Monday, 27 February 2012

Life is a Stage

I love going to watch shows in the West end of London. They bring magic into our lives and they stir up emotion as they take us on a journey into another world for a few hours. The stage is filled with actors, dancers and singers each doing their part to make the show complete. Each knows their place. They know where to stand: what to say or sing: what to dance. They come as individuals, with all their preparation and practice, and they follow the director who knows exactly what to do to make the show beautiful. The stage is where it happens but before the cast have a real audience they do rehearsal after rehearsal in front of the director. For those few nights he is the audience. It is only his opinion that matters. Then, others come and watch, and enjoy, and learn, and get inspired.

Life is our stage. God is our director. He knows where we need to stand, he knows how to teach us what to say or sing or how to dance. We turn up at the theatre of our lives, as we are, a bit broken, not looking our best, sometimes not ready for a show and He says, “Good I’m glad you’re here, I’ll show you to your place.” He takes us as we are and looks at us as being full of promise and potential. He knows our potential even if we don’t, and He knows how to get us there if we are able to say, “I’m here and I’m available. Show me what you want me to do.” It is His opinion that matters most.

If you are part of a cast, I would imagine it would be so encouraging and inspiring to see a real pro: someone who has gone before you, someone who has done it well. So imagine, God, the director, has brought you to the stage and you are standing in front of him thinking “I don’t know how to do this!” and He says, “I’d like to introduce you to someone. He is the best example that you could ever see. He has done it all before and He did it perfectly.” I personally would feel that I had someone to follow. I was not alone and I didn’t have to be scared. This man knew how to do it and he was there as my guide and mentor. He wouldn’t let me fail.

Just pause a moment.

Jesus is a perfect example of how to do life.

He is our mentor and guide.

We read about Jesus in the Gospels. We find out about how he did life. He is the ultimate teacher, so study his life and teachings. Study who he was on earth and you will find who He remains to be today. Study how he took His place on the stage of His life and followed the same director as we have now. God lead him through His time on earth as He will lead us through each scene and each act of our own lives.

Let’s go back to the stage for a moment. We are all standing as we are, waiting for direction from the director, watching a perfect example and we hear music. This music is powerful. It carries to every part of the stage and beyond. This music moves you and stirs something inside your soul and you cannot stand anymore. You have to kneel. Your heart hears the melody of heaven. Down in the pit in front of the stage is the orchestra being lead by the world’s greatest Musical director. Every note that is played is for the pleasure of the Director. Gradually you hear harmonies filling the space from all around you. The musical director is conducting them and stirring them up inside and you begin to join them. You are joined by all the angelic hosts of Heaven and the sound is beautiful. It is beyond the beauty of this world. It takes us into another world, a place where we don’t see how broken we are anymore, we see light in the darkness, we see a being who is worthy of all our praise and all our adoratiion and we fall in love with Him. We join this song and the song remains the same for all eternity: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord God Almighty.

The Holy Spirit is our MD. He stirs us to worship. He provokes us to sing songs of praise and adoration to our Director and Mentor. He guides us into harmonies where we lift our eyes beyond our circumstances and we sing “Holy! Holy! Holy!” He is holy. He is entitled to our worship. He is pure and sacred and before the show starts we must worship Him. Not because He is insecure, He doesn’t need us to tell Him how great He is to make himself feel better, but because He is worthy of it. He deserves it.

Worship is the soundtrack of our lives. C. S Lewis says, “Worship is inner health made audible”. A show would not be as captivating without music, but worship is not just the music. I believe there is power in singing, but I also believe that as a soundtrack worship is not just songs. When we say audible it means we can hear it, but also metaphorically we can say ‘what does your life sound like?’ ‘Does the sound go beyond the stage of our lives and spill out on to others?” 

1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”. This verse is often read at a marriage ceremony and it always comes to mind when we think about love, but I think it can be easy to brush over the noisy gong or the clanging cymbal part? What would that sound like?

I am a singer and my husband is a drummer. If I were to bring my worship to God and before a congregation with an acapella version of ‘Here is love vast as the ocean’. The congregation might be able to meditate on the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit might move as I sing, but imagine that half way through the song Rick decided to start banging his cymbals as loudly as he could over the top of my song. It would be offensive! Not only to our ears but to our souls and more importantly to the Holy Spirit who was trying to work through the song.

