Where is your hope?

My hope comes from the hills – Psalm 121 (image taken by myself at Gwytherin April 2019)

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope and what it means, especially after sending a text to a friend talking of hope.

She had said that two unexpected things had happened – one that their neighbour had, out of the blue, decided to cut back his trees which would mean they could regain their lovely view, and then that someone had managed, what had seemed the impossible, and had found somewhere to rent. I had responded with Psalm 121 and that the trees being cut back were so that they could see their hope again. She messaged back to say she had shared this with someone else who had responded back to her that they has lost all hope because of not receiving an answer to prayer. I’ve also heard from an older person I know how she has lost hope and wants to die because of all this lockdown stuff. So what is that hope that the Bible talks about?

When my father-in-law died my husband read Habakkuk 3:17-18 at his funeral. His death had come during a long period that my husband and I had endure of unanswered prayer and of searching for God in the midst of it.

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

It made me wonder how often we are taught in churches, or take on board ourselves, that belief that God answers prayer the way we want it. And that we hitch our hope to getting what we want. We are taught, and teach ourselves, that God is the truly loving father, full of unconditional love. Does unconditional mean that we always get what we want or even need? Is this why we lose faith when things don’t happen as we would like?

One of the big moans of the older generation towards “children of today” is that they are unruly and rude and have no respect for their elders. Some of that reason is that they get everything they want – the best trainers, phones, trips to exciting places on holidays etc. And because of that many of them come with a sense of entitlement – which I think is a lot of what we are seeing with all generations during this season, with not being able to do as they want when they want. We think we’re entitle to things, but are we?

Can we really be joyful in God if we don’t get what we want; our world is gripped by a pandemic, by weak leadership, by selfish world leaders in many fields, by global warming? Can we really rejoice when those we love don’t get healed, don’t get what they want, aren’t fulfilled? (and by rejoice I don’t mean Pollyanna attitude of pretending nothing is wrong, of smiling in adversity but I mean that deep rejoicing in God) How do we do that?

I think we can and I think we should and I think this is what is being asked of us during this period.

Sometimes we can’t see that hope, like my friend with the trees blocking her view of the hills, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tom Sine talks in 2020 Foresight about how we need to be praying in Psalm 121 as we look towards the changes we need to make in our churches for the future. So let us lift our eyes and remember where our help and hope and support really does come from. As Oscar Wilde said “We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars“. So let’s look up, remember, take hold and have hope even if nothing turns out as we would like it.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night
.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Trust

Who do we trust these days?

I was reading the headlines this morning on my newsfeed. I must admit I have given up Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 053.JPGopening articles because they are so negative. But as I was walking this morning I got to thinking about trust. I was brought up with the adage that you couldn’t trust politicians; that they were all two-faced, etc. Those of us politically minded would then go on marches, send letters, etc, even visit our local MP or go to the Houses of Parliament. This was in the days before online petitions so one had to be a bit dedicated to write and remember to buy a stamp, go to the post office, etc.

There is a tagline going around at the mo that says “the 0.2% have voted” which works on the lack of trust that these 0.2% have any idea what they are doing. It has almost gone beyond the “all politicians are two-faced” but to the “they haven’t got a clue”. Now I do believe there are a lot of politicians that don’t have a clue about being on benefits, dealing with the NHS, the state of the education system, trying to use public transport etc, etc. But I do think there are a lot of other people who don’t know or understand this either. So I think we need to be careful where we go with that.

But again this moved me on to the TRUST thing. Who do we trust? Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 050.JPG

Or more personally who do I trust? I trust my weather app and will look at that rather than out the window before I go for a walk! 🙂

But it led me to do I trust God? Followers of my blog posts, and my life, will know that we have been through some stuff where God hasn’t done as we would have liked. Do I still trust him?

Llsnfairfechan and Ian's birthday 049Lesson from my dog – Renly and I were out walking at 7.30am this morning and it was still wayyyyy too hot so when we got to a stream I tried to persuade him to get a drink. He was frightened because the bank was a bit steep and he is only little. So I threw him in the water. He stood there with the cold water lapping round his belly and then walked out further so it was over his back. He drank and drank. For the first half of the walk he had trailed along because he was too hot. On the way back he ran like a mad dog because he was cool and so was happy. I’m not sure if he will still trust me by streams in case I throw him in but just maybe he learned that it was a good idea.

So sometimes God has to throw us into things for our own good to help us with the next part of our journey – no matter how hot or steep that next bit is but he wants to not just “lead us by still waters” (Psalm 23) but immerse us in those refreshing waters. We might not trust him next time he has us stand by those waters but he might just throw us in again for our own good. But it would have been much easier for Renly and for me if he had just jumped in when I’d showed it to him first of all and easier for us too if we just trust God a bit more.

So I may struggle to trust politicians or the media but I do need to, through the turmoil in our country and the direction of my life, trust in the Lord with all my head and lean on his understand – not my own (Proverbs 3:5)