What is hope?
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12
Have you ever struggled to hold on to hope? Hope is powerful. For fear of being disappointed, too many people today have let go of hope because trials have clouded the fact that God is in control and that He cares deeply.
Change occurs when hope is reignited in a person’s heart…
It is evident: one can see the spark in the eye, the smile; the demeanor shift. Heads no longer hang down; shoulders no longer slump. There is a “second wind”: a knowing that though circumstances may be challenging, God has not forgotten, and He knows exactly what He is doing. You yourself may have experienced this, as I have recently. Something that you would not expect ignited hope within my heart—leaves. At first glance, you might find this odd. But, to fully grasp the significance of leaves, I must explain the background story:
Several months ago, as winter was approaching, an expert gardener cut back our beautiful Crepe myrtle trees. As I approached these trees, my mind flashed back to the summer time, when they were in full bloom, their pink flowers vibrant, and my heart sank. The flowers that were once visible were cut back to the stems, leaving the Crepe myrtles looking barren and what appeared to be lifeless. Maybe you too can identify. Just like the summer blooms, there are times in life when everything is going well, things are flourishing, prayers that you have prayed are being answered, laughter is in abundance, and the sun seems to be shining.
Then, unexpectedly, clouds appear over the horizon, possibly in the form of a traumatic phone call, a broken relationship, a pink slip, a loss of a loved one; health issues…You fill in the blank. Had I not known what the gardener was doing, I would have thought that all hope was lost for these trees. But, I understood that this pruning process was for their greater growth.
We are like trees…
It is fascinating how the Bible uses the spiritual analogy of trees to symbolize believers in Christ. There may be times that God prunes us back, but it too is for our ultimate good, and for our spiritual maturity. Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God has a unique purpose for each of His children. The Sovereign Lord knows the areas we need to develop. Anyone that He intends to use for His kingdom purposes will go through seasons of “pruning” (just look at the lives of Abraham, Joseph, and David in the Bible, to name a few). As many of you know, this experience is painful but yields some very valuable results.
Some ways that we benefit by surrendering and drawing strength from God:
1.) We learn that in our weakness, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
2.) It humbles us because we know that … “Apart from Him, we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We learn to put our focus on Christ and in His sufficiency, instead of our own.
While this experience helps us mature in our faith, it is vitally important not to compare ourselves with other believers and their “leaves” (the dreams fulfilled, the answered prayers, etc…), while we ourselves are going through the pruning process of surrender. Instead, we must trust the One who holds the universe together and remains steadfast in His Word, looking to Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. God’s plans for His children are tailor-made. Not a single moment escapes His sight, and He knows what we can endure. As we hope in Him, He can do the miraculous.
We grow in seasons…
As I now look at the tiny leaves emerging from the stems of the Crepe myrtle trees, this image brings visible reminders of encouragement that more growth occurs when the initial leaves are trimmed away, there is a season of barrenness, and new life comes forth. Although it looks externally bleak, the “timber” continues to get nourishment underground, the roots are growing deeper, and will, ultimately, thrive. God speaks through nature to remind us that there is hope—new life springing forth from what appeared to be hopelessness. In His timing, the winter season will transition into spring.
Words to live by…
Our Heavenly Father can breathe life and renew hope in any situation for any heart that has given into despair…Let hope grow, my friend. Trust the Lord, and let your own roots go down deeper into His Word and His promises, and hold on to Him, our true hope. He is ever faithful.
“When you send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30)
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7)