By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again. Psalm 71:20-21
The last few weeks I have witnessed so much hopelessness.
My heart breaks as I hear the pain slipping through the lips of people I love as they struggle with extreme pain and loneliness. I know this entire quarantine thing has wreaked havoc on so many who feel completely cut-off from any type of human contact.
We have experienced death and destruction on grand scales. We watch as the news produces a constant stream of the numbers. Every single day the news organizations remind me of the daily totals—those sick and dead. It is overwhelming at times.
We, as a country, have suffered tremendous economic hardships. Even as I speak, my sister and her family are making an unwanted move across the country, away from the love and support of family because of a job loss. My own husband is looking for a new job because his ended suddenly and unexpectedly last month. And we are fortunate that despite the job loss, we still have food and shelter and our true needs met.
It seems as if there is no part of our lives that is left untouched.
I see it every day. I hear it as I talk to others. I feel it as I empathize with those around me.
But we believe in a God of hope. Hope in all circumstances. Hope no matter what life brings us. Hope that God truly does work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
All things. Not some things but all things.
That God is good all the time…not just when our lives are going well.
A faith that believes good things are ahead even when live crumbles all around us.
From loss and devastation to beauty from our brokenness.
From hopeless to hopeful.
I want you to be full of hope.
So how do we move from hopeless to hope-full?
Refocus our minds.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
Our minds are our greatest assets and also our greatest enemies. Our minds can help us move forward, to maintain a positive mindset. Or, our minds can allow us to spiral hopelessly downward. Our minds can focus on the promises of God or on the pain of this world.
Scripture is clear that our minds are the key to maintaining peace. In Philippians 4, we are commanded to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right and to be thankful and pray about all things so His peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds. We are told to fix our thoughts on Him so He can keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
How do we change the way we think? From Philippians, we think on the right things. We think about things for which we are thankful. Instead of thinking about all the things that are wrong in our life, we think about the good things, the gifts that God has placed in our lives. When we recognize our minds drifting to the negative, we stop and intentionally refocus on something good, a blessing.
It may start with just one thing. Find one thing for which we are thankful each morning, and go to that one thing when we find ourselves spiraling downward. Write that one thing down in a journal each day. Before long, we will have a list of things for which we can thank God, reminders of His faithfulness.
Hear the promises of scripture.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:1b-2
I recently read Isaiah 43 in my morning devotions. The book just came alive with reminders of God’s hope.
Reminders that He knows our name.
Reminders that we are His.
Reminders that He is with us.
Reminders that we will not be consumed.
Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Isaiah 43:4-5a
Reminders that that we are precious to Him.
Reminders that we are loved.
Reminders that Christ traded His life for ours.
Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” Isaiah 43:7
Reminders that He will work all things for our good and His glory.
Understand He is working in the silence (You’ve got mail – Roy’s heart being softened in the silence)
But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland… Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. Isaiah 43:18-20a
Do you remember the scene in the movie You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks is emailing Meg Ryan after he stood her up for their initial meeting? Hanks realized he really cared about Ryan and wanted to repair the mess he had made in their relationship. In his email, he said he had a project that needed “tweaking.” He began to intentionally find ways to interact positively with Ryan until the past had become distant and he had developed an emotional attachment with Ryan.
That’s how God works. He is busy “tweaking” projects in the background, in what we perceive as the silence. For example, when God gave me the promise that He had already heard and answered my prayer (Daniel 9:23), I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long for His promise to be fulfilled. Now, as I look back, I see that God was working on Roy’s heart, softening it toward the Holy Spirit, drawing Him near. He was changing Roy from the inside out, taking away his tendency toward the flesh and giving Him a passion for God.
He was working in the silence even though I couldn’t see it.
To move from hopeless to hope full, we must recognize the character of God, His promise to bring His promises to fulfillment.
Being transformed by the renewing of our minds is a process, one that starts with taking simple steps of focusing our minds on the things of God. Of intentionally changing the way we think. Of capturing our negative, sinful thoughts and remembering the faithfulness of God.
Father, our hearts are heavy and broken in this day as we see the pain and devastation that is rampant in this world around us. I see so much hopelessness, but I know you are the God of hope! Help us as we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Help us to focus our minds on the truth of scripture, on the promise that you are with us and love us immensely. Take us from a place of hopeless to hope full. We need you. In Jesus’ name, amen.