KNOW HIM KNOW HOPE: a 2020-2021 Survival Guide

“I trust the next chapter because I know the Author.” 

This simple declaration struck a chord deep within me. 2020 was awful and 2021 seems to be shaping up to be 2020-part duex. Worse yet, the face-to-face, soul-to-soul connections in our lives that give us reasons to celebrate and provide support and comfort when tragedy hits, continue to be curtailed if not eliminated altogether.

The reality of our current situation doesn’t mean we have to surrender to hopelessness. That is why that phrase resonates so deeply.  It reflects a truth and a promise reiterated over and over in God’s word. Knowing Him means knowing hope.  No matter what has, is or will happen, we can “trust the next chapter” if we know and trust the character and heart of the one writing our story.

Our Church is reading through the Bible together. Most of the individual stories are old familiar friends. However, there is something very powerful about reading them as a whole.  Instead of separate stories that reflect individual events, these events become chapters in ONE ongoing story. Reading them this way has given me a MUCH deeper understanding and appreciation for the character of God

Take the story of David and Bathsheba. David saw her bathing, lusted after her, brought her to his palace and impregnated her. He tried to cover his sin by bringing her husband Uriah home from war to sleep with her.  Uriah didn’t comply. With the coverup thwarted, David had Uriah killed. Not David’s finest moment! Then the child conceived in this act of adultery died.

If we stopped there, we may be tempted to believe that God is easily angered, vengeful and wants to punish us for our sin and stupidity. But that isn’t the end of the story. After Uriah’s death and the death of his son, David is hit full force with his sinfulness. To his credit, he doesn’t try to excuse or justify his failure. Instead, he goes to God and pens one of the most heartfelt and sorrowful acknowledgements of sin and plea for forgiveness found in scripture. 

“For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when you speak Your sentence and faultless in Your judgement. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew an upright and steadfast spirit within me.  Cast me not from your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me” (PS 51:2-3, 10-11).

David marries Bathsheba. She gives birth to a second son, Solomon.  Solomon was not David’s only or first born son. Yet it is the child of this mess of a relationship that God chooses to place on the throne of all Israel! Why? Because that is the Grace and steadfast loving kindness of our God! 

David’s marriage to Bathsheba came about as the result of adultery and murder. Yet this was the relationship through which God would produce not only the next and wisest King of Israel, but the great, great, great…grandfather of Jesus Christ! It is through a relationship that started out in unimaginable sin that God eventually brought our Savior into the world!

God loves, cherishes and wants the best for His children.  He doesn’t overlook our sin. He allows the consequences of our sin to be the teacher that prevents us from destroying our lives, by steering us away from sinning over and over. When we repent, he faithfully forgives and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He creates a clean heart in us and imparts His Spirit to us. He makes us a new creation in Christ.  God takes the horror and damage that sin wrought in our lives and creates beauty from the ashes. 

This is a picture of a God who loves us compassionately, steadfastly, loyally and unconditionally. He is a God who doesn’t give up on us no matter how hard we screw up! Our God causes our worst moments to be the catalyst for our greatest triumphs. This is His AMAZING Grace! This is the character of our God!

If God is willing to bring such glory out of such sin, why wouldn’t He protect, provide for and prosper us physically, emotionally and spiritually in the midst of circumstances not of our own making? In this time when we are left wondering what the next chapter will be, we CAN trust the loving kindness and Grace of the Author. Knowing Him truly means Knowing HOPE!

Suggested reading: 2 Samuel 11, 12; 1 Kings 2:1-15; Psalm 51

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE: a 2020 Survival Guide

For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future Jer 29:11 NIV

In March it seemed that 2020 had come prepared to do battle. Now in December it seems that it wasn’t a battle that 2020 had in mind. In addition to a Global pandemic and the financial and social adversity that it caused, we’ve had wild fires in Australia, the Western United States and Canada, locust swarms in Africa, earthquakes in Turkey and Puerto Rico, a super typhoon in the South Pacific, massive flooding in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Sudan, and a massive explosion in Beirut. Not to mention the individual challenges each of us has faced this year. In the US, the murder of George Floyd lit the fuse of social outrage and racial conflict. Throw in a less than typical presidential election and it seems clear that 2020 is in FULL ON SIEGE MODE!  

I will take even the most intense battle over a siege ANY DAY! The unrelenting stress of an enemy continually at the gate is like being caught in a grinding stone. Each turn of the sone wears us down a little more, until all that remains is the helpless, hopeless dust of our former selves. A siege cuts us off from each other and our resources. A prolonged siege can actually steal our capacity to embrace hope, because we lose the ability to see any way out.   

During Israel’s war with Aram, Elisha repeatedly thwarted Aram’s success in battle by prophesying about Aram’s battle plans. This so enraged the king of Aram that he wanted Elisha dead. So, he sent a powerful army by night to lay siege to the city of Dothan where Elisha lived. When Elisha and his servant awoke, they were met with the sight of a large army encircling the city. Elisha ’s servant was in a state of panic bordering on despair. Elisha however, was as cool as a cucumber. 

Both men were facing the same threat, but they had very different responses. Why? 

The difference came from their individual perspectives. The servant was focused on the problem. From his perspective they faced a lethal danger with no defense and no way out. He saw no way to successfully stand against this aggressor. As a result, he was overwhelmed and lost hope.

Elisha’s focus however, wasn’t on the enemy. His hope and trust were centered in God.  Elisha told his servant “Do not be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:17).  Elisha could see what his servant could not. He saw the army of the Almighty, with chariots of fire, absolutely filling the mountains between them and the army of Aram. Elisha’s servant was unable to embrace hope because his focus and trust were in the wrong place. 

What we focus on and who we trust in makes ALL the difference.   There is no denying that 2020 is beyond challenging. The problems are real. The difficulties keep piling up with no clear end in sight. If we keep our focus on the problems, we could easily fall into hopelessness and despair. What we need most in the midst of this siege, is a change of perspective. How we end this year will affect how our new year begins. AS this year is coming to a close let’s end it looking to the one who holds the future. His plans for us are good! He is giving us a future of hope!