lower lips to hold back the tears. We don’t speak because we know our voices will crack. We don’t make eye contact because we know a look of sympathy will break us. We have heavy hearts, heavy burdens, and eyes that are heavy with tears. Even the air is heavy, and we feel like we are suffocating beneath the weight of it.

We are self-protecting and self-preserving, and at times we are going all out to mask our pain. And in whatever way we are trying to function and trying to cope, ultimately, we are operating in our own strength. And this is not faith. This is self. Self trying to do it all. Self trying to be it all. Self trying to conquer it all. Self trying to pull through. And the placement of our hope in ourselves is a misplaced hope. We ultimately cannot completely save ourselves. We don’t hold all the pieces and parts. We don’t have all the power and control. And, we never will. There has to be more than this futility and defeat. There has to be a better way, a better place to place our hope, something stronger in which we can place our faith. There is, but sometimes it is difficult to do so.

The challenges of life can challenge our faith. Obstacles, suffering, times of waiting, an overwhelming schedule, and the enemies of our souls can all be deterrents and distractions that keep us from believing in and reaching out to God. The very things with which we need help can be detrimental to our faith. But transformation can take place. Faith can become hope-filled when it is placed in God. And hope springs eternal when it is based on the eternal God.

So, when we place our hope and faith in the eternal God, and nothing more or less, what does this mean? How do we move through life with Him as our foundation? Does it mean our lives will be perfect? That we will never face trials and hardships? That we will not be hurt, rocked to the core, and broken? No, it does not. But what it does mean is that when we fall, we will get up again. When we mourn, we will laugh again. When we cannot see for the dark, we will see the light of His glorious face. This is hope-filled faith.

Faith is not a hope that there will be no difficulties. Faith is a hope through the difficulties. We can believe God is our Rock, and though the world shakes, He never will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is perfect. Trustworthy. Omnipotent. Sovereign. We can know Who this is, this One in Whom we are placing our hope and faith. We can know His character. We can know His capabilities. We can know His heart.

God will sustain us, and with His help, our difficulties will not destroy us. Having hope in Him will strengthen our faith. The reality of our journeys can meet the reality of who God is. He is the God of hope. When we look to Him, we will see amazing things. When we seek His help, we will have a power we have never known before. He will love us at all times and in all seasons, when things look hopeless or things look hopeful. He will always be there even when we don’t think our hope is. Those who belong to God have the power of His Holy Spirit within them and can abound in hope.1 And, remembering His faithfulness to us and all of the generations before us will restore our hope.

The accounts of many people in the Bible show us how to have faith, and the Bible itself gives comfort, which in turn gives us hope.2 One prime example to examine during our troubled times is the life of Job. “Job experienced so many challenges that wore him down. The changes in his life touched him physically and then sank deep into his being; his mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships were all affected. He was devastated and bowed down in the dirt. He was in a sorry state of being and a somewhat sorry state of mind. Hope seemed lost. He could not help himself. He did not have the strength of stones or brass or any other resource to remedy the devastation in his life (Job 6:11–13). He needed God’s help and would not have rest until he allowed God to give it to him. And then, there was God. God touched Job’s life, and Job was able to get up and move forward. And like Job, we no longer have to lie there on the ground, defeated by the heavy loads of life; God can step in and make our burdens lighter too. Yes, the help of God can be found in us if He is found in us. He will give us grace and strength when we hope in Him and choose to walk uprightly. We can pass through our daily trials with strong and hope-filled hearts.”3

“Job’s trials were unbelievably huge, and yet, he had faith in the God who was bigger…Our souls can be still because God is on our side when we are on His side. He is for us when we are for Him. Not all circumstances will be good, but He will always be good. He is the Lord, and He does not change. … Keep the faith. He will always remain, and He will always remain faithful.”4

Hebrews chapter 11 is another place we can look to see the faith of believers on display. The first verse defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”5 These people placed their faith in God, not knowing what the outcome would be but knowing in Whom they were hoping. Daniel continued to pray to God despite being told petitions could only be made to the king. He was then sent to the lions’ den to face a painful death, but God sent an angel to close the lions’ mouths. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were told to worship an earthly king. They refused and stated they would only worship the one true God. They knew this choice was a death sentence, but they also knew God could deliver them if He chose to do so. They were bound and thrown into a fiery furnace to die, but God sent them rescue, and not a hair on any of their heads was singed; the smell of smoke was not even on their clothing.

