Hope…for what we do not see

This morning, my Scripture reading led me on a trail back to Romans 7 and 8. I have a confession that oftentimes in my Scripture reading, I fall into the temptation to read as quickly as I can so that I can move onto the next item of my day – complete the next item on my checklist. I’m not proud of that quality in me. I tend to be a task-driven person. {I blame it on my dad – just kidding – sort of. ;)} But today, I actually slowed down my brain to take in the whole of the words I was reading. If you’re anything like me and tend to be a brain nomad during the day, I suggest reading out loud. It forces your brain to process the information at two different levels: visual and auditory. In other words, it occupies more of your energy/effort so you’re less capable of focusing elsewhere.

At any rate, this morning as I read a very familiar passage in my less utilized slower fashion, I was captivated by the words on the page that I had before missed.

23 And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:23-25

I included verse 23 primarily for context but want to highlight Paul’s wisdom in verse 24-25.

How many of us have compared ourselves to others and then placed “hope” in having what they had. We even catch ourselves saying, “I hope I could be like her one day, have what she has, do what she does.” Frequently these days, I find myself hoping that I could write a book like some others have. In fact, I’m reading a book right now in which my personality bears so much resemblance to the author, I feel as if I could just put my name in the author spot and call it my own (minus our life experiences – those have been different…and the fact that that’s plagiarism…anyhow…).

But what Paul is stating in Romans 8 is that hope in what we can see is not hope at all. Comparing ourselves to others and “hoping” for what they have doesn’t by definition count as hope. We must hope in what we cannot see. Here he speaks of hoping for the salvation of our redemption bodies upon the returning of Jesus Christ our Lord and King. And truly, is there any greater thing for which I could hope? I think not.

But when we focus on the smaller details of our days, about which the Lord cares very much {Psalm 37:23-24}, we find ourselves not hoping for what we cannot see – but hoping for what we can see in others’ lives.

Many of us know and understand that comparison is a theft of our joy. In fact, while listening to an “Ask Pastor John” podcast episode recently, John Piper was asked by a listener how he does all that he does. The question included the phrase, “when do you eat your cereal?” implying that Pastor John is the standard by which this other man was to live and experience success in his own writing and speaking career. Per usual, I was amazed by Pastor John Piper’s response that highlighted the humility of his spirit and yet a reprimand for this man’s implications in his questions. Before addressing any part of his question, he said that he would strongly caution anyone against wanting to be just like him. He told the public that we don’t know his sin struggles or what it’s like to walk in his shoes. And he implied that should we know, most of us wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it.

Later in Pastor John’s answer, he cautioned the public against being so stuck in the comparison cycle that we think “if we can just achieve what ___________ did, we will have done our best for the Lord.” Instead he encouraged us to seek the Lord personally and His word for what He would like to do through us and with us that will look like nobody else’s life – but our own.

And this is difficult for us to do, because the Lord knows that comparison has been a part of our human experience from the beginning. Even Peter, who we admire for his amazing efforts in advancing the gospel, fell to this comparison trap.

This past weekend, as Pastor Mike continued his sermon series on the life of Peter, we were led to the passage in John 21 where Peter was reinstated to the cause of Christ {after denying Jesus three times surrounding his crucifixion}. After Peter is reinstated by the Lord Jesus, he is also given an insight into the fact that he will one day be martyred for the cause of Christ. When Peter hears this, it’s possible that he was encouraged to know that the next time he faced strong adversity for Christ, he wouldn’t run in fear. But after hearing Jesus’ words, he quickly looks to John, who had been following them, and he asks Christ to tell him whether John will experience the same death. Jesus says, “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” {John 21:22}.

I think we can hear the Lord saying the same to us. STOP LOOKING AT ___________. Look at me! Follow me! Let me make your story your own!

In a culture driven to greater comparison than ever by the mass amount of information at our fingertips {let’s be honest – social media is a never-ending comparison trap if we let it be}, I think it’s time for us to stop comparing. It’s time for us to look to Jesus and ask him what it is He wants for our lives. It’s time for us to seek His will for us – not through wanting what other people have. It’s time for us to hope not for what we see but for what is unseen.

These are difficult words for me to process, difficult words for me to live, but I know that the Lord will be faithful to complete the good work that he has begun in those who follow after him.

Comparison is heavy, but I trust that the Lord knows my heart more intimately than even me, and He will be faithful to paint beautiful moments in my life that draw me closer to Him and allow me to bring Him greater glory than if I had what someone else does.

So what should we do? We should seek the Lord through prayer and the Word. We should seek council if needed of godly women or men. We should keep making strides toward bringing the Lord glory through whatever way He has given us for the time. And then we should wait in eager expectation for Him to fulfill what He has promised in His Word. He will be faithful! Therefore, we can hope in what we do not see for our eternity and in the daily details of how He will work in our lives.

Beauty for Today

The Word of God is a powerful source in drawing our eyes back to the Lord Jesus and causing our focus to gaze on the eternal rather than temporal.

This morning, my Scripture reading landed me in one of my favorite Psalms. Psalm 34.

