HOPE in 2018

DSCN6035One of the best things about Facebook is reconnecting with old friends, and I recently had an interesting exchange with a few far-flung friends from my school days.

We talked about the word God is leading us to choose for 2018. We may all view this word a little differently, but essentially it captures an attitude or quality we want to try to develop or focus on more during the coming year.

I’ve done this for the last couple of years, and I’ve been amazed at how much God reveals to me about that word during the course of the year. During 2016, God impressed upon me over and over the abundance of JOY in him and his word. Because I was alert for joy, I discovered it more in Scripture, in books I read, in other people, in creation, in myself, and especially in God. I’m convinced we can’t begin to comprehend the incredible fullness of God’s joy.

As I prayed and considered a word for 2017, I began thinking about PEACE. Frankly, I didn’t really want that word and was a little concerned about it. Why would I need peace? What might happen during 2017? Choosing the word generated a gnawing anxiety. Even my vivid imagination never created a scenario in which I would lose my sister, my mother, and my father within the year. But that’s what happened.

My sister’s health deteriorated quickly and she was placed in hospice care. We siblings kept vigil at her bedside for five days, and she went home to Jesus on January 12. Less than a month later, while we were still reeling from that loss, we learned that my mom’s cancer had returned with a vengeance. Her only option was hospice care. After eight extremely difficult weeks, the Lord took her home on April 10. The grief of losing our mother less than three months after our sister weighed heavily on us, but Dad’s loneliness, after 68 years with his beautiful bride, nearly crushed him.

His struggle with memory difficulties had made him heavily dependent upon her, and we doubted he could remain in his independent living apartment. Surprisingly, he lived there successfully (although not without a few concerning issues) for six months.

He had survived polio as a baby, but it may have affected his balance later in life. Falls or near falls brought him to the emergency room too often in too short a period during October. He spent ten days in nursing care, while we worked with his doctor and others to determine the proper placement for him.

In God’s providence, we were able to move him into an assisted living apartment in the same building. It even had a window overlooking the parking lot—his most crucial requirement! He adjusted amazingly well.

On Christmas Day, my husband and I planned to pick him up and bring him to our house for lunch. When we arrived, he was experiencing a great deal of pain. I called 911. We spent the rest of the day in the ER and hospital. That evening we learned that his abdominal aortic aneurysm, which we’d known for some years could kill him instantly, was enlarged and bleeding into his abdominal cavity. He could survive for a few weeks or it could be a matter of hours. He initially was doing so well, we thought we might have him with us for a month or more.

Two days later, he entered the Comfort House. He was alert, able to talk and sit in the chair. During his first night there, his condition worsened and he became unresponsive. On the last day of the year, a Sunday morning, he went home to be with his Lord.

In God’s gracious providence, I’d lived over six decades without a significant loss. In his bitter providence, he took three members of my original family home to heaven within one year. I definitely needed PEACE in 2017.

For several weeks, I’ve felt compelled to focus on HOPE during 2018. In the recent Facebook conversation, one of my school friends encouraged me to go with HOPE. She expressed her hopes for me “to start sleeping better” and for a year “with less grief and many healing memories….of great book sales and many inspired words written down” as well as “spontaneous laughter” and so on. May it be so. That is my HOPE.


Dwelling in the Land, Psalm 37

As I’ve blogged my way through the Psalms, I’ve noticed over and over how God’s promises are for the here and now as well as for the future.

While Psalm 37 repeatedly assures believers that they will inherit the land and dwell in it forever (which seems to refer to our eternal future), it also uses language implying that believers can dwell in delight in this life. Who doesn’t love the beautiful promise found in verse 4?

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

But that delightful promise is followed by verses that provide the key to living in joy (5-7, ESV):

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Notice the imperatives? Commit, trust, be still, wait patiently, and fret not!

When we commit our way to the Lord and trust in him to act, he will. He may not make the righteousness of your cause immediately apparent. In fact, since the next verse encourages us to be still and wait patiently for him, I’m pretty sure that God usually takes his perfect time. He wants us to learn to rest in him and wait on his will.

Waiting is never easy, is it? We tend to rush in and try to do things our way. We’re often confident that we know the best way to respond when we’ve been wronged. We believe we should act because we’re obviously in the right! We’re certain we know what to do and our friends back us up. Full speed ahead!

Furl the sails! Drop the anchor! God commands us (these are imperatives, not suggestions) to commit our way to him, to trust him, to be still and wait patiently for him to act. And in the meantime, don’t worry about the guy who seems to prosper in his evil schemes.

God sees our hearts. If our cause is righteous, if we are just, he will make that shine as brightly as the noonday sun.

It isn’t easy to wait on the Lord. Ask him to give you the ability to commit your way to him and put your complete trust in him. Plead for peace to be still and wait patiently for his action (rather than rushing ahead of his will).  Beg God to grant you the equipping grace not to worry.

Then you can delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart!

You can read Psalm 37 in its entirety at the Bible Gateway site. And here are my reflections on Psalm 37 from nearly three years ago.