Who told us we’d be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live; it’s unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved
And to know that the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held…..
Natalie Grant, “Held” lyrics
In Philip Yancey’s book, Where is God when it hurts?, he points out how important pain really is. Without pain, how would we know what it is to feel joy? Paul reflects numerous times on the many trials that he faced as he boldly continued to exalt the good news of redemption through Christ:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. –Romans 5:3-4
Just because we have chosen to believe in Christ and walk in the ways of righteousness does not mean that we escape the challenges of this life. For whatever reason, God needs us to grow into that hope in His promises. So, even when things are so low that you wonder, God, I have confessed my belief in You, can’t You just let me go home to You already, you have to continue in faith of the larger plan that only God knows.
The prayer requests in Bible class in recent weeks have included a growing number of believers whose lives are being not only challenged, but outright shattered. And yet, as believers, we must continue through faith to go before God in hope and pray for the “peace that transcends understanding,” the peace and strength that can only come from God and that is our only key to getting back into the good race that we must run (Paul writes about this race analogy too, in 2 Timothy for one, and you can also read about it in Hebrews).
I have been pretty down on myself in the last few weeks, feeling like I have too easily caved to recent events in my own life. I was pretty quick to give up hope when I had to put down my cat. She was very sick with nothing left to do for her, so it was the right thing. And when I hear the prayer requests I mentioned earlier, they are about problems way, way bigger than losing a cat. I wonder with trepidation what I will do when I have to face the really big challenges. Where will my hope be then?
Of course, then I remember that I have been facing challenges just like we all do in my 44 years. Both my parents are cancer survivors. I have had to live in the big city I never liked without being able to live near my family for my entire married life, and I am the kind of child who still talks to her parents every day on the phone, so this is no small feat. I have dealt with medical issues myself that haven’t been life-threatening, but have definitely reduced the quality of my life.
And yet, through all of these challenges, I have continued to work to grow my relationship with God. I keep trying to spread His word and do His will, even when a lot of days I wonder just what I think I am doing. So, maybe I am not so bad in the hope department as I thought.
I share these things because I have learned the hard way that being able to hear what other people really think deep inside can be helpful. When you hear somebody else express an emotion or reaction that you too have had, you don’t feel so alone in the universe. You don’t feel so guilty about having a thought. You realize you are not alone.
With God, of course, we really never are alone. That’s part of what Jesus meant when He told us, “my burden is light.” Being held by the Love of loves may be hard to feel when you are in the midst of overwhelming grief, but as you begin to come out of the deep hole of despair, you realize that the only thing that kept you from falling completely away were the Arms of that hope you foster every time you pray, join in fellowship, or read His word–what it means to be held, as Natalie Grant puts it.
May the grace of hope in Him bless all of us this week, whether we are dealing with the worst thing that has ever happened to us in our lives or just a flat tire on the freeway. As the Psalmists remind us:
The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy. . . . Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee. –Psalm 33:18, 22