The Hope that is within me

I come to you as a broken man, devoid of anything good. I come as a man who has seen too many things with his eyes. I come as a man who has endured many long and difficult days. I come as a man who has nothing else left other than a Father in heaven who faithfully provides all that I need. That is everything I need. My life has taught me through severely difficult circumstances to trust God with all that I am, because that’s everything I have left. When you strip me down of all that you see of me, you will find a broken man who has nothing else in his heart other than desperate love for his Savior. My heart echoes the song Clarity by Shawn McDonald – I’m tired and worn my clothes are kinda torn from this long hard road, my arms and legs are weak I continue to seek and leave behind this load.

I appear to be devoid of hope. I appear to have very little going for me. There have been many deep wounds that have pierced my heart. I have done nothing but do my best to care for people, and to show them how much I do. As a result, my care inflicts many wounds on my heart. I understand what Paul talks about when he says that he would give up his salvation for his brethren. I am in that place. My heart oozes with pain, deep pain at this point. I have many stresses, none of which I can blame anyone for. My world seems to be closing in on me, with a lot of that weight on my shoulders alone. As I reminisce, I have every reason to be in a depressive state in a psych ward.

Yet I still have hope. I have hope that no one can take away. I am where God wants me. I have sought to follow Him desperately for a while now, learning to forsake all that I want. In that, He has still led me to this place. This place is a place of extreme difficulty yes, but what better place to be than where my Father wants me? I have every reason humanly possible to say that God is not moving, that He is dead, and that I should walk away from my faith. There is no reason why I should be here. Yet, this simply cannot be true. I would not change a thing that I have gone through for what I have learned. In fact, I would go through this again (read Philippians 3 to understand where I am coming from). I count it all as loss for the sake of gaining Christ.

How do I know this? I know God is moving because He has placed me here to prepare me. For what, I can guess sure. But to what extent do I know what He is preparing me for? Hardly any beyond the next step, and the ultimate goal. Most of what is in between hasn’t been revealed to me yet, and it doesn’t need to be. Right now my steps are trust and faith, trust and faith. I plod down this road knowing He is still leading me by the hand, even if at times I cannot feel His presence. I know He is there. He is living inside of me, His temple that He is refining into the place that He needs it to be. He is emptying me out, only to fill me with something that is so much better than I can ever ask or imagine. It’s taken this difficulty in my life to see that and for me to actually be open to the changes that He has needed to make. God’s words are a refining fire, and for me they have been extremely painful to hear and digest. He has been transforming me into the image of His Son. I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They had the faith to tell the king of the land that their God will deliver them from the fires, and even on the chance that He doesn’t they still will not bow down to inanimate images. That is the kind of faith I am learning, and what He is slowly instilling in me. And you know what? God rescued them from the fires. He can rescue me from mine too. But even if He doesn’t ever do that, I will still follow Him.

How else do I know this? I can see His fingerprints in the clay by which I am being molded. Sometimes they are hard to see, and even understand where they come from. Yet, despite how much it sometimes hurts I still perceive His hands as loving. I feel hope wrap around me as I trust His fingers to etch the designs in my heart as He wants. He is making me into the vessel He wants me to be. His fiery furnace of love hardens the glaze of faith, hope, and love that He has painted on me. And you know what? I want that. I don’t want to be something else other than what He wants. Why should I? Who am I to think that I know better than Him when I can’t even dig myself out of the holes that I’m in? When I do try, I only cause more dirt to fall in on me.

I am in a place to learn so that I can spread this knowledge to others. They do not need to come to the places I’ve been, it is not needed for them. I have treaded these waters and walked down these dusty paths so that they can learn to take the right Path. I have done enough of my own straying from what He wants. Now He has me on His path, narrow and straight. It is actually comforting to be on this path because the path is clear, with no ambiguity. It is clearcut and set before me. With all humility as His servant, He has put me into a place where I lead others onto this path where Jesus is my guide. Since Jesus is my guide, He will be theirs too. It has been necessary to go through all that I’ve gone through in my life to prepare me for this. All of it is not bad either, and there is much good I can speak about that has prepared me as well. All of what I have gone through He has used for my good. He is now using it for the good of others. I do not want anyone to make the same mistakes I have, to go through the pain I have, or to stray from His truths like I have. It pains me to have to see that happen. He has honored me with the opportunity to guide and encourage my brothers and sisters to keep following him. I am completely humbled with the chance to point others to our Savior. What better honor? I am completely undeserving. It fills me with joy that I may be even able to write these words to call all of us to the holiness that is in Christ. It’s not about me.

What does that holiness mean? True holiness is defined more than a part of Christianity, or as a response to our love for Him or even His love for us. Rather, holiness is central to that relationship with Him. It is that relationship with Him in a way as we build that relationship with Him it becomes more than just a byproduct of the relationship but it becomes who we really are. It doesn’t just characterize us but it becomes part of us, we literally become holy and exude His holiness by simply growing in our relationship with Him. We see to always view it separately as an aspect or a portion that has to be focused on along with focusing on Him, but it’s so much more than that. It’s who we become in Him, and the actions of holiness are just the overflow of that relationship. But for some, that defines the relationship with Him – instead of the relationship with Him defining our lives which is holiness (thank you to Blake for giving me these words).