That is the sound of the clanging cymbal. It is offensive. If I have got a beautiful song to sing on stage and I get off the stage and talk about someone behind their back the song is no longer beautiful. This sound of the clanging cymbal is what happens if in our daily life we don’t buy food for the homeless; we don’t care for those that are vulnerable; we don’t stand up for justice and we don’t speak well of those around us. The high street is our stage, our work place is our stage: life is our stage. Our place will not be found on a stage that seeks to raise us up above others: our place is to be is found on the stage that puts others first and makes Jesus famous.  

When we find worship as the soundtrack of our lives we can dance to it. We can sing songs of praise and adoration even when life is hard. We look to our mentor and sometimes He will take us in his arms and say, “Today I will dance with you. Your feet are not in sync with mine, let me show you again” or “I’ll sing for you today because I know that it is hard to, I’ll remind you how it’s done”. Romans 8:26 in the NRSV says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”. That is an amazing verse. When we can’t do it, when we have forgotten the steps or haven’t even learnt them yet He prays on our behalf. Have you forgotten the steps? Have you forgotten the words? Go back and start with “Holy”. Go back to adoring God and sing “Holy” because He is.

Just remember again that God is the director. He knows our promise and potential. Seek him for direction, but look also to the fact that he takes us as we are. No costumes. No make-up: as we are. We don’t have to try to be anything but ourselves. We don’t have to dress up or pretend to be better than we are. He looks and says, “Good I’m glad you’re here. I’m going to use you just as you are and I will make this show beautiful, if you let me.” Look to Jesus our mentor. Learn how He did it. Study his movements. Find your place by trying to be like him. Listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit our musical director and let the sound that comes from your stage ring out across the world, stirring others to join you as you worship in song and action.

In the theatre there is an audience. In this theatre we have an audience full of saints cheering us on, saying, “go on!” “You can do it!” “We believe in you”. In this audience is Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Noah, Jacob, Hannah, Joseph, Mary, David and Ezekiel… the list goes on. These are heroes of our faith and they have done it before and at the end of our lives there will be an applause from heaven because we saw life as our stage. We saw what could happen when we follow God as our director and we came as we were and asked God to use us to make something beautiful.

How we do life matters. Play your part, without costumes and make-up, just as you are and let’s make our director famous. Life is a stage: The show is what you make it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Coming up for air

Recently, in our church service, my Auntie got up to share a word that she felt God had laid on her heart. She shared how when we are struggling, we sometimes feel like we are ‘going under’ and we need to ‘come up for air’. She described this process as ‘glugging’. We go under, then we manage to come up to the surface and gasp some air, before we go under again. We all have times like that; when life is a real struggle and, if it weren’t for those moments of air, we would drown. I found this image helpful. Air can be found in so many places; a comforting word from a friend, in a Bible verse or in church to name but a few. It is, of course, all around us but when you feel like you are drowning, it is very hard to breathe.

I want to talk about how the Holy Spirit can use us to be ‘air’ for others but also how much we need to recognise His presence in our lives and the life-giving air He wants to give us. We need to understand that the Holy Spirit is our helper and he wants an intimate friendship and partnership with us. God is the air that we breathe and the Holy Spirit helps us come up for air and breathe clearly.

Could I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit use you to be air for others? Be a vessel that carries Him in to situations. If someone is ‘gluggling’ seek out what the Holy Spirit, their helper, would have you do for them. It may be a message sent just at the right time, it might be an evening spent in prayer together, it might be a lifting of their heads. It could be many things but please be obedient to Him. If He is my helper then He is yours too and He can use us to help each other.   

In the book The Life of St John of the Cross the author writes this regarding St John of the cross just before he met St Teresa of Avila. The author says, “He began to realise that God was not just in the infinite beyond, rather God came and comes in time and people”. This meeting with St Teresa was to be perhaps the most significant meeting of his life.  That means that the Holy Spirit is not just in the ‘infinite beyond’ but actually He can come to us in people and on our time. Often friends carry Him to us as they sit and listen and lift our eyes off our circumstances. God comes at the right time and He uses people as his vessel. Will you let Him use you?

When we feel like we are drowning we need the help of the Holy Spirit more than anything. Romans 8:26 in the Message translation says this:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s spirit is right alongside, helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does the praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.”

When we are trying to find our place and work out where God is, it is so easy to get overwhelmed and sometimes we just need air. We will not go under if we understand that the Holy Spirit is our helper. We can keep breathing when we understand this truth and actually if we work on a having an intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit we find that our breathing becomes easier. Our struggles are not ours to carry alone; He is our helper. We don’t have to pray desperate prayers over and over again. We can ask God for what we need and then let the Holy Spirit turn our ‘wordless sighs’ into prayers on our behalf. We can leave it with Him.

