Parenting; a reference I make often on my journey to faith. We are God's children after all.
This week Pastor Ben shared a sermon “The Thrill of Hope” (click to listen) through the fulfilled promise of hope, by Jesus' birth. It's easy to see the thrill of hope in this miraculous blessing. We are all very thankful during the holiday season; on the outside. However, how many of you are sitting here reading this with hurt in your heart? No matter the amount of carols running through your ears, images of laughter and smiles, red and green, glitter and gold, your heart still aches and longs for hope that you haven't received. You are not alone. This isn't an article about the thrill of getting what you want or hope for. It's about dealing with what you don't get and realizing that sometimes our hopes are not what God has planned for us, and that's okay.
Two boys and a girl; I have been blessed with three amazing children. Aren't children the absolute best? Except, when they aren't. I feel, parenting is truly the most difficult job. The main reason: They don't always understand the decisions we make as parents.
Sound familiar? How many times have you screamed, "Why, God?!"
I'm preparing dinner this evening, as I do every single night. My son screams, "I want ice cream!" out of impatience, as he does almost every single night. I reply with a “No”. "Here it comes" I think to myself. You see, in his heart he really does hope that he will get ice cream before dinner. His belly is grumbling. He is impatient and wants what he wants, and wants it right now! Can you blame him? Ice cream is a true culinary, perfected delicacy. We don't want to wait for all the "stuff" that happens before we get to the “good stuff” we are hoping for. You, reading this, know just as well as I do, that the "stuff" in between now and dessert is what helps nourish us; it's what helps us grow. The tantrum has now started. He's young, just as some of us young in our faith (i.e. - me.), he doesn't understand that the "nasty" veggies soon to be on his plate give us what we need to be strong; give us patience to make us resilient and confident. And then he will get dessert. His tantrum goes on so long, that he no longer desires his dessert. He quickly rushed through dinner, got very little of his nutrition, due to the lack of eating, didn't enjoy the time with his family, and eventually forgot what his initial hope was for: dessert. He ultimately walked away from the table unsatisfied and didn't even understand why. I, as a mother understood. One day he will have children of his own and he will understand the discipline of waiting. Until then, I wrap my arms around him and comfort him until the day comes.
The “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-right-now” feeling is very real, even as adults. Money, love, respect, happiness - we truly hope for these things in our life - the sweet desires we have each day - just as my young son has. When we feel as if we don't receive these things on a regular basis, our soul becomes deflated, our hearts become sick. This past Sunday, Pastor Ben referenced a scripture, Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes a heart sick..." This could not be more true. Am I right? On a daily, maybe weekly or monthly, basis we feel like God is not listening. "Why am I not getting what I am praying for?", "I feel so alone; no one is listening." Have you ever had thoughts similar to these? He hears you. He is listening. His arms are wrapped around you, comforting you until the time comes for you to understand. He knows why and we have to have trust in him. The second part of this scripture is the most important, "…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." We obtain the tree of life when we get what we want. Except we aren't getting what we want. Right? How are we supposed to get over these empty feelings and ultimately obtain this coveted, tree of life?
Step One: Know the BIBLICAL definition of "HOPE."
Romains 8:24-25 lets us know that hope comes from a confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God's sure word.
Step Two: Ask yourself this one question, "Am I being selfish within this hope of mine?" It's okay if you are. We are naturally selfish. We all want that ice cream before dinner. However, we need to realize that these selfish wants are not our true hopes.
Step Three: Is this want something I am able to obtain on my own or with the help of friends and neighbors? God is miraculous and so are we; as we are in the image of him (Genesis 1:27). We are capable of more than we even know. If this isn't the time for your hope to come to be, let’s work on trying to obtain it on our own. Don't sit by and wait for it!
Step four: This is the absolute, most important. Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray for answer, pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Remember, you are never alone.
I have a diagnoses for all of us: negative-nancy-ism. “Stay with me here.” This disease consumes our brain and eventually creeps its way into our heart. Your heart will ache until you lose all hope. All of your blessings will begin to disintegrate, one-by-one. But, wait! There is a cure. Learn the difference between our definitive hope in the Lord and a temporary, selfish desire. We need to re-train our thoughts into quickly deciphering between the two. Also, retrain our brains to focus on blessings. Only then can you rid yourself of this critical disease; negative-nancy-ism.
I ask you to do some homework: Before you go to sleep tonight, place a pad of paper and pen beside your bed. Each and every day, when your eyes open, grab a pen and paper and write down three - five things you are thankful for, or reasons you feel blessed - big or small; Continue on with your day. Commit to doing this for one week. Then try for another week. Then if you can continue for one more week, I feel like you are on the path to redirecting your thoughts. And with this I truly hope you will find happiness within each day.
My prayer today: "Dear heavenly father, please help the lonely today. Please wrap your arms around those that do not understand, those that want and need something today. Maybe they aren't going to get what they need today. Please Lord, help them understand why. Please Lord, give people wisdom today. For the people that feel like you aren't listening, please let them know you are listening. Let them know you are there. Let them find what they need to find from me and my article today. Let each person find their happiness - if even one small thing - in each and every day. Thank you Lord for giving me the strength, words, and message to write this article today. Amen."