I write to you having cried many tears, do not choose the path that I once chose. I chose to stab many daggers into my own heart, and He has had to help me pull them out one by one to heal me. What are those daggers? Every dagger is one that does not honor God. Some daggers have been easier to pull out and more noticeable. Others, they have been impossible for me to see other than God opening my eyes. Don’t even go near places where you can pick up those daggers. Flee from evil, and run to Him who is good and perfect. The end will be beautiful.

As I continue to follow Him and seek after Him, my battles become more intense. The battles I am talking about are not even necessarily within myself or flesh and blood, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).” Believe me, those battles have been intense, and will continue to be so long as Jesus hasn’t come back. It doesn’t mean I have to give in, but rather I will have to keep the whole armor of God upon me so that I do not stumble when I am tempted. I will be tempted, you will be tempted, and even Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus did not give in and neither should we. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).” We have that hope that is given in Christ that He understands in every respect what we are going through, and He can provide a way out of the temptation so that we can continue to serve Him unhindered by sin. We are without excuse, but also without reason to despair. We do not go this alone or without someone who can’t help us through to the end. Our Helper is eternal and always there, the best friend we can ask for.

Am I going to be in this place of difficulty forever? No. My God will deliver. I have that hope too. Where do I find that? Scripture promises that for those that love God, all things will work for their good (Romans 8:28). I know there are many besides myself with the same desire to love Him. Remember the hope that He has promised through His Son that good will come. Even if I do not see any worldly good here on earth, Scripture again tells us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Those can again never be taken away, for when the fire comes they will remain. What better hope to have than that? No matter what comes, what happens, and what people do we know that our treasure lies in heaven with God. Not only that, to be in His presence is of more worth than any amount of treasures we could possibly think to store up. He has instilled in me so much hope, faith, and trust. Even in the worst of times, I come back eventually to knowing that everything will be ok. He is with me, and He cares for me. Knowing that, how can I not love Him? He is so good to me to give me a hope that no one can take away, and He keeps building that hope into something more and more. The cycle is continuous, He gives me reason to love Him, I love Him, and there is more reason to love Him. His words echo in the walls of my heart, “Trust Me.” He will bring me through more trials, and He will refine me more. What still has to keep on resounding throughout my heart and life is the trust that I have in Him that He knows what is best. I love that.

I see this through what has happened today. I had a very dangerous drive to undertake, sick and tired with not much sleep. Road conditions where horrible, and I surely thought I might not make it in every sense of that concept. Yet He asked me to trust Him and to follow Him. And you know what? I did, and I made it. I fishtailed up the last part of my journey, my own curvy road that leads to home. Even the last part of my journey so close to home wasn’t easy. The trip before had sunny parts and others where I could barely see in front of me. Everything around me told me I couldn’t make it home, even the very vehicle I was in reported trouble from the dash. It was treacherous from the beginning, with danger of a wreck with the least bit of lack of attention from me. Things may really be difficult, but you will make it home. Trust Him. If I can make it home traveling over snowy mountains in blizzard conditions in an old two wheel drive truck with sagging suspension, no power steering, a twitchy oil pressure gauge, no weight in the back, low visibility, and returned with not a scratch on me or the truck, then He can surely deliver you from what you’re facing. Trust Him.

You know what else is so great about where I am? I am still so incredibly blessed. I am blessed beyond what I can ask or imagine even right now. I still have a family, I still have my friends, I still have a place to live and to sleep, I am rich enough to be able to attend a private Christian college because of His provision, fingers that work to type this letter, the breath to live, and a sound mind to think about this. I could write pages and pages about His blessings in my life, and they are easy to forget when so much other stuff is going on. I need to recount how good He is to me, and remember that constantly. It brings my mind to the right place – focused on Him. When I focus on the good that He bestows on me, I see how unworthy I am of it all. Yet, He loves me enough and His grace and mercy flow like rivers. He immerses me even more in an ocean of His love. I’m drowning in it, and it’s great.

He has torn me, in order that He may mend me (Hosea 6:1-3). Mended I am becoming. The feeling of being healed and knowing that it comes from a love greater than I can imagine is beyond comprehension. He has made me this way. He has made me whole through His refining fire, the hope that He has given, and the love that He abundantly supplies to me even when I don’t look for it or make mistakes. I don’t have to be free from my circumstances to be made whole in Him, but rather He uses them while I’m IN them to make that happen. He has given me peace beyond my understanding (Phil 4:7). I finish this letter to you by telling you that I am a man that is made whole by the strength and power that is in Jesus Christ. His mercy and grace in my life are abundant, I am not worthy.

I step out on faith
You will guide the way
Confidence is within me
Who can be truly confident without You

You work things out for good
Of those that have understood
Loving You is the only way
To have peace that will stay

What have I to fear
You are more than near
You’re not by my side
In my heart You reside

So I can step out on faith
With a right heart I can say
Good is promised for those who love
You are more than enough

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