We are currently in the first week of Advent. The theme of this week is hope. As I shared last week, (What is Advent anyway?) Advent is a season of waiting. We join those who waited in hope for the birth of Jesus and we are longing with hope for his second coming.
Hope is a common word in the Christian dialectic. There are many verses in the bible that talk about hope. We sing songs about our need to hope in the Lord. But what is hope? What does it mean to have hope? How do we become hopeful?
I am finding in my own life a direct link between remembering God’s promises & having hope. Only when I take time to dwell on God’s promises do I become filled with hope.
Several years ago our small group leader asked us “What is coming up this fall that we can be praying for?” Our kids were little. We lived in an 800 hundred square foot house that was built in the 1800s. We quickly replied, “We would like a new house in our neighborhood.” As our kids continued to grow, we began to grow out of our house. But we loved our neighborhood. They were our people, we raised our kids together. We knew we would need to move, but we wanted to stay in the same neighborhood.
A month later our house burned down.
Let me pause, I’m hesitant to share this story in a setting like this. It sounds fishy. Let me reassure you-we had absolutely NOTHING to do with our house burning down.
A few weeks later, we were sitting around the table with some friends from church. They were asking what our plan was. Were we going to move? Build a new house? Rebuild the old house (the studs remained)? We didn’t know. It all felt very overwhelming. Then someone chimed in, “I’ll build your house”. Not only did he own a company that did this kind of work, across the table from him sat the owner of a plumbing company. They agreed on the spot to partner in our build.
Long story short, that is what happened. Our friends built us a house. Our prayers were answered, in a very unexpected and dramatic way.
In the process, we were reminded of something else someone had said to us years before. I was pregnant with Piper. Someone of great faith, someone we respected, said to us, “There is going to be a point in your life where you are going to need more space. God is going to provide for you in a very unexpected way.” We didn’t think too much of it at the time.
It wasn’t until the dust settled that we put all these pieces together. The word someone had spoken. The prayer we prayed. The fire. Someone building our house for us.
A promise made. A promise fulfilled.
A promise that we had forgotten about.
But God didn’t.
I am so quick to forget God’s promises.
I read God’s word, He promises me that he will never leave me nor forsake me.
I am reminded at church of the promise that God has good plans for me.
In a conversation, a friend shares the truth that God will always make good out of bad.
God gently reminds me of his calling for my life.
I walk away from those encounters, pumped – ready for anything. I take one step out in faith and then things don’t happen the way I planned. I feel uncomfortable in the unknown, so I start to cling to what has worked in the past. I am scared that maybe I heard God wrong, I start to feel afraid. I start to make plans on my own. The cycle continues. I quickly forget God’s promises.
I lose hope.
I have to go back and remember.
I believe that it starts by remembering what God has already done in our lives. I’m not talking about a quick recollection-I’m talking about really remembering. We can do this by writing it down, spending time mulling over the details of the event-recall how we felt and what we experienced. Or we can tell a friend how God has performed miracles in our lives. Whatever it takes to remember.
I am currently in a season of waiting for a job. I want to be prayerful and thoughtful about the process – but everything inside of me wants to have a job NOW. So I have decided to carry a notebook with me in my purse. When I get anxious and start taking action for the sake of action, I go back to my book. I am reminded about how God has provided and guided me in the past and that he will do it again. I meditate on God’s promise that He has good plans for me.
Remembering the past is key, but we also need to make ourselves aware of God’s movement amongst us. In this same book that I am writing down where God has fulfilled his promises in the past, I am writing down each day ways that God is moving. I may be waiting for the next job, but that certainly doesn’t mean God is not at work. We must celebrate what God is doing today.
Then we need to lean into God’s promises that are still to come. God has so much more in store for us. He has promised to make good out of bad. He has promised that he is not done with us yet. He has promised that he will return again and make all things new.
You see, when I remember in these ways, I have hope. And what does that look like? What does it mean to be filled with hope?
I’m able to move forward with excitement and joy. I can rest in knowing what God has done, what he is doing and what is to come. I do not fear, I am able to wait. I don’t take action for the sake of taking action. I feel excited about what God has in store next. I laugh more. I am able to be present and I have peace.
I am filled with hope.
And this Advent that’s the only way I want to be.