This process of letting the Holy Spirit become our partner starts with dying to ourselves. Galations 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Message puts it like this “My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine’, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Philippians 3:10 in the Message says, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in His suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.” If we think about being a partner in Jesus’ suffering, we can also assume that we can partner in His victory too. Amazing.

The term partner has several meanings: a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor. In Law it means; a person associated with another or others as a principal or contributor of capital in a business or a joint venture, usually sharing its risks and profits but my favourite definition is that describing either of two people who dance together. The Holy Spirit is our dance partner and we follow His lead as we dance through this life. If we become a partner with Christ, ultimately, we have to understand that He is in charge of the partnership. He doesn’t force this on us but we need to let Him. In order for Him to be in charge we have to die to ourselves. This concept can be difficult to understand but for our own benefit we should pursue it. When we die to ourselves we find our purpose and that is to work with our friend the Holy Spirit and follow His lead.

The Holy Spirit gives us gifts.  You can find out about these in 1 Corinthians: 1-11. We need to exercise these gifts often and doing so they will help us ‘breathe’, they will bring clean ‘air’ into our lives and into those around us. When I say those around us I mean those we work with, those we encounter during the week not just our Christian friends.

Too often we try to do things on our own. We are stupid really. Of course things will be easier with a partner and not just any partner, the best dance partner that ever was, guiding us through every step and taking the lead. The pressure is not on us. He carries our burdens and then dances us through them if we let Him. That is not to say things will always be easy, of course they won’t, but we come up for air and take a few more steps and spins towards freedom. When life is good: we dance. When life is hard: we dance a little closer. Whatever our circumstance: we dance.

Paul Yonggi Cho said this:

‘Every morning when I awake I greet the Holy Spirit and invite Him to go with me through the day and take me and lead me through all my affairs and He does. I say, “Good morning Holy Spirit. Let’s work together today and I will be your vessel.’ Every evening before retiring I say again, “It’s been a wonderful day working with you Holy Spirit.”

Life can be hard but God is good. We feel like we are drowning but we will not go under. We struggle to breathe but there is always enough air in our lungs. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is our helper, our dance partner, in the sadness and in the joy, our friend and companion and the very air that we breathe.

Steve Jobs said this:

‘There's no other company that could make a MacBook Air and the reason is that not only do we control the hardware, but we control the operating system. And it is the intimate interaction between the operating system and the hardware that allows us to do that. There is no intimate interaction between Windows and a Dell notebook.’

It is our intimate interaction with the Holy Spirit that gives us air. He is the operating system and we are the hardware. Let Him take charge. Next time you feel like you are ‘glugging’ ask for help from the ultimate operating system and let Him show you how to move through the ‘programs’ of life with the creator of them all.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

"But that's mine!"

Have you ever had something that was so special that you didn’t want to share it with anyone else? Maybe you have had things that weren’t all that special and you still didn’t like sharing? My husband Rick and I have two little girls, Mya and Adia, and one day they were drawing together. Mya was using glitter gel pens to draw beautiful hearts and Adia was colouring a picture of a Jedi knight from Star Wars! They are very different but each one beautiful, clever, special and the joy of my life. I overheard an argument that went something along the lines of “But that’s mine!” “No it isn’t, it’s mine!!” “No it’s mine!” “Daddy!” Followed by over-the-top crying and little footsteps running through to Daddy in the kitchen. The argument was over the glitter gel pens. Rick, spoke very calmly to Adia saying “these are just pens, we can’t be precious about them…we share.”

When we are longing to find our place in the family of God and ultimately our purpose in this world, it is very easy to spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We can get trapped in mindsets that tell us we deserve this or that, or mindsets that tell us we have been overlooked, forgotten or purposely excluded and we feel we need to fight our corner. Sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t want to share. In the natural we may have watched someone be given an opportunity that we thought we deserved, or we think God has called us to something and then the opportunity to step in to that seems to have passed us by. We can easily find ourselves thinking “But that’s mine!” It sometimes feels like our place in God’s family, in the church and in the world is dependent on the things that we have or that we’ll know our place when we have been given a role that allows us to step into all that God has for us. We box things in saying, “When I get asked to do this then I will be able to function in the way that God wants me to.” Occasionally this is true, but most of the time it isn’t. Any job or role that we are given we do on behalf of Jesus for the time that He asks us to. That ‘thing’ does not belong to us it belongs to Him. It is not ours to hold on to. We can function in the way that God wants us to regardless of our opportunity and He knows what is best for us. Our chance will come at the right time. We want to share our gifts and our talents with others but are we willing to share our opportunities to use them?

