30 Days of Hopeful: Day 9

If we want to live in hope, we must guard against “hope-killers”—those pesky predators that seek to destroy our God-given dreams. One of the most insidious hope-killers is anxiety. Like a slow leak, anxiety drains out the belief that we can trust God with our future. It then fills us with a low-grade dread that steals our joy. No wonder mental health experts are disturbed by the growing numbers of those suffering from anxiety—now the most common mental illness in the U.S.

I’ve discovered a simple prayer that helps quench anxiety and build hope. It goes something like this: “Lord, I surrender this dream into Your hands. I trust You to answer my heart’s desire in a way that goes beyond what I even know to ask.”  In other words, “Surprise me, God, with more than I can imagine.”  I call this “praying beyond.”  This prayer is right in line with the Bible’s encouragement to entrust our dreams to the One “who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think  (Ephesians 3:20 NASB).

Praying beyond also helps me take my focus off the obstacles to my dream—or what I can see with my eyes—and fix my mind, instead, on God’s powerful promises.  Praying beyond moves me out of the realm of fear into faith, fueling my hopes and dreams. Taking new territory.  Walking on water.

Not too long ago, I was reading Ephesians 3:20 again—this time in a different Bible version. The words put a fresh twist on my “praying beyond” verse:  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”  (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV).

I continued to ponder the words “above all” as I went for a run: “God, maybe You’re encouraging me to look down upon my hopes and dreams as though I’m seated up above with You in the heavenly realm. From where You’re sitting, I imagine my hopes and dreams look pretty easy—nothing’s too hard for You.  I believe You’re able to do above all I can ask or think.”

I rounded the corner and jogged by several buses.  Suddenly, I had to smile as I looked at the name on the side of one bus. Seemed God was making His point loud and clear…and His answer was above all I could ask or imagine.


 Above All Charters



30 Days of Hopeful: Day 8

I once taught a workshop on spiritual leadership to a group of women in the tiny African country of Burundi. Our partner, ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry),  was working hard to help build church and community leadership in Burundi and neighboring Rwanda after a long and brutal civil war. My message was on the Biblical topic of using one’s spiritual gifts to serve others. A portion of our time was devoted to the importance of following our God-given hopes and dreams.

When I began talking about our dreams, my translator abruptly stopped. There was no word in the Burundian language, she said, that could be translated as “dream.” After thinking for a moment, she came up with her own definition. To convey the idea of a dream, she combined two words: “Future hope.”

Later, I found myself reflecting on the concept of future hope. Of all people, we Christians should understand the longing to look toward our future with a sense of hope. But for us, this hope extends far past our mortal life and into eternity.

Nineteenth century preacher and theologian Charles Spurgeon had this to say about eternal hope:

“Our hope is special, because it is a hope laid up for us in heaven; a hope therefore which the world does not care one whit about.” The worldly man, Spurgeon added, “hopes that tomorrow may be as today, and yet more abundant, but cares nothing for the land where time has ceased to flow. He hopes for riches, or he hopes for fame; he hopes for long life and prosperity; he hopes for pleasure and domestic peace; the whole range of his hope is within the compass of his eye: but our hope has passed beyond the sphere of sight. Ours is a hope which demands nothing of time, or earth, but seeks its all in the world to come.”

As we ponder our blessings this Thanksgiving Day, let’s reflect not only on the blessings we enjoy in this world, but let us fix our eyes on the blessings of the world to come.  We can thank God that we have hope which is stored up for us in heaven, secured for us by Jesus Christ, and kept safe from the hope-killers of this age that would seek to rob our dreams.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…” (Colossians 1:3-5).





30 Days of Hopeful: Day 7

Did you know that hope can help you last long and finish strong? The Bible talks a lot about hope and its power to help us endure. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3).

Turns out there’s some research to back up the importance of hope to our survival. A study that took place in the 1950’s showed how hope helped laboratory rats persevere in a stressful situation. The group of rats were purportedly placed in a vat of water and swam for about fifteen minutes to the point of exhaustion and near drowning. They were rescued, dried off, fed, and allowed to recover, before being placed in the water again. This time, they kept swimming in the water for many hours before becoming exhausted and needing to be rescued again. Apparently, the rats sensed if they could be rescued once, they could be rescued again—thus giving them hope to endure.

The human version of hope, of course, runs much deeper. It was God Himself who placed the need for hope in our hearts. In fact, He is referred to as the “God of Hope”(Romans 15:13).  It makes sense that the Bible would remind us of how our endurance is “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Bible also encourages us to wait for hope—and this takes perseverance. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance” (Romans 8:25 NET).

What does it mean to wait for hope with endurance?  We discover an interesting secret by looking at the Greek word translated “endure,” hypomeno.  It actually comes from two words:  hypo or “under” and meno or “abide.”  Meno is the same word Jesus uses when He encourages us to abide in him (John 15:7).  So hypomeno, or endure is to “abide under” a time of trial as we wait for hope.