There were other people, though, who did not live to see their faith realized, yet they still hoped. This was because faith does not have to know the outcome, faith just has to be demonstrated by action, and hope is then born of this faith as it is built on the certainty of the One in Whom we place our faith. Our belief allows us to hope because we are persuaded He can do anything, but it is also the reassured recognition God sometimes does not do what we want and when. He is not a vending machine or a genie. He knows the beginning and the end and everything that must happen in between. Our faith just needs to be in Him and His power and not in human wisdom and desires.6 So, let’s not lose hope. Let’s not stay home, give up, or check out. We can live to fight another day. God can become our companion in battle. We can allow Him to fight for us. Some trust in horses, and some trust in chariots, but we can trust in the name of the LORD God.7 Yes, even while we tread the broken roads of this fallen world, He can make our paths straight. While others try to squash us, He can make our spirits soar. When we think we have lost everything, we will find He has never left us. We can firmly believe in this God and give Him our loyalty and devotion. We can trust our pain will be turned to purpose, and we can know our lonely hearts are not alone. As King David said in Psalm 27:5 and 29:11, God will hide us in times of trouble and set us upon a rock; He will give strength to His people and will bless them with peace.

“God is the source of all hope (see Ps. 62:5) and the source of things that give hope. He is the source of salvation and eternal life. He is our rock and our fortress, our strength and stability, our protection from the enemy. We will not be shaken when we place our hope in Him because He is the unshakable God. We, like others, can have hope by recognizing the truth of who He is.”8 King Asa knew the size of the enemy did not matter because God is the one with all the power.9 Jonah knew his prayers would be heard when he called out in his time of difficulty.10 When we need help and answers, God is both. “It is God who can quash our hopelessness. It is He who can aid our helplessness. He has the power to help and to save, no ma­tter how large the enemy is that looms in front of us. He is hope itself.”11

When we trust Him, the heaviness will dissipate. When we allow Him to share in our pain, He will bring us comfort. When we accept His support, our stress levels will be reduced. His peace will surpass all understanding. He will bring true hope which will enable us to endure this life, “no ma­tter what has happened in the past, what we live in today, and what will come our way in the future. He is the Ancient of Days, and He is the contemporary. He has always existed, and He is here with us now. He is the everlasting God, and He will be with us throughout our futures.”12

“Psalm 142:1–7 is a good passage to read when feeling overwhelmed. These verses tell us that we can cry out to God and let Him know about our complaints and the trouble in which we find ourselves. He knows our paths. He is there for us when and where no one else is, even if it is the middle of the night and we are at our absolute lowest points. He is our refuge. He is our deliverer. He is going to bless us. Instead of le­tting our hearts be troubled, we should focus on our belief in Him and know that He is preparing a place in heaven for us (John 14:3). Be­tter days are coming.”13

God will always keep His promises throughout our entire lifetime, even during the tests and trials that come, even during the devastation and destruction of the fallen, natural world. Even when everything around us gives way, He is constant, He is faithful, He is still God. No ma­tter what happens, we can hold fast, unwaveringly, to our faith. When we cannot comprehend the incomprehensible, He is still the One who makes sense. And He is ever faithful to those who belong to Him.14 He gives His Holy Spirit to indwell those who believe, and the Spirit will counsel and comfort us, He will testify to our spirits that we belong to God, He will groan for us when we cannot find the words to pray in our pain, and He will empower us to go through each day, accomplishing the things God has called us to do. And He is the earnest of the promise that Jesus will return to take all believers home to the Father. Those who believe are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.15 For these reasons, and many more, we can look forward with a faith-filled hope.

True hope is built on a foundation of faith in God. Hope rooted in God is hope which cannot be taken away. We know He is always at work, His timing is perfect, and He keeps His promises. Our minds can know, and our hearts can believe, what our eyes cannot see. The evidence is all around. He has been there in the past, He promises to be there in the future, and we can know He holds us now. And this will fill our faith with hope.