Insecurity tells us that we have to hold tightly to our ‘thing’, that if we loosen our grip on it we will lose our place. (I have personified ‘insecurity’ to acknowledge that there is a spirit of insecurity whose purpose is to make us feel worthless. If we can recognise this it loses its power in our lives.) The enemy will tell you that who you are is tied up in what you do, so much so that you will be unable to function effectively without that thing: that you have nothing to give or that you are not worth much without it. It is a lie!

It is of course true that, for many of us, in order to step in to all that God has for us, we need an opportunity; for someone to say ‘here’s your shot go for it’. And when that happens we must go for it with everything we have, believing that God has opened a door for us and for His glory we must do our very best, but we must also remember that our gifts and talents belong to Him and we use them within the time frames He sets us. If He tells us to run: we run. If He tells us to stop: we stop. Let me share with you an example of how this could work:

My husband and I run the Alpha course at our church. We lead a fairly big team and we create an environment where people can encounter Christianity in an appealing and welcoming way. When we were given the opportunity by our church leaders we were excited and we were pleased to be given a chance to use our skills and we do this to the best of our ability. We believe that it is part of our destiny and so we run with it, we take ownership of it but more importantly we try to steward it well because ultimately it belongs to God, not us. We feel that God has anointed us do this at this time but He doesn’t need us. He chooses to use us and the amazing team we have. We both feel that we never want to find ourselves in a situation where we have such a grip on it that, if God wants to pass it to someone else, we can’t let it go. Our human tendency is to say, “But that’s mine!” “I built that”. I believe God’s response would be “No it isn’t!” and “No you didn’t! It’s mine, I built it”. 

If we look at the book of Haggai we find a people who are too interested in themselves and the houses that they are building to notice that God wants them to rebuild His house. Haggai is a short book in the Old Testament of only 2 chapters, I encourage you to read it. He speaks to the prophet Haggai and says,

“Is it a time for you yourselves to live in panelled houses, while my house lies in ruins? … You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes…You have looked for much, and lo, it came to little, and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of Hosts, because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own little houses.” Haggai 1:4-9

These people are building their own houses. They are putting their energy into their own ‘thing’. Because of this they have not noticed that the Lord’s house is in ruins. God challenges them to go up ‘to the mountains and bring timber to rebuild’ the house of the Lord for his pleasure and His glory. If we look at this in our context we could argue that God is saying “stop thinking so much about yourself and put your effort into building my church and my family”.

If we hold on to things too tightly, we may not see clearly what God is trying to do. If we see our opportunity as the thing to cling on to, we are not paying enough attention to the kingdom of God. The advancement of His Kingdom is way bigger than our part. We must all do our part to the best of our ability, but we have to recognise that getting comfortable in our little ‘home’ of opportunity, while God wants to rebuild and do amazing things beyond it, is not an option. We have to be people who are willing to say, it’s not mine it’s yours God, you do what you see fit. What we do won’t produce much fruit unless it is in line with God’s will. If it is for our glory or benefit the fruit will be minimal. We have to make sure our motives are in check at all times.

Later on, in chapter 2: 6-9 God says, “I will shake the heavens and the earth… and all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour… the silver is mine, the gold is mine… The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former.”  These verses speak to me of a time where people were holding so tightly to what ‘belonged’ to them that God had to step in big time to get their attention. God had to give them a serious shake up by reminding them that ‘the silver’ was His and ‘the gold’ was His but if they could sort this out He would fill His house with splendour. It all belongs to Him, as chapter 1:4 tells us, we will bear little fruit if we neglect the house of God and what He is building. To me that means that if we keep building ‘our thing’ when God wants us to build ‘His’ thing we will ‘look for much’ but it will ‘come to little’. As family we have to make room for each other in the rebuild. We can look for ways to help others step in to what God has for them, and sometimes we have to share our opportunity or the thing we want in order to do this. We have to work together believing that what is to come is greater than anything that has been and that there is treasure to be found in the build.