Friend, I don’t know what kind of trial you may be facing today. And I don’t know the dream you hold so dear in your heart. But what I do know is that abiding in Jesus can bring hope–and hope can inspire you to keep enduring while you wait.

So my prayer for you today is simply this: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 6

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).

It’s when we stop running from God that we experience the lasting hope and true the freedom that only He can give. My friend Erin came to understand the love of God in a fresh way through her encounter with a stray puppy that refused to be rescued.


I have a habit of rescuing lost or hurt animals that cross my path. There was a tiny baby turtle trying to cross a road, a baby bird fluttering around a busy parking lot, a baby squirrel, and four stray dogs. Each animal’s rescue was unique—according to its needs and best chance for survival.

But then there are the dogs that didn’t want to be rescued—I remember them as clearly as the ones who welcomed my care. One particular pup looked so bad I convinced my husband to go back out with me that night to search some more. And we found her! But the little fluff-ball, whose once-white fur was now grayish brown and full of mats, continued to run. Sometimes we’d get really close, gently speaking to her and offering her treats. But again, she ran.

We went back home that night empty handed. And as silly as it may sound, I sobbed. Why wouldn’t the dog just trust me? I assume she was afraid—and maybe she had good reason, depending on the environment from which she came. But as valid as her fear of me may have been, it was unnecessary. And it prevented her from experiencing love. From being warm, clean and sleeping with a full belly. Why was this stirring up such sadness inside me? What was it that compelled me to keep looking? Why did I call the shelters the next day trying to find her? I believe it’s because I, myself, have been rescued.

I was once that mangy dog, running from God when all He wanted to do was nourish my soul and give me the best life possible. But I didn’t want to be “contained,” I didn’t particularly appreciate authority and I most certainly wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to do it.

But that’s just me. Perhaps you ran (or are running) for a different reason. Perhaps you had a bad experience with “religion.” Maybe someone who claims to reflect the love of Christ lives in a way that is the exact opposite of loving, and therefore gives you a false perception of God’s character. Or maybe you just feel plain unworthy, unlovable or unforgivable. Regardless of your reason for running, don’t let it rob you from seeking the Truth… from running toward the most fulfilling relationship you could possibly experience: the unconditional love of your Creator.

God was relentless in pursuing my heart. He is endlessly patient, forgiving and loving. He captivated me with his kindness. By submitting to His authority, I actually became free and full of hope.

Freedom cannot be achieved by running from God any more than that dog could find freedom in roaming the streets. She chose to keep fighting for herself when someone exceedingly more capable wanted to fight for her.

God not only fought for us but, through Jesus, He won the battle for our eternity. He died to give us life, and was raised from the dead to give us HOPE. We are not unwanted, nor unforgivable. We were each uniquely created with a great purpose. And we are loved beyond anything our brains are capable of comprehending.

The love and hope I wanted to extend to that little dog didn’t disappear when she ran away. But the stray animals who trusted me got to receive all I had to give. If a broken human like me would go out of her way to help little creatures (even getting up at 3am for weeks to prepare a special formula and feed a baby squirrel), how much MORE love and care does our Father in Heaven want to lavish on US!! Anything good we do is just a tiny glimpse of the goodness of our gracious God.

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 5

Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that hope comes through self-effort. That it’s up to me to keep hope alive. That I’m the one holding onto my hope. But God’s Word reminds me that hope actually holds onto me. Hebrews 6:19 puts it this way: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Last time I checked, it’s the anchor that does the holding. Not the boat.

That’s good news. Especially when we’re exhausted by overwork, disappointment, or grief. Life hurts. And we all become battle weary at times. Humans are not machines—we have our limits. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:31).

That said, let’s remember that hope is not passive. We don’t get to simply numb out, give up, walk away from God and expect Him to come running after us to revive our hope.

No…I need to trust God, even when I no longer trust myself. Rest in Him and wait upon Him.  Hope in Him, especially when I don’t have the strength to fight any more. “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired (Isaiah 40:31 AMP).

Just what does it look like to wait for the Lord? It could mean that I simply rest for a while. Or take baby steps out of my exhaustion to listen to praise music; or soak in the promises in God’s Word; or go for a walk and breathe in His beauty.  Perhaps I share His love with one who’s broken.

I might even turn aside from my dream for a little while, but only after placing it squarely into God’s hands for safekeeping. I call this my time to “pray and walk away.” Just for a season. What’s more, God promises He’ll give me new strength to mount up on wings like an eagle.

But until strength comes, I can rest secure knowing that if my dream is truly from God, He won’t let it go. And He won’t let me go. He won’t let my hope die—for He gave it to me as the anchor for my soul.