Image Link: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.61251.html
This painting is one of my favorites for many reasons. Whenever I think of the word “hope,” I often picture a baby or a small child or Christ. Much of the art and reflections that I have used in this series came into my life during a time of both great hope and extreme hopelessness. When I prayed and searched for ways to restore hope in my life, God brought these paintings, insights, scriptures, experiences, family, and friends into my life to comfort, enlighten, encourage, and love me at a time when life seemed hopeless.
God continues to do so. As a Christian, to lose hope should not be possible, but I have experienced times where I struggled with holding firm to my hope in Christ and in the future. There are still parts of my life where I struggle, but I have found God’s faithfulness strengthening my hope as I deal with them. Hope is to expect with confidence or to desire with expectation of obtainment. As I prayed to God on how to increase my confidence and expectation of obtainment, He offered these four things to nurture His hope in our lives.
Ask for help and be willing to offer it. Our confidence comes from knowing that God loves and provides for us. Sometimes the only way to experience that love and provision is to ask for help and receive it. We cannot do it alone; we need God, and many times He provides what we need through others. This may be how God helps us “to spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and “to encourage one another.”
Be open to new paths and experiences. This may be how we “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” and increase our confidence that “he who promised is faithful.” Many times, we stay on a familiar and broken path that we have chosen rather than following the new and better path God is giving us. If we truly seek obtainment of God’s plan for our lives, then we must be willing to go where that plan takes us.
Be patient with yourself, others, and God. Many times, God’s plan requires us to work with and share the journey with others. We must be patient with each other so that we do not give “up meeting together” just because it is too difficult or time-consuming. God’s timing is often different than ours. Sometimes in order to share our journey according to God’s plan, some of us may have to slow down, some may need to speed up, and some may need to start.
Show empathy. God uses our most challenging and difficult experiences to give us empathy. He gives us the ability to see others as He sees us. We see them and know how they feel. We are able to offer them help, encouragement, and patience as they seek and follow God’s plan for their lives because we have been there (or in similar places). You are given the opportunity to let them know that they are not alone, that God sees them, that God loves them, and that they can be confident in the expectation that God’s love ultimately will deliver them.
During this challenging time of disruption, how is your hope faring? Are you willing to acknowledge when you feel hopeless? Are you willing to ask for help—and are you also willing to receive it? Are you open to new paths and experience to grow? Where and with whom is God asking you to be more patient? Are you asking God to help you see others through his eyes? Do you spur others on toward love and a good deed when you recognize they are struggling with the same things with which you have struggled (or still struggle) so that you can encourage one another with God’s love and promise?
Dear Lord, Thank you for the hope I have through You. Give me wisdom and discernment on when I need to ask for help, the ability to receive it, and the ability to give it. Give me the confidence to be open to the new paths and experiences you are asking me to take or do. Help me to see where I need to be more patient and encouraging. Give me your eyes to see those that you have equipped me to recognize and to encourage through the gift of empathy. Use all these things to strengthen and build my hope so that it is a witness to others. Amen.
Note of Appreciation:
I just wanted to express my appreciation for allowing me to explore and share where God is at work in my life as we have explored being “Known through Disruption” together. The other devotionals, as well as your notes, comments, and affirmations throughout this experience, have been such a blessing to me. You have confirmed that God is at work in each of us in loving and meaningful ways both individually and collectively. North Avenue continues to be a source of God’s love and encouragement for me. Thank you for being witnesses of God’s love, faithfulness, and hope. --Tom
Image: Title: Baby at Play Artist: Thomas Eakins Dated: 1876 Image Use: Open Access Link: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.61251.html Credit for image: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington