The absence of hope, I see it in the eyes of the beggar children tugging on my sleeve desperate for me to give them something. I hear it in the comment of a student who has lost family when he says, "what if we die by then..." I feel it in the desperation of a father's question as he asks will our school still be here if trouble comes. I live in a land where the majority don't feel hope and the rest manufacture a false hope by gaining money and power. A few have real hope, the kind that only Jesus can give, and my prayer is that they are stronger and bigger in number than we know.
I even find myself struggling with hope sometimes. Will my students ever learn? Will my children ever listen? How can I help when there is so much hurt without causing more hurt? Why do I keep messing up? Will I ever learn the language? Will I ever see fruit in this land?
In Psalm 71:5, I repeat the psalmist's words as my own, "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth." I know this to be true but need to be remind of it often. By God's grace, I have been his child from a young age. Looking back I see his guidance and provision in all seasons.
Then why is it so hard to always have hope as the psalmist did? In verse 14, he continues with "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Why is he so sure, so confident? Looking back at Psalm 71, I see 4 things that helped him keep his focus and hope in God.
1. He made God his refuge. (vs1,3) When my week is hard, do I run to God and the peace of his presence or run to comfort in books and movies? When I don't know what to do, do I go to God first for help or those around me?
2. Praise him. (vs 6,8,22,23) Praise either alone or with others helps focus our eyes back on the one who controls all things. Praise him with your words. In the past two years, I have started writing down my gifts of gratitude each morning. Praise him with your song. Nothing like a hymn or worship song to lift your spirit and remind you of who God is. It is when we remember who God is that we can trust in the one who gives us hope.
3. Spend time with him. (vs8) Even if it is just sitting quietly, spend time in God's presence. Spending time with God not only gives us a new perspective but by slowing down and sitting before him we acknowledge that we can't do this life without him.
4. Remind yourself and others of what God has done. (vs 15,16,17,24) How much more hope we would have if we shared our answered prayer and God's graces rather than our woes and complaints. Maybe I should reword that. How much more hope I would have if I shared my answered prayer and God's graces rather than my woes and complaints. Our family sometimes will share at the dinner table our best and worst of the day. I am thinking a better choice might be "How did we see God today?"
Dear God of all hope, Thank you that you have been on this journey with me from the beginning. Thank you that you bring hope in the midst of a dark world. I pray that I will find refuge in you and always hope. I pray for opportunities to share that hope with those around me. May your presence fill this land with love, grace and hope. In Jesus name, Amen