Fostering Hope: “You Can’t Scare Me with Heaven!”

Last month, a new baby was born into my world of joys, and her parents named her “Hope.” Don’t you love it?! When was the last time you met someone with such an uplifting name? I think we’re living in a world that’s in desperate need of hope. Yesterday I hoped to sit with two different friends (coincidentally at the same hospital and close in time!) while their spouses had surgery to have tumors removed. (Although, I couldn’t find one of them! 😦 ) One is about my age, so in a sense having a tumor isn’t out of the range of normal possibilities (albeit still frightening), but the other person is a young woman who is like a spiritual daughter to me . . . so “way too young” (at least in my mind) to be going through what might be a life-threatening medical issue.

Last Sunday Alan and I went Northridge Church with our daughter Kathy and her family. As always, we heard an excellent message from their lead pastor, Brad Powell. Their current series is about going back to Square One in our lives, and this week’s topic was “Hope.”

Brad reminded us that Jesus Christ is our only hope, and He alone has the power to forgive and redeem our past, provide eternal purpose and power in the present, and guarantee the promise of resurrection and eternal life after death. If you are not a Christian, then feel free to disagree and tell me if you’ve found something that meets these needs in your life even better . . . but for me, I totally agreed with Brad’s assessment!

Near the end of the message, Brad shared a wonderful story about his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had survived a lot of hard things in his life, so even though he was given a very poor prognosis, he lived in hope, and he lived much longer than expected! However, eventually it was obvious that he was dying and there was no hope of his surviving much longer. Brad’s father went from active to passive and died within a few days. All hope for his survival was gone, and he had no interest in prolonging his death.

But, not all hope was gone. Brad’s father still retained a bright hope for life after death, and when Brad went to visit, lamenting the fact that his father was dying, his dad was still able to manage a twinkle: “You can’t scare me with heaven!” No, death was not scary to Brad’s father, because he knew that the death of his physical body was just the segue to heaven and being in the presence of Christ forever! “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Are you scared of death? I’m not. (Pain and the process . . . yes, but not my body being dead.) If you believe in Jesus, you needn’t be afraid of dying, and I hope nobody can scare you with the prospects of your going to heaven!!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace” (Romans 15:13).

(P.S.—If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll go to heaven when you die but would like to know, please click on the “Coming to Christ” icon at the top of this page. It will take you to a place that explains how to enter into a covenant with God whereby you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die.)

Choosing Joy

She had given up all hope of ever needing to make a blanket for her own baby, it had always been for a friend’s newborn. Just a few more months and she would be holding the son promised to Zachariah, her husband. The angel had appeared to him one day in the temple as he was doing his priestly duties. At first Elisabeth had almost been afraid to believe what the angel had said, yet she fervently hoped it was true.

For years she had suffered the disgrace of barrenness, which to the Jews, was always considered an indication of God’s disfavor. Despite her disappointment of not having any little one to hold in her arms, she and Zachariah had continued to faithfully serve God. Over the years, Elisabeth had learned to find her joy in her Lord, not in her circumstances.  It would have been easy to be bitter or discouraged, instead she had chosen to joyfully serve God.

Smiling again, she carefully stitching the blanket, her musings were interrupted when her cousin, Mary, greeted her as she come into the house. At the same time the baby in her womb seemed to leap for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.

Instantly Elisabeth stood up and blessed Mary, the mother of her Lord, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary stayed with Elisabeth for three months. Elisabeth was one in whom Mary could confide.  Yes, her cousin did understand Mary’s fears. Day by day as they worked together Elisabeth shared her life of joyful service to God. Elisabeth’s long life of trusting God was reassuring to Mary. Elisabeth’s confidence and joy were infused into Mary’s much younger heart.

Elisabeth had learned that her joy was not dependent on circumstances, children, position or wealth but in serving God alone.

What is your response when life isn’t what you had dreamed it would be?  Have you become bitter and angry?  Or have you learned to love and trust God, to obey and serve Him with joy?  Are you able to find joy in Christ alone? Joy is often a choice, it does not always come naturally.

As we study His Word and live in obedience to it, we will understand His character more deeply and find joy in Him.  Then our joy will be contagious to those around us, encouraging them in their not so desirable circumstance or time of trial.

Have you experienced a disappointment and struggling to find joy and peace?  I encourage you to allow “… the God of hope fill you with all joy…”

If you have learned to choose joy, is there someone you can encourage like Elizabeth did Mary, who is struggling in her faith or facing a difficult time in her life?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Romans 15:13.

© Cynthia Wedge 2017 (Cynthia has a wonderful tea shop in Grand Rapids [englishcottagetea.com ]and is also a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers Group. Cynthia writes devotionals to share with her customers at Christmas time and has graciously agreed to share a couple with me because I enjoy them so much! Thank you, Cynthia!)

Rosy Mound and Rosy Glasses

Autumn Leaves in SunHow do you spend your Sunday afternoons? Grand Haven Lighthouse We often like to go for a stroll somewhere,
and one of our favorite places has always been Grand Haven, Rosy Mound Park 3 although late this summer we discovered Rosy Mound Park, a relatively new, gorgeous 164-acre protected natural area about 5 miles south of Grand Haven and 30 miles west of Grand Rapids on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan dunes “Rosy Mound” is really the name of a 200-foot sand dune
along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Rosy Mound Park 2 but the park has meticulously groomed trails with boardwalks and 1,000 feet of stairs up and down through white pine and deciduous woodlands Rosy Mound Park 9 that open up in soothing views of the Lake Michigan coast. It reminds us a lot of Hoffmaster State Park, although Rosy Mound is closer to GR. Rosy Mound Park 5 There is a 0.7-mile trail to the beach, but there are also boardwalks behind the first line of dunes along the shoreline where the wind is still
and the tangy scent of fall grasses is heavy on warm days. Lake Michigan Afternoon When we were there a week ago, the sun was blazing and the sky like sapphire. Rosy Mound Park 8 I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything looked. The colors were brilliant,
and I kept raving about their glorious hues. Rosy Mound Park 6 Alan was definitely enjoying the walk, but he wasn’t quite as effusive as I was. Rosy Mound Park 10 It wasn’t until after we’d finished our hike at Rosy Mound Grand Haven Shoreline and we were walking out on the Grand Haven pier, that I realized my new sunglasses had a pinkish brown tint that was absolutely magic with fall colors. Rosy Mound Park It was like the Midas touch. Yellow became gold, and orange became bronze. Alan at Grand Haven It struck me when I realized that through my sunglasses Alan’s green sweater Brown tint on Sunglasseslooked decidedly brown, and there seemed to be an unusual number of people Rosy-tinted sunglasses wearing outfits with a somewhat purplish hue. Rosy Mound Park 4 It’s hard to pooh-pooh glasses that make things look even more beautiful
than can be seen with the naked eye, Crimson Leaves in Autumm but I definitely understand the concept of  “rose-colored glasses” now. Lake Michigan shorelineIn the spiritual realm, I think “hope” is like a good pair of sunglasses. Surfers in Lake Michigan It enhances our vision so that we have a brighter, more intense experience of life around us now and can better visualize a brilliant future ahead. Grand Haven Lighthouse and Pier May our lives be suffused with hope! Lake Michigan Waves“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).