My title this morning reflects two things; firstly today is the beginning of our annual Discipleship week here in Skjolden, Norway and there is a growing excitement and expectancy about what God is going to do amongst us all this week. Secondly with reference to my previous post “Hope and the Spiritual Battle“, there is a real sense of the darkness lifting after what has been a particularly difficult build up to our time here in Norway. Some of you will know that after I wrote last week Samuel came down with bronchiolitis (which affects your breathing) and subsequently spent Thursday night in hospital. He recovered quickly (as children do) and was able to return home Friday morning. We were relieved but that relief soon turned to further concern as Jacob started coming down with it too. Thankfully Jacob responded well to his inhaler and did not need to make a visit to the hospital but it was touch and go at one point. If he had done we would have needed to rearrange our plans for we left London Gatwick for Bergen Saturday morning! In many ways last week felt like everything was against us and I for one was often questioning whether God actually wanted us to be here.
Fast track a week and following our arrival in Norway everything has settled down, stress levels have subsided and I am pleased to say that we are loving being here in Norway. Yesterday Debbie and I hiked for 4 hours in the Mørkridsdalen valley. We extended a hike we did last year into a round trip passing numerous waterfalls en route. It was an amazing hike and we got to spend some quality time together discussing the last week and thinking together about how we might turn our focus from the problems and challenges of the past weeks to the LORD. Such an encouragement and such a great day but one things was clear, hope is stirring and the darkness of the past week is lifting!
The transition was not easy however and the circumstances of last week did not help! One of the many blessings we have had is the loan of a 9 seater van for the summer. For me that presented one of the biggest challenges of transition. On Sunday morning I drove our friends Darrell & Annette to the airport (en route to Belguim) and I have to say it was one of the most stressful hours of my life. The company was great but trying to get to grips with driving an old van on the wrong side of the road (from my perspective at least) and sitting on the wrong side of the car was incredibly difficult. It was like trying to tame a wild stallion. It took time and it took practice but I think I am just about there now. I still need to work on my road positioning but it has seemed like a good illustration of the last few weeks – its been a challenge, its been quite difficult at times but now that we’ve made it things are actually looking pretty rosy! Thanks so much for all of your prayers for us.
Transitions as I have talked about previously are not easy times and give cause to much anxiety and fear. These things can have a huge impact on us. For example you may be surprised to hear that I am scared of heights, in fact when presented with a sheer drop I often find myself paralysed with fear and find it very hard to be in such a place. God has given me a huge love for the mountains whilst also giving me a healthy fear and respect of them. All part of the thrill of being amidst God’s creation. Such fear can also have quite a negative effect and it is very easy for myself (and Debs too) to start down a spiral of negativity. At that point I can easily become consumed with the problems at large which as I chew them over become more far fetched and negative. I so easily focus on the “what if” questions and come up with worst case scenarios rather than to look to the giver of hope.
Tomorrow I will speak in part on the power of hope and as part of that time will reflect on Lamentations 3:21-26 which says; 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion’s never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
In this ‘lament’ Jeremiah personifies the nation of Judah after its destruction by the Babylonian army. This was a nation who chased after idols and sinned greatly against God. They rightly felt cut off from God. The impression in the early part of Lamentations 3 is that Jeremiah felt this alienation personally. In v19-20 he says “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. He has reached the bottom of the pit, he is at his lowest point but come verse 21 there is a complete change of attitude and perspective, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” Jeremiah turns from the situation at hand to the LORD. Jeremiah was not cut off from God and even in their exile neither was the nation of Judah. God was disciplining them for their sin but He still loved them.
How can we learn in the words of Jerry Bridges “to see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances’? There have been so many times over the last 6 months when I have felt hopeless about our situation, when I have despaired but then there has been a moment (usually in the Sauna) in the LORD’S presence when He has helped me to regain perspective. That seems to be the key and it takes time in the LORD’s presence to see things from another angle. Perhaps something we go through makes us feel rejected, abandoned and let down by God. Yet there is always another perspective. The things of the present, which God promises to use for good in the lives of those who love Him, will not ultimately “make sense until we see them in reverse” (Yancey). The challenge for us (without hindsight) is to trust God and walk forward with Him in faith. It won’t be easy, it won’t be painless but ultimately it will be worth it. The LORD loves me and He loves you. Indeed He loves you without limit. Whether you feel it or not His compassion’s never fail and are new every morning.
So let’s resolve to live in hope, to seek Him and wait quietly for His salvation. Hope changes everything. Hope gives us perspective. In the midst of transition and chaos over the past week I have been struggling to set my focus on the God of Hope. I have found myself caught up in the various battles and transitions that we have been facing. Hope is found when we turn from the situation at hand, when we turn from our fears and our anxiety and focus on the LORD. I encourage you this morning to do the same.
Hope is stirring because the LORD is back in perspective. Hope is stirring because God is a God of hope, the source of hope and He is enough for us. There is great power in Hope and the things we are experiencing are showing that Hope changes everything!