Take some time and allow these truths to sink in deeply.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

In his sermon “God’s Ultimate Purpose: Vessels of Mercy Knowing the Riches of His Glory,” John Piper says of verse 8 (“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”):

To you who say you have never tasted the glory of God, I say, you have tasted many of its appetizers.

Have you ever looked up? Have you ever been hugged? Have you ever sat in front of a warm fire? Have you ever walked in the woods, sat by a lake, lain in a summer hammock? Have you ever drunk your favorite drink on hot day or eaten anything good? 

Every desire is either a devout or distorted enticement to the glory of heaven. …

The best place to get your heart tuned is at the cross of Jesus Christ. “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

If you want the most concentrated display of the glory of God, look at Jesus in the Gospels, and look especially at the cross. This will focus your eyes and tune your heart and waken your taste buds so that you will see and hear and taste the glory of the true God everywhere.

Some of my favorite verses of Scripture are found in this Psalm. But what I love most about this is that not only is God good for all of eternity. He is good for in the everyday. As we walk with Christ, regardless of the mundane, the glee, the agony, the frustrations, the sorrow, the loss, the joy, the laughter (those things waiver from day to day), God is unchangingly good. His steadiness is a rock for our souls and a buffer for our emotional responses to life.

That’s good news, isn’t it?! So let’s try in the midst of it all to trust that even if today doesn’t appear to hold this truth for us (as many days here will feel), we can trust that the Lord is good and our eternity…and days…and minutes…are secured in Him.

{Disclaimer: I am still young with much, much to learn. And I hope I always believe that I have much to learn. My earnest prayer is that these truths come back to me by the power of the Spirit during life’s storms that will come.}

Moms, Women, Hospitality, and the Gospel

Chris and I went out on a real live date this past Friday night. Some sweet friends of ours ASKED US to watch Elias so that we could break away for a little bit. (We love them!) And it was so nice. We love, love, love our sweet son, but it’s the small things on a little date night: not having to carry around a 30 lb. car seat and extra baggage, taking a leisurely walk around unhampered by the weight of said carried items, getting to chat with each other undistracted, or to simply stare silently into the abyss realizing how tired you’ve become these past 8 months…if you’re like us.

While we were on our date, we took a few moments to reflect on the wonderful attributes of our sweet mommas: these fearless leaders who raised us in a culture that was throwing  new challenges at them, these loving women who showed us discipline and love and grace as we made the mistakes so common to mankind – children and teenagers in particular.

When I asked Chris what he most loves about his momma, I wasn’t surprised by his answer. It’s one of the reasons that I so love her. He commented on her boldness and fearlessness in providing for her family. This dedicated woman loves her family fiercely, and she fights for them. It could be in a big way, like trying to help them navigate a life challenge, or in a small way, like making sure that the restaurant gives her family what they ordered. She is a go-with-the-flow momma when it comes to her kids while equally demonstrating courage and protection for them. I’m thankful to have been lumped into that group through my marriage to Chris. She’s a wonderful woman.

When Chris turned the question back to me, it was an easy answer. I will forever be grateful for the ways that my mom made our home such a haven. We wanted to be there, couldn’t wait to come back. Whether it was returning from a full day of school, coming home from hanging out with friends, returning for a weekend break from college, or, more common to me now, the twice a year visits. Wherever my momma is, there is a warm and inviting home waiting for those she loves.

My mom loves through action. She was taught my the best in my Mammaw. Mom sure knows how to make you feel wanted and loved. And through my previous years in the classroom, and now in my current role as homemaker and stay at home momma, I see how difficult this can be. Driven by love, my mom cleaned, made great dinners for us throughout the week, encouraged family dinner time, played games, told jokes, showered us in things she knew we would love (at just the right amount so that we didn’t live in the allusion that all revolved around us – just so that we knew she truly saw us).

What I love about the picture of the two moms that we’ve been given in our family is this: we have learned so much about what it is to create a sense of belonging in our own families. And I think this is such a powerful concept within the Lord’s family as well. So much of the growth of relationships happens within the home, as people pour into their families and then also into other families. I believe Jesus is glorified in these love-generating, joy-seeking, selfless, God-honoring relationships.

Yesterday in church, Pastor Mike preached a convicting sermon on hospitality, focusing on the hospitable spirits displayed in Peter’s wife and mother-in-law as they contributed to Jesus’ ministry. His key ideas about hospitality were this:

  1. Selfless hospitality connects you with God’s family.
  2. Selfless hospitality connects you with the stranger who may need the gospel.
  3. Selfless hospitality connects you with God’s servants.
  4. Selfless hospitality connects you with God by connecting you with the people of God.

How blessed are we when we have seen pictures of this selflessness on display through hospitality within our own homes?

Mothers are a big deal. They are little images of Jesus to their children – imperfect as we all are. We are the ones who have the opportunity to give of ourselves so that others will be provided for, emboldened, treasured, disciplined, loved.

May we be challenged and encouraged that–regardless of the blessings or challenges we’ve faced at the hands of our moms–the Lord has called us, in particular as women, to create homes that model the gospel and cause people to desire to be a part of God’s story of redemption. What a cool calling that women have!

I end with one of my favorite verses about the ideal woman from Proverbs 31:25-27:

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Those are some big shoes to attempt to fill, but I pray that we’d be fearless in our attempt.