In my church I am also part of an amazing worship team. I am involved in leading worship and I have a real heart for seeing people using their gifts for the glory of God and to see them step in to all that God has for them. Now, if any of you are creative, you will know that often us creative types can get a little sensitive when our opportunity is challenged, we can get quite precious about ‘our thing’. We have to get over ourselves for the good of the kingdom. When I was faced with the reality of bringing people through in to more leading, I realised that I had to give up my opportunity and let them do it instead. In the natural it is not easy to say “here you go, you do it”, when you really want to do it yourself, but I knew that it was important that others, who God had entrusted with the gift, were able to do it too. My transition through this process was pretty quick and painless and after getting over the feelings of “I’ve been forgotten” I found great freedom and joy in seeing others come through. In fact it was my honour to see that. God didn’t need me in order for the Holy Spirit to minister during the worship time! He doesn’t need any of us but He chooses to use us. What a privilege. 

We are all trying to find our place in the kingdom of God. We all want to be free in who we are and who God has called us to be. First, we are children of God, we are family so, as we make room for each other, we are sometimes required to move into a different space for a time but we don’t have to move house, as such, because the opportunity we want is not there at that time, we just move over in to another space. There is room for us all and there are lots of jobs that need doing. If we grasp the concept that “I fit here, this is home” we have to be willing to say, “though I would love to have a particular job, there may not be room to do that at this time, so I will find a job that does need doing and do it with everything I have, until God says otherwise”. If the floor needs cleaning: do it! We can’t have a few people doing all the jobs. Take responsibility for your church home and family. You be the one to comfort someone in need or take food to the elderly widow who is housebound or make coffee for new comers or clean the toilets during the week. God sees those things and they are so important. As we do these things we might find our place for this season. Seasons come and go and sometimes we are window dressers in the house of the Lord and sometimes we are floor sweepers. Both are of equal value and importance.  Look for ways to encourage each other, even the ones who appear to have taken your opportunity; it will set you free.

In my previous writings I have put a lot of emphasis on who we are and what we can bring, which I believe is right, but I also believe that God will help us to find our place if we stop looking at ourselves so much and fix our eyes on him. There is real beauty in the juxtaposition of this statement. Actually, if we take our eyes off ourselves and look at Jesus, we find Him looking back at us with his arms wide open saying “Come to me” and we find ourselves there. If we look back at the story I told earlier about my children, they knew that if they ran to their Daddy he would give them perspective and sort out the problem. We can do the same to our Father in Heaven. The feelings of “But that’s mine!” are real and it can be painful to let go but God knows how to handle us and train us to be better family members. Let God train you, because this is for the good of generations to come. None of what we have really belongs to us: our jobs, our homes, our money, our gifts, our talents, our families. My children belong to Jesus and it is my desire that they will find their own place and let Him shape them and use them for His glory. I cannot hold them too tightly. They belong to Him.

In 1 Corinthians 1:27 we find that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. I love the paradoxical logic here. I believe that letting go will see great blessing on our family for years to come, that means our wider church family as well as our own. Be someone who brings everything that God has lent you back to Him everyday and aim to have a spirit of outrageous generosity. These are just ‘things’ we can’t be precious about them…we share. Let us be people who say, “I was able to give it all away and in doing so I gained everything”. What an amazing paradox to live in.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Holding on to Hope

Hope: Noun: The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help. Hope: verb: To look forward to with confidence or expectation.

I consider myself to be a hopeful person. I believe deeply that we will always have hope. When life is good it is easy to put our confidence in hope, that it will come to our rescue and that with God’s help we can attain anything. When things get hard it is easy to feel like we are hanging on to hope with a thread, or worse still, that we have let go of hope altogether because disappointment led us to believe that it was safer not to hold on to it.

Disappointment is a very real emotion. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I think that sometimes as Christians is it hard to admit that we are disappointed. It feels wrong to acknowledge it’s presence in our lives because it is as though we are saying that God has let us down. The truth is, it sometimes feels like that and it makes your heart sick.  God will not let us down, but when we loose sight of hope it feels like He might have, that He may have forgotten what we asked Him for. It may feel like He isn’t listening… but He is. He is listening and he hasn’t forgotten us.

