Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hope is a Four Letter Word

My social media feeds are full of ways to resolve to get fit/healthy/debt-free/successful. I love the built-in reset we have every year to start fresh, create new goals, and refocus. Although admittedly I typically cringe at creating goal lists. January 1st starts strong and by March my list looks like my feeble and failed attempt to get my stuff together.

One trend for goal setting is to choose a word for the year. The concept is that one word would sum up what you want to focus on, who you want to be, and how you want to live. The idea has been swirling around in my head and heart for a few weeks now, but landing on just one word has been hard.

What would sum up all I want 2016 to encompass for me? 

Looking back, I can sum up 2015 with one word: HARD. Our year started with a bang: a new home, careers soaring, and grand dreams on the horizon. But starting in August, our hard hit. And to be honest, it hasn't really let up. It feels a bit like being on a coastline during a storm: the waves keep coming and all you have capacity to do is brace yourself for the next one.

So here I am, on the brink of a new year, more than ready to say goodbye to the hard of 2015. 

This afternoon, my word hit me: HOPE.

I literally cringed when I first had the thought. Hope sounds a little like a four letter word right now. Offensive. Shocking. Even a bit cruel.

Sometimes, hope feels brutal. 
When you're in the wait and it seems unending.
When your current reality looks bleak.
When countless prayers seems to go unanswered.

It's hard to describe the toll continuing to hope can take on your heart. 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick... {Proverbs 13:12}

We just hope in the wrong things.

Earthly security. Easy relationships. Praise and esteem. When I think about some of my longings and prayers, sometimes I'm praying for ease and comfort rather than more of Jesus.

But reading through the scriptures, it doesn't take long to see that hope has a place firmly grounded in our lives and in the good news of the gospel. We are a people created to hope. 

I've underlined or circled each mention of hope in my Bible. In some of these spaces the ink is blurred where my tears have wet the pages.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. {Psalm 33:18} 
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. {Psalm 39:7} 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation. {Psalm 42:5} 
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. {Psalm 62:} 
But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. {Psalm 71:14} 
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. {Psalm 119:81} 
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! {Psalm 119:116} 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. {Psalm 130:5} 
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” {Lamentations 3:24} 
And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. {Romans 5:5} 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. {Romans 15:13} 
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. {1 Corinthians 13:7} 
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. {Hebrews 10:23}

But this one is my favorite.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. {Psalm 130:7}

Hope, at it's core, is grace. God's grace to me in a season of hard and waiting and aching and grieving. 

So here's one four letter word that will be echoed in our home all year long. We'll shout it over the busyness of our lives. We'll remind each other over the dinner table. We'll even whisper it to each other in the dark. 

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