I try, at a minimum, to read the daily devotional from Paul Tripp’s book, New Morning Mercies and to read the chapters from my The Bible in One Year reading plan. It doesn’t happen every day. Especially recently with all the change, it has been difficult to establish a routine. It was 2-3 weeks ago that I was reading the devotional, and Paul Tripp’s summary line at the top was this statement:
“Hopelessness is the doorway to Hope.”
Huh? I was obviously intrigued by this statement, and so I read with a little more focus and interest than other days where I’m reading more out of duty than desire. Don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about. By the end of the devotion, I was both encouraged and convicted.
I was convicted because it is so easy to find my hope in any number of people or things. In the created. When my hope is not in the Creator, as it often isn’t, there will be disappointment coming every time, because creation was not meant to fulfill my hopes – only God was meant to fill that role.
I was encouraged too because, well, this has been hard. And it was a well-timed reminder that my hope in a loving, gracious, and merciful Father is never misplaced.
Did you read that last sentence or were you still stuck on the one before where I said this has been hard? Harder than anticipated honestly, and it’s interesting to find myself in a place where I’m not sure how honest to be (because as most of you know, honesty is not an issue I usually have). Let me explain.
Our sending agency, Mission to the World, spends a lot of time and effort preparing us for this transition to the mission field. We spend a lot of time training and gearing up. We have many people praying for us and God has been faithful to affirm this call. But I have to tell you, it’s been harder than anticipated. And it all came to a head three weeks ago.
I was driving the boys to school and we got in an accident. It was a fender bender, and it was my fault. No one was hurt, minor damage to both cars, and the insurance is going to take care of it. But it was the proverbial straw for this camel. I went on a walk later that day and called a friend. He answered with, “What’s up, how are you?” to which I responded “Just out rucking (walking with a weighted backpack) through the local neighborhood crying.” I laugh now because I am sure any Salvadorans driving by were wondering what was wrong with this “Chelito” (that’s the word here for gringo, meaning a light-skinned person).
I found that doorway – the one Paul Tripp was talking about. It appears when we find ourselves in a place of brokenness, darkness, or suffering. The place where we are reminded of the words from a hymn written in 1834:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
It was a week later when we were at MTW’s Area Retreat for all missionaries in the Americas when God’s sovereignty and always-perfect timing were on display. (This retreat only happens every 4 years, and we arrived on the field just in time to be able to attend.) During worship each morning we were going through the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. On this particular day, we were studying verses 8-11:
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
God is good, and he loves us in so many ways. I once again found myself crying. I think in the last two months I’ve cried more as we have transitioned to the mission field than I have in the last 37 years, or at least since I was a kid. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on a God who raises the dead!” There is nothing that happens that God doesn’t use for good, that is out of His control, and that isn’t for a good purpose.
Being at Area Retreat was restful and encouraging. It was also a stark reminder we are not alone. It is easy to feel lonely right now in this season. So, we look to the Creator for hope and comfort. And though you, dear friend reading this, are not with us in person, we are thankful so many of you are answering the call Paul asks of the church in Corinth:
“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
We give thanks for each and every one of you to God, our only source of hope and comfort.