I came across this passage from Lamentations 3:19 in The Message Bible. It says this:

I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. I remember it all-oh, how well I remember-the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out”. Our Father’s love for us is loyal; it is faithful; it never let’s us go. Even when we feel deserted we must convince ourselves of this fact. He loves us. “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense”. You may be someone who finds it hard to understand God’s love, or even doubt that He loves you. I think that this can be a cause of great suffering for many Christians, “How could God love me? He obviously doesn’t know who I really am.” The fact is He does. He knows who I really am and He still loves me! Sometimes if we doubt His love, hope fades. Sometimes we doubt His love because Hope faded. We can feel like we put our hope in Him and things didn’t work out how we wanted. It can be hard to come to terms with and hard to trust Him but that doesn’t mean He isn’t trustworthy. We are all shaped by what happens to us and beauty can come from everything if we let it. Learn to look for fruit in any situation we face.

“When life is heavy or hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.” When I read this phrase the idea of entering the silence carries weight. I don’t believe it means when things are hard, shut yourself off from the world and do it on your own, on the contrary, I think it means enter the stillness of God’s presence. Try to stay in the land of the living and find your source of life in the silence of God’s presence. The heaviness we find in God’s presence restores us and lifts burdens from us. We can combat disappointment with thankfulness. Enter the silence, wait on God and say thank you for all the good things he has done and hope will appear.

The verse says, ‘Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: wait for hope to appear’. When we are disappointed it is so natural to ask questions. The biggest question is usually “why?” The truth is often there are no answers. In the natural that can be very hard to come to terms with but supernaturally we can still find peace even when there are unanswered questions. If we stop asking questions and wait for hope to appear, it will.

One of the things that I have struggled with is the fact that disappointment seems more real and sometimes worse if we get our hopes up. Does this mean I should stop hoping to avoid greater disappointment? It is easier to let go of hope to protect ourselves, but there is treasure in not taking the easy route. As Hebrews 10 tells us there is no pleasure in shrinking back, “But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved”. If we lose hope we become people who are lost. We will continue to struggle to find our place in the world without hope. Hope and faith are closely linked.  Hebrews 11:1 in The New Living Translation says:
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about the things we cannot see.”

Romans 8:24 tells us that ‘hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?’ The Message translation puts it like this, “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.’ Waiting is a big part of hoping. When we have hope, waiting produces patience. ‘We don’t see what is enlarging us’ but we can be sure that something is if we let it.

One of my favourite things to read is The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake. (Search for it; it is so inspiring.) In the final verse he writes ‘We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes’. If we think of a horizon we can see a line where the horizon ends. If we ask God to push back the horizons of our hopes he will broaden them. The horizon will no longer be the end, it will be wider and more beauty can be found in it. So I would encourage you to ask God to broaden the horizons of your hopes. We must try not to become too fixated on hoping for one thing, though it is very hard. There is more. More than what we could ever hope for or imagine so let’s give God a chance to show us more. We have to learn to trust Him, really trust Him with all our hopes and dreams. If we can truly give them to Him holding on to hope becomes security for us.

When I was a little girl my Dad used to play a game with my brothers and me. It was called “But I might not catch you!” We would stand on a high surface, often the kitchen worktop and shout “Dad! I’m going to jump” and his response would be “But I might not catch you!” He would stand facing the opposite direction or pretend he was really busy doing something or that he didn’t really think that we would jump, but we would jump, with great faith, as high as we could and not for one minute did we think he wouldn’t catch us. He always did. Now, as an adult, I find myself standing on a metaphorical kitchen worktop with my arms outstretched but it is me now who is saying “but He might not catch me”. So we tentatively hang on the edge of the ledge with our arms reaching out to Him but without the same amount of trust that we had when we were young. It is up to us to jump in faith that God will catch us. When my Dad caught me as a child there was always joy and laughter that followed and we would laugh and shout “Do it again!” and he would say “Oh but this time I might not catch you!” But He always did. If we jump, we give God an opportunity to show us what He can do. Sometimes the jump is letting go; giving things wholeheartedly to Him and trusting Him with it. Hope walks us to the edge of the ledge: Faith tells us it’s safe to jump. We have to assume He will catch us and when He does, joy will follow.

We must remember that God ‘takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.’ God is our comfort and strength, a very present help in time of need. Life is hard but He is our hope and the hope for the world, so let’s be people who 'stick with Him'. “The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.” We have Jesus; letting go of hope in my book is not an option. “It is a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God”.

God can do anything. The facts in front of us may say one thing but the truth of God’s word sometimes stares ‘facts’ in the face with a miraculous installation of hope and a feeling that God is there. He never leaves us. His love does not let go of us. Hold on to hope with confidence and expectation. Nothing is impossible with help from our Father. Who we are is found in Him and He is the hope of the world. Give Him a chance to show you what He can do.