Hope Is Never Cancelled

Each of us have been affected one way or another this year by Covid. Things we took for granted have crumbled around us. Cancellations abound. And so many losses in various ways – physically, mentally, emotionally.

There are people already suffering from life’s trials, and Covid repercussions make them all the heavier. We live in a condo with 14 individual units connected by a hallway. One of our neighbors only recently found out she had leukemia and she soon passed away, leaving behind a grieving widower and children and grandchildren. Her body had to be cremated, and the funeral is postponed until April or whenever it is more safe to meet together. They are not the only ones who have had to put memorial services on hold this year.

A mental and emotional toll is draining people of the joy of life. Elderly people who are socially isolated are dying from loneliness. Other people are dying from Covid complications without loved ones beside them. Frontline healthcare workers are over-worked and over-stressed. Addictions and domestic abuse are escalating. Unemployment and homelessness are also increasing. I can’t even begin to list the rippling effects of Covid in households, nursing homes, hospitals, and our world. It’s so sad, isn’t it?

Behind the masks, we can see the defeated looks in the eyes of so many. Is it any wonder why so many don’t feel very celebratory this Christmas season?

But there is a reason to still celebrate! Out of His infinite, unconditional, compassionate love for us, God came down to earth to be born in our human flesh and laid in an animal feed box in a stinking stable. Homeless and helpless. Because of Jesus, hope was born, and that hope is and never will be cancelled.

Because of Jesus, joy and peace can dwell in our hearts. We don’t have to feel guilty to allow joy into our hearts when so many are suffering. Joy can coexist with sadness. Joy is not always dancing and shouting Hallelujahs. Sometimes joy is a quiet confidence and trust that God’s got us, no matter what.

Immanuel – God with us. God will never, ever abandon us, no matter how difficult the journey of our lives. No matter how much it feels like He’s forgotten us, He never will. No matter how much hate and evil is in this world, He has and will bring peace on earth. No matter how hopeless our lives feel, His heart of love and compassion delights to fill us with His eternal hope.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.” Isaiah 40:28-29

“Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone.” Psalm 33:22

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

“Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story
You can come as you are
But it may set you apart
When you make room in your heart
And trade your dreams for His glory…”

When It’s Hard to Let Go and Trust God to Catch Us

Courtesy of Jeanne Takenaka

Heavy emotions can feel like an undercurrent tugging us down into discouragement and depression, can’t they? We can keep trying to desperately cling to our only HOPE. But sometimes… Lord, I can’t hang on anymore…

I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with sadness over all the sorrow and suffering in the world, and this Covid pandemic has my emotions all over the map. But I often trap them inside. I feel compelled to show others I am strong enough to handle them on my own. Including God… I allow burdens, that of others and of myself, to weigh me down too much instead of truly surrendering them over to God who alone has the power to rescue, redeem, and restore.

I even fight against the way God chooses to redeem and revive. I forget not a tear is wasted. I forget that our hearts are transformed the most through suffering. I forget God has the power to paint beauty out of ashes.

Before this Covid crisis hit us, I downloaded a free devotional book about Finding God’s Presence in Everyday Living. When Jeanne Takenaka wrote it, she had no idea how fitting it would be for such a time as this.

One morning my heart nudged me to get back to reading it. The first words I read expressed my feelings:

“Have you ever felt like life was overwhelming you? Like thing after thing was piling on you, stealing your strength and leaving you gasping?” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Oh yes, that is how I feel, Lord! Please help us!

Then towards the end of the devotion:

“When the ground beneath us shifts, God’s mercy upholds us. He is always with us, in every season. 
 
We can find reassurance knowing our Father’s got us. He’s holding our hands and sharing His consolations with us when we need them most.” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Yes, Lord, I want to believe
Your mercy will hold us up!
I believe, please help my unbelief!

The ground beneath us has shifted drastically throughout this entire world. We may feel like we’re free falling into a deep, dark hole. Simple everyday things we thought we had control of have been taken out of our hands.

But God…

God’s got us, and His mercy will uphold us, no matter what we’re going through. So why am I still afraid?

You know how a well-adjusted child jumps into the arms of a loving father? Trusting with all his heart that Daddy will catch him?

When our trust has been so broken in life, even when we have come far on the journey of healing, fear can suddenly pop up. Lack of control over our lives may trigger fear of trusting others, even our Heavenly Father. Even when He invites us, “Come, My child. Jump into My arms. I’ll catch you and I’ll hold you closely in My loving arms. I won’t harm you. I’ll fight for you. So trust Me, My child! I’ve got this! Trust My way and My timing. Relax, let go of your grip on control, and surrender your heart and life to Me. Let yourself fall into My arms!” 

Desperately, we keep holding onto some form of control. Is He really safe? Will He truly catch us? Will He hold us and get us through this?

God has promised He will!

“The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, ‘Destroy!’”
Deuteronomy33:27 AMP

And you know what? God doesn’t condemn us when we slip and find ourselves not trusting Him again. He understands that struggling journey far better than any person in the world does. He accepts us just as we are in all our humanness. He understands how our emotions can take us all over the map. But He never gives up on us, even when we give up on Him. He holds His arms open wide and keeps coaxing us to let go and fall into His arms of mercy and unfailing love that He has promised will support us!

“Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.”
Psalm 94:17-18

Just Be Held
by Casting Crowns
“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held…”

God Hears Our Cries and Yearns For Us To Open Our Eyes to His Bottomless Well of Love

Do you feel alone, rejected, and misunderstood?  With nowhere to turn? Like even God has left you?

When Abraham sent away Hagar and Ishmael, they wandered in the desert. Aimlessly. With a canteen of water and some food that soon ran out. Now what?

As their bodies dehydrated, they became weak and lethargic. Hagar couldn’t bear seeing her son die, so she hid him under one of the bushes and distanced herself. She sat down and sobbed. Doesn’t anyone care?

Then an angel called to Hagar, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.”

Hagar was physically weak from lack of water and spiritually devastated of hope. But God graciously reminded her that He hears. And He lifted her head and opened her eyes to see a well, and hope surged through her soul. She got up, filled her water skin, and gave her son a drink.

While man-made wells can and do run dry, the well of Jesus’ love is bottomless and will never, ever run dry. It’s available to each of us, waiting for us to drink freely from it. It’s full to overflowing of:

Yearning love that “longs to be gracious” to us.

Selfless, sacrificial, and redeeming love that came down to become “an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Unconditional, nonjudgmental, and freeing love that holds “no condemnation” for those who believe in Him.

Replenishing, restoring love that says to those whose hope has dried up, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.”

Healing love that heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds.

Compassionate, understanding love that “empathizes with our weaknesses.”

Never-abandoning love that says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Unfailing love that reaches to the heavens and is priceless.

Sometimes our grief-blinded eyes and our pain-crushed hearts can focus only on the pit of our misery rather than the hope God places right in front of us. The hope that He sees and hears us always. The hope that His love is faithful and will never reject us.

If you are having a difficult time, may Jesus hold you up and strengthen you. May He lift you and carry you when you can’t go any further. May He each morning not only open our eyes to His never-emptying well of love, but also empower us to drink from it.

“But whoever drinks of the water
that I will give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I will give him
will become in him a well of water
springing up to eternal life.”
John 4:14

God Loves You
by Jaci Velasquez

“In the quiet, love is reaching.
It`s yours to hold,
Be still and know that
Even when you`re lost and lonely,
And hope is gone, you`re not alone.
Far beyond the understanding,
There`s a hand that leads,
If you believe.
Through the darkness, see the light.
Remember God loves you.”