2017: A Year of Renewed Hope

 

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It’s pretty quiet in our house right now. It’s 10:46 pm on Christmas night. My kids have crashed in their beds after a full day of opening presents, playing with their cousin, and stuffing way too much Christmas candy in their mouths. (I’m actually surprised one of them hasn’t wandered into my bedroom, unable to sleep because of a stomach ache!) My husband is dozing off beside me. Everything is silent. Everything except my mind of course, which is racing away and keeping me from sleeping. Anyone else know this struggle?

Tonight, I’ve found myself reflecting back over all that has transpired this year. On January 1, 2017, I remember having hopeful expectations for what the new year might bring. I’m not talking about new year’s resolutions. I don’t make those because I know I won’t keep them! What I’m referring to is an eager expectation, the excitement of thinking how the year might turn out. There’s something about a brand new year, a clean slate, that gives us a glimmer of hope. A hope that things can be different, and maybe an improvement, from the previous year.

However, 2017 turned out to be a pretty tough one for our family. Really, really tough. Three months into the year, we lost my husband’s first cousin to suicide, and the family has wrestled ever since with losing someone irreplaceable and dearly loved in such a traumatic way. I watched his mother that day as she wept over her son, and I thought to myself, “Lord, I hope I never have to know the pain of losing a child.” Little did I know then that just a few months later, I would feel a similar sting as we buried our sweet Collier unexpectedly. Not exactly the kind of year someone hopes for on January 1st, is it? But my mind has been going back to these verses:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

 There is peace that washes over me when I read these verses cannot be described. I remember the day I read them after Collier passed. I was sitting in my chair reading when God magnified these familiar words on the page for me. Reading them gave me chills and, at the very same time, I felt like a warm blanket had been draped around my shoulders. He knew I needed them that day. He knew we would ALL need them at one time or another. Especially in years like 2017.

We need them to remind us we can still have hope in God’s great love. We simply cannot wrap our minds around the magnitude of His love. According to scripture, it surpasses our knowledge (Eph. 3). His love is so unlike our own. It pursued us, while we were His enemies, and purchased our salvation. It’s a love that refuses to leave us in our mess. No matter how broken, battered, and bruised we are, He is mighty to save!  While He doesn’t promise to shield us from all hurt, He does promise that because of His great love, those painful things will be redeemed by making us more like Him. After all, being molded into His likeness is the goal! Romans 5:3-5 assures us that “we can glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint or put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out on us into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

We need to be reminded to hope in God’s faithfulness. The character of God is steadfast. He never changes, nor will He ever be anything other than simply who He is–faithful. What does God’s faithfulness mean for us, in terms of hope? It means that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). He will walk through difficult waters with us, but not let them sweep over us (Isaiah 43:2). He will always keep His promises (Hebrews 6:13-15). He is faithful to hear our prayers and deliver us from trouble (Psalm 34:17). In a world where so many things are constantly changing, we can place our hope in the only One who never will.

We can have renewed hope as we wait for Him. I’m not going to lie…If I knew that this life was all there is, I would completely lose all hope. All the pain that life can bring– loss, disappointment, broken relationships, disease, divorce, wayward children, senseless acts of violence—it can be almost too much for our hearts to handle sometimes. However, all hope is not lost. The Bible speaks of a future hope waiting for us. The author of a devotional I have writes, “Biblical hope is more than wishful thinking. There is nothing uncertain about biblical hope. It is certain but not yet realized. We haven’t experienced it yet, but there is no question that it will happen. Hope is like a memory of the future— a God-secured, God-infused, God-glorifying future (Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope).” [Sidenote: Whoever anonymously mailed this book to me, you will never know how much you have ministered to me this year! Thank you a million times!!!]

Thankfully, because of the work Christ did on the cross and through the power of His resurrection, the story doesn’t end here in our broken world! One day, all of our waiting will pay off as the promises of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 become reality. Jesus will return as He said He would, and with a loud voice will command the dead in Christ to rise! I can’t even put into words what that does for my heart as a mother and a believer! Life at that point will only be just beginning. That’s a hope worth clinging to!

Until then, we can hope in Him, our portion. Jesus is enough for us. Period. When our joy and our hope are rooted securely in Him and nowhere else, we do not have to fear what the future might bring. Nothing can shake us when our foundation is secure in Him. Whatever happens, He is strong enough to handle. Every need we have, He can fully satisfy. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).”

Has it been a difficult year? Absolutely. But I’m deeming 2017 as “The Year of Renewed Hope.” Moths and locusts came to destroy (Joel 2:25), “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him.”

–Amy

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