NOTES

1 See Romans 15:13.

2 See Romans 15:4.

3 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 81–2.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 201.

5 This portion of Scripture quoted from Hebrews 11:1 was taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

6 See 1 Corinthians 2:5.

7 See Psalm 20:7.

8 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 217.

9 See 2 Chronicles 14.

10 See Jonah 2:7.

11 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 218.

12 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 80.

13 Ibid.

14 See 2 Timothy 2:13 and Deuteronomy 7:9.

15 See 1 Corinthians 3:23.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 8, 2022. Revised August 9, 2022.

Do You Trust Me?

If you follow my posts, you may have noticed I missed a week of writing.  I had begun to write about my son’s upcoming wedding, but then I took ill, and last week’s article didn’t happen.  All this week, I wondered what to write.  Should I finish what I began last week?  No; it didn’t feel right.  I sat still, waiting for inspiration, but there was nothing.  A possible topic flitted through my mind.  Again, no.  I then wondered if I should just repost my article about writer’s block.  No, that wasn’t it either.  So, I prayed and asked God what I should write.  This was His answer: “Do you trust me?”

Off and on for the past week or so, I have been thinking about and grappling with whether I truly trust God.  Am I a fair-weather Christian, or will I trust Him at all times, in all circumstances?  Will I trust Him in the little things as well as the monumental?  Will I trust Him all through life and even to the death?  Will I remain faithful, steadfast, unmoved?  Do I actually trust Him like I think I do?

Fear seems to be a factor.  I want to say I trust Him.  I have demonstrated in the past that I did.  But do I now?  Will I always?  And why would I not?  Whose vision am I going to trust?  My shortsighted vision which is limited to what is right in front of me, or the vision of the One who sees the end from the beginning and everything in between, whose vision is eternal?

There is no need to fear trusting Him.  On the contrary, trusting in Him will remove a huge load from us.  When we commit our lives to Him, He will take care of us.  Just as the Bible tells us Abraham trusted God and went forward despite being unaware of where he was ultimately going, so we, too, should trust in God’s plans and promises to get us where we need to go.1 God created the world, and He created us.  He has things well in hand.

He will guide our steps even when there are obstacles in our paths.  We can trust Him step by step, day by day.  He is working all around us, sometimes seen and sometimes unseen.  He works on a future timeline beyond our scope, with a path laid out for us which we cannot even begin to conceive. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be u­tterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.”2 Thus, we can step out in faith, knowing He is holding us securely in the palm of His hand. He will lead us safely home. 

“We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.”3

So, am I going to place my trust in people, or in my own limited skills, intellect, ingenuity, strength, and resources; or am I going to place my trust in the One who has proven Himself trustworthy?  He fights for His people.  He provides for every need.  He does not fail nor forsake His own.  He has all power and authority, and by Him all things subsist.  His wisdom is infinite.  He is a God of purpose.  He is working for my good and His glory. The bad and the ugly from this world of sin can be transformed into something beautiful by His hand.  He triumphs over evil.  He is good, and He does what is good.

Such great knowledge of this great God can give us the ability to trust, and trusting Him will bring peace. There is no need to fret; He can handle the details.  I don’t need to force my hand; I can just place it in His.  He is God.

I know what I will answer Him now.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.4


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 11:8.

2 Psalm 37:23–24

3 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 116.

4 Proverbs 3:5–6

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 10, 2021

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Another Sunrise

Am I going to live to see another sunrise?  Covid caused me to ask that question.  I am currently on day sixteen of symptoms.  There have been several times over the past two weeks where I could not breathe or could not breathe well.  Interesting thoughts occur at a time like this.  Fear tries to take up residence in the heart and mind.  But I decided I was having none of that because my life is held in the hands of Almighty God.  He will determine the number of my breaths, and I do not have to fear since my heart belongs to Him.  I entrust my life to Him—at this time and at all times. 


For if I live, I live to the Lord; and if I die, I die to the Lord.

