Life Hurts, Hope Helps

Are you discouraged?  2020 has been such a tough year for most people. Our eighteen-year-old son, like many others across the country, did his final semester of high school on line because of COVID—19 with no prom and no in-person graduation.  Our 22 year old son came home from college in California to do the final semester of his senior year at home.  There are so many faces of discouragement.  Maybe it's the wife barely hanging on in her marriage.  Or the business owner dealing with the ramifications of our non-existent tourist season this summer.  I struggle with my weight; so I'm reading a book by a doctor who shared that only 2% of people ever lose the weight and keep it off; bummer! (The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman, intro).  Life can be heavy.  So, how do we deal with discouragement?
      Discouragement is an old problem.  Moses, the great emancipator of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, got discouraged with his complaining, murmuring countrymen. Later in Israel's history, because of the nation's wickedness, God hands them over to the Babylonian Empire.  Jeremiah’s life calling was to share this tragic news to his nation—surrender is the only option. Can you imagine having that role?  No wonder Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet.  Yet despite his painful calling Jeremiah offers us encouragement.  He says, "Yet I still DARE to hope wi9jhen I remember this: 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. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
     Let's use the acrostic D.A.R.E. to understand how to live with hope. 
     What is God's dream for your life?  In His "great love" He has given you a calling, a vision for your life.  The Apostle Paul writes, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).  Each of us has a specific, unique calling.  Noah was called to build an ark.  Abraham was called to establish a people.  Moses was called to lead his people out of slavery.  Joshua was called to lead a conquering army.  Nehemiah was called to rebuild a wall around Jerusalem   All Christians are called to make disciples of the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20).  A wonderful book to help you discern your unique calling is named S.H.A.P.E. by Erik Rees.  
      When you go through discouraging times the prophet Jeremiah reminds us to remember God's love and faithfulness and then choose to walk in trust and acceptance.  The Bible says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).  For a radical example of this read the story of Anthony Graves.  Here was a man accused and convicted of killing six people (including four children) and was scheduled for the death penalty.  Two times he was given an execution date and received a stay before it happened.  Finally, after 18 years in prison he was exonerated and set free!  While he certainly wrestled with his faith in God (who wouldn't), he never gave up his relationship with God.  He accepted his horrific situation and allowed God to slowly and faithfully work for his release.  Today He is an inspiring, hope filled man who is making a positive impact on our flawed justice system.
     Maybe today you want to quit your marriage, your job or your business partnership.  Before you do, hit pause and pray. So many quit too soon.  The poster boy for quitting too soon is Ronald Wayne.  I doubt you’ve heard of him.  But you may have heard of his business partners—Steve Wozmiak and Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. Ronald Wayne actually wrote the partner’s agreement for Apple, where it was agreed he would own a 10 percent share of the company. Unfortunately, after twelve days he quit, selling his share for eight hundred dollars.  You can guess the rest.  Apple became one of the most profitable companies in the country and if he had stayed with the company, Ronald’s share would have been worth billions! (Character Still Counts, James Merritt, 158) .
     Author extraordinaire Max Lucado gives another reminder of the importance of resilience.  He has now written almost 100 books and has 130 million books in print!  Yet his first book manuscript was rejected by fourteen publishers before one finally said yes.  If Lucado had given up, a remarkable career and ministry would have been missed.          
      We can be resilient because of God’s great and faithful love, knowing that God has a dream or plan for each of us.
     Jeremiah lifts our eyes upward towards eternity when he writes, ”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(Jeremiah 29:11) Of course God blesses us at times in this life but our hope is heaven and our future is the new heavens and new earth.  When I think of a place with no pain, racism, sin, illness or death I can’t help but smile.  A place where our laughter is restored and our joy complete.  Hope simply means ‘confident expectation.”  We have no greater expectation than eternity with our loving Creator. 
     In summary, life hurts, but hope helps.  I dare you to hope!

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church