This summer I decided to clear the space beside my deck of the remnants of my failed vegetable gardens over the years. We actually got some edible tomatoes and cucumbers last year, but mostly we just grow contorted vegetables or no vegetables. Bugs come and eat them or disease comes and rots them. That’s our dismal garden history.
This year, however, I was bound and determined to reclaim that space and make it beautiful by relocating some garden stones and planting flowers and shrubs. I did the backbreaking work of clearing away the weeds, leveling the land, and carrying the stones one by one. The space was prepped and ready and I was filled with hope.
Then my baby turned into a toddler. You know, the kind that moves. After that we joined the swim team. Then my husband decided it was time to stain the deck. And then we said yes to some old chairs from my neighbor because, hello, they are solid oak, and we definitely needed to refinish those as well. Let me show you the jaw-dropping before and after of our peaceful garden paradise.
Somewhere along the way my plans were rerouted and things went south. Those weeds took over with a vengeance and a miniature Amazon rainforest replaced my dreams of fresh cut flowers from my very own garden on my kitchen table.
Isn’t that the way life is? We set out with such wonderful intentions. Life is going to be grand. My marriage is going to be fabulous, my kids are going to be perfect, and I’m going to gracefully saunter through life feeling good and being respected, valued, needed, and esteemed. But then life actually happens, and mostly, it is a far cry from what I expected in my fantasy world. After a while, I soberly realize marriage is hard, my kids won’t be perfect, and I don’t naturally feel that great about most things. I begin to recognize my surroundings more as a bloody battlefield than a luxurious castle fit for a queen.
If you can relate, now I’ve gotten us both thoroughly depressed.
But do you see something in the after picture? I didn’t see it at first either. Do you see that magenta petunia growing in the middle of all those weeds? I was surprised and amused when I noticed a petunia growing in the planter at the bottom of my tea cart (the cart that landed there when my husband stained the deck and has remained there for two months) because I had yanked them out last fall! Or so I thought. Somewhere underneath the surface, where I couldn’t see, there was life. And up from the ashes sprung beauty. There it is—hope.
In the midst of disappointment, ongoing hurt, or unexpected trials we often lose sight of God as hope swirls downward, flushed away by disillusionment that often gives way to bitterness.
But our God is a God of hope.
The apostle Paul tells us so in Romans 15:13. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
This God of hope that we learn about in the scriptures longs to act on behalf of His people. Historically, the Jews who were hoping for their Messiah didn’t get Him for four thousand years. The promise was given, but Jesus didn’t come instantaneously. And so it is at times with the answers to our prayers, even the ones in accordance with God’s Word.
Don’t quit believing; don’t quit your journey with Jesus because He is not moving mountains according to your time table. What if the arc reaching over all of our petitions was, “Lord, I want to know You more”?
What if we prayed and asked God to help us walk with Him? When you take a trip with someone you may see some beautiful sights, but you will also probably encounter problems. One thing is for sure. You will know the person you are traveling with far deeper after your journey.
Life doesn’t usually turn out how we had planned, but God can change our vision, enabling us to see purpose despite our mistakes, comfort amidst our misery, and hope in the wake of misfortune. He is the constant who longs to show Himself faithful to us. He offers us an invitation to come and take a walk with Him and journey this life together. The changes He makes in my life are more often little by little than swift and grand. It’s the flower that blooms, but you can never tell it is growing.
All hope seemed lost when Jesus died on the cross. But that horrific act was accomplishing the greatest good the world would ever know. God was reconciling humankind to Himself, no longer holding the sins of those who believe in Jesus against them. This believing is not a onetime event, but an ongoing journey; and for this journey we will need hope.
May God fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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