Therefore, whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.1


Book Excerpt:

I have heard this statement many times: “Life is what you make it.” This is a futile human a­ttempt to make life look pre­tty. The underlying principle is that there is something that can be done about the lives we live. But sometimes, we just cannot change our lives no ma­tter how much we try. What we can do is ask God to change them and change our perspectives of them. When we look at things through God’s eyes, with an eternal perspective, our views will surely change. We will no longer be blinded by what the enemy puts in front of us to keep us from seeing what God wants us to see. For example, Satan does not want us to see our blessings. He does not want us to praise God or serve God but instead wants us to turn our backs on Him in bi­tterness and anger. Satan also wants us to be so inwardly-focused that we do not help others in the name of Christ. But God wants us to see the blessings that He has made available for our lives and wants us to use them to bless others in turn. So, this is what we are presented with: two perspectives. Satan can blind us from what truly ma­tters, and God can open our eyes to what truly ma­tters. Whose vision are we going to trust?

Regardless of the states of our circumstances, it is here that we can seek out God’s joy, peace, and strength—even when we struggle, even when there is loss, even when we are overwhelmed. No ma­tter what happens and no ma­tter the trials and sorrows that we find ourselves involved in, our minds can be at ease and our hearts can be at rest. Even when we are rendered nearly helpless, we are never truly helpless, because we have the Helper. We can rest contentedly, knowing that we rest in His hands. We have cause to give thanks.

In addition to health issues, I deal with the normal things of life that everyone else does: financial issues, vehicle breakdowns, runaway dogs, complicated family relationships, the loss of loved ones, etc. There are also undesirable realities of life that I have to face. Things have not gone as I had planned. Things have not turned out the way I had envisioned. People have not treated me as I had hoped. There have been devastations and limitations. Essentially, my dreams are gone. I have been in the depths of despair—hurting, suffering, lonely, broken, disappointed, frustrated, angry, and dissatisfied. Yes, I have been all of these things and more. But even as much as I am limited in my life, I have cause to give thanks. God’s dreams for my life are so much be­tter, and they are in the process of unfolding.

Over the years, I have had a perspective adjustment. I have come to the conclusion that if this is the road that God desires for me to walk—because through me He is achieving a great and eternal purpose—then I most definitely want to walk it, and walk it with gratitude. I have experiences, circumstances, and even a physical body that I never signed up for, but despite all this, I have a boundless treasure because I have God as my Father, Jesus Christ as my Savior, and the Holy Spirit as my Helper. God Almighty is on my side! And if He is for me, then absolutely no one can be against me!2

I have cause to give much thanks as I watch another sunrise.


NOTES

1Based on Romans 14:8

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 199–200.

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, August 14, 2021

Resolved to Trust

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“Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.”

Book Excerpt:
… We can come, resolving to trust. There will always be areas where our resolve will be strong and other areas where it will be weak, but this should make no difference or cause any delay in coming to God. We need Him in all areas, and thus, we should make our coming soon, and make it quick. Acting will strengthen our trust, while inaction will weaken it. We can ask Him to increase our faith and to help us with any unbelief that we have. We should be resolved to come to Him for His strength–strength to add to our weakness and more strength to add to our existing strength. We can come even if we are a solitary number. We can stand even if we stand alone. We should be willing to pay the ultimate price for Him because He paid the ultimate price for us. We should come like sheep to the shepherd; they come because they are called by a voice that they know and trust. Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.

… It is wise to have a heart that listens for God’s voice so that even during times when life seems dead and dark, it will still be able to hear Him. It is also wise to have a responsive heart that is quick to come when God calls it. We need to have the understanding that a delayed response can fill the void with excuses, and before we know it, we might find ourselves disobedient and ignoring His calls. Life and light are there within our grasp; we just need to come forth to receive them. This is wisdom.

We can come to Him whether we know much about Him or little. We can come with whatever amount of spiritual understanding we have. We can come with our searching and ask Him to reveal Himself to us. We can ask Him to make His will known to us. We can come with our confusion and questioning, our bewilderment and asking “Why me?” He gives wisdom liberally to all who ask for it (James 1:5).

God is a big God who allows us to come to Him no matter what our statuses are. We do not have to be a king to gain the attention of the King. We do not have to be perfect to approach the perfect God. We do not have to be a giant of the faith to approach the One who is the source of all faith. We can come no matter the amount of our faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed. He wants us to be seekers who find Him for the first time. Thereafter, He wants us to be people who continually seek His face. He is there to be found.

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 115-116.