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Learning to Hope

Through the Book of Romans, and through the examples of my three kids, I am learning, slowly but surely, to hope.

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“Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” So says a philosophy I often live by.

It’s rather gloomy, really. It says, in essence, “Don’t get your hopes up too much, just in case things go wrong.”

And yet, lately, even this pessimistic, afraid-to-hope girl, is beginning to get a taste of the confident, courageous hope that can be mine in Christ.

Through the Book of Romans, and through the examples of my three kids, I am learning, slowly but surely, to hope.

Just before my daughter Molly’s ninth birthday, she wrote out her birthday wish list for us: a paint set, mystery books, and a Wii game. Then, at the end of the list, tacked on as a last request, she added, “iPhone. (Least likely.)” Does Molly want an iPhone? Absolutely. Did she get one, at age nine? No way. She knew it wasn’t an option, and she didn’t count on receiving a phone. And yet, she still added it to the list. It couldn’t hurt to ask, I suppose.

I relate to Molly’s “least likely” disclaimer.

Unfortunately, I often pray with it. “Lord, will You provide this, please, even though I know it’s not very likely?” “I wish God would answer me … but He probably won’t.” I’m afraid to hope because of the potential letdowns. I guard against getting my hopes up, to protect against possible disappointment.

But what does Scripture say? Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Why should I hope when it’s probably out of reach? Because, in Christ, hope doesn’t disappoint. Because of His love, I can hope fully, without risk of disappointment. In Christ, “no way” becomes possible. Because of His love, “least likely” is promised.

In the Old Testament, Abraham knew this kind of hope. He lived by it. “Against all hope,” wrote Paul, “Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4:18). He didn’t know where he was headed, but he went anyway. And fathering a child at his age? Definitely “least likely.” But, Abraham hoped against hope, “and so he became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him.” Abraham was not disappointed.

How can I, the pessimist, grow such a confident hope? How can I move past my fear of disappointment? Paul offered two ways.

Hope Grows Through Suffering

Again, Paul wrote in Romans, ” … we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). I watched my older daughter, Anne, grow hope through suffering in her ballet. Two Decembers ago, Anne was brokenhearted when she wasn’t chosen to dance the part of harlequin in her academy’s performance of The Nutcracker. In all her sadness, Anne persevered through the hurt.

A year later, Anne was finally selected for the role she’d wanted, and I smiled at her response. After I congratulated her, Anne said simply, “Thanks, but I feel bad for my other friends who wanted harlequin. I know how they feel.” It had been a year of suffering and perseverance, and now Anne had grown character. Now she had a compassion and grace that she couldn’t have had without the suffering. Anne grew from suffering to perseverance, from perseverance to character, and from character to hope.

In the Old Testament, Abraham persevered through suffering, too. He obeyed all the way up the mountain in Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, and his suffering led to hope. In the same way, if I embrace pain rather than protect my heart against it — if I persevere through hardship even when I don’t feel like it — my redeemer God will turn the “least likely” situation into good. The very pain I want to avoid can result in a lasting “hope that does not disappoint.”

Hope Comes from Scripture

Paul told the Romans a second way to grow hope: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Scripture, according to Paul, gives hope.

My son, Nathan, teaches me about the hope Scripture gives. At age 12, Nathan still battles a great deal of fear and nerves … all of which he inherited from me. Just this week, Nathan made himself sick with worry over attending church camp. I encouraged him with the best mom-pep talk I knew, but at the end of it all, only God and His word will walk with Nathan through the scary times. I can’t go to camp with my son, but God will. I armed Nathan with scriptural truths written out on index cards, knowing that the encouragement Nathan finds in God’s enduring Word will build his hope.

Scripture builds my hope, too. Not a dry, dutiful, reading of the Bible, but a relational, prayerful meditation of His living and active Word. When I read Scripture that way, I’m encouraged and filled with hope.

Hope Overflows

Paul offered the Romans a final teaching on hope: hope overflows. A new philosophy for a “least likely” like me: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Hope doesn’t disappoint. It grows through suffering and Scripture, and it overflows by the Holy Spirit’s power as I trust in Him. The examples of my kids and Paul’s teaching in Romans are transforming this pessimistic, afraid-to-hope girl into a confident, courageous believer. I am learning to hope in the God of hope.

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Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

3 Comments
  • Donna

    This is sooo timely I literally just emailed a friend about a situation in which I was sharing how I must hope in the Lord, I didn’t use those exact words but boils down to that. And I used Abraham as an example and how he had faith that God would provide a sacrifice….it’s a blessing to have received this confirmation here, glad I stayed up those extra few minutes or I would have missed this being posted on facebook:)

    • Donna

      Wow I apparently truly need growth in this area as the Lord once again brought this article to my attention, coupled with Psalm 42:11 truly grateful.

      • Donna, isn’t God’s timing incredible? I love it when He confirms things, and then even sweetly re-confirms them again later. It’s a faith-builder for me. So glad He spoke to you!!

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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Articles

He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Learning to Hope

by Amy Storms time to read: 4 min
3