Hope Rejoices

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Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Let all who take refuge in you be glad. Let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Psalm 5:11

When we rejoice in the Lord, we raise our hearts above our current circumstances to praise the goodness of who He is. Rejoicing is lifting our souls to see God’s unchanging faithfulness and goodness. As we rejoice, we reach out to hold on to the hope we have in Christ.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.   Psalm 42:5

The Psalmist articulates transferring his soul’s hope from the despair of his circumstances to praise for his God. Though I can’t find dictionary or root word proof of this, I have always seen the word rejoice as having the prefix “re-“ which means again. Add that with the “joy”- and I see it meaning to find joy again. Rejoicing is taking our soul back to that place of joy with the Lord again.

Shout for joy, O heavens, rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains. For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.  Isaiah 49:13

Isaiah commands all of creation to rejoice because God comforts and has compassion on His people. So even in affliction, we can rejoice. Why? Because God is near with comfort and compassion. We are not commanded to rejoice because of the affliction, but to rejoice because God is near in the affliction.

Joy comes second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we are filled with Jesus, we are filled with joy. And it is Christ’s joy within us that enables us to endure through life’s hardest challenges.

Children very often have an incredible ability to hold onto joy. Their world may be filled with great pain and difficulty, yet their spirit holds onto a joy that overrules. As mothers, we can set aside our own pain to take in the joy of our children and hold on through the hard. We can rejoice because our children rejoice. Their simple, trusting faith and hope can encourage us to do the same.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

An acronym for JOY is Jesus, Others, and You. We can find JOY in seeking Jesus first, then serving others, then thinking of ourselves last. In our difficulties, we often turn those around. We look first to ourselves and our own strength, then possibly to others for help, and lastly to Jesus. The problem with looking first to ourselves is that self-pity often overtakes us, and robs all joy.

My college roommate had a note on her mirror that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Looking around at all the good others seem to be experiencing keeps us from trusting God with where He’s placed us and how He’s blessed us. We can easily look at mothers of “normal” children and get caught in self-pity, losing sight of the goodness of God in our lives. We focus on what we do not have, rather than rejoicing in all that we do have.

As beloved children of God, we can rejoice in God’s presence and His peace, His care and compassion, and His help and hope. Let’s learn to lift our souls to Him and rejoice in Him- even in the hard.

Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.  Psalm 51:12

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Hope Trusts God’s Compassion

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The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.  Psalm 145:8-9

We have seen that God’s character is trustworthy. And we have seen that He created all things for His glory, and is faithful to care for all that He made. He is worthy of our full trust for all that He is and for all that He does. We see more of His heart for His creation as we look at God’s compassion.

One definition for compassion is “to see, care and act on another’s need.” God who is the all-knowing Creator of all sees every need that we have. And when He sees those needs, His response is one of compassion- He cares about what He sees. But His response goes beyond seeing and caring, to having the power to act on the need.  He moves towards us to help with power and love.

We have all passed a homeless man or woman on a busy street corner. We may have seen the need, but did we really care? And if we cared, did we do anything to help? If not, then our response was not one of compassion. Compassion is seeing, caring and acting on another’s need. I’m so thankful God has compassion on all He has made. He doesn’t glance and keep driving, but instead He stops and extends His mighty hand of help.

Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him.  Lamentations 3:21-25

In the scriptures above, we see several characteristics of God’s compassion that are closely related. We see that God is gracious, slow to anger and rich in love. Gracious means that He gives grace and favor to those who don’t deserve it. He is slow to anger- He doesn’t look at our sin and react hastily, but moves compassionately to respond. And above all else His love for us is great.

A mother’s love for her child is to me the closest taste of God’s love for us that we can experience here on earth.  As we experience the rich unconditional love flowing from us to our child, can we feel God’s love flowing towards us in the same way? When our child makes a mistake, commits a sin, or otherwise acts in a way we wish he or she wouldn’t, and we feel that faithful love and forgiveness still pouring forth, can we accept it from God when we fall short? When our child is hurting, and our heart sees, cares and acts with compassion and help, can we trust God to move towards our hurt in the same way?

Another aspect of God’s compassion is empathy. Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s pain. It is knowing and understanding another’s pain, usually gained from having had the same experience.  Scripture assures us that through the incarnation, Christ experienced the same hurts as we have.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15

Though Christ did not have a child with special needs, we can be assured He experienced doubt, fear, grief, loneliness, disappointment and loss, just as we have. And we can be assured He is able to help us respond to those hurts in a way that grows our faith and honors God.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. We can trust His tender response to His children. He is good to those whose hope is in Him.

 

Hope Trusts God’s Care

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Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.       

The words to this gospel hymn are more fully experienced sung in an African American worship service by a talented soloist who can belt it out in full emotion. But the words alone speak a message for all of us struggling along life’s challenging road.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than sparrows.  Luke 12:6-7

God cares for His creation. And He especially cares for the creation that bears His name. We are worth far more to Him, and we can trust that He will watch over us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

We can trust that God will take care of us, and in that trusting, we can come to rest in His perfect provision for our lives.  We face many needs and challenges, some physical, others relational or financial, many emotional and spiritual. God our Creator knows us, and knows each of those needs intimately. And He is able to care tenderly for them.

My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

We teach children the difference between “wants” and “needs.” They may say they “need” a new toy or new bicycle, but we help them understand that those are really just “wants.” So, too, we as adults sometimes need reminded of this difference. How many of my hopes and expectations are “wants?” And a scarier question is- how many of those “wants” have self-centered motives?

If we are honest, I think most of us will admit many of our “wants” come from worldly pressures and our own selfishness. We want a perfect house, a perfect car, a perfect marriage, a perfect child. Hopefully we can also admit that God has used difficult circumstances to whittle away at those “wants” and mold them into God-centered desires. We can agree that we don’t “need” perfect houses, cars, marriages and children to live. We need God.

God works in our “wants” and “needs” to bring us to total dependence on Him. He promises to meet all of our needs, and carve away at our worldly and selfish desires until we align with Him.

Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  1 Timothy 6:17

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

This promise tells us that if we will delight ourselves in God, He will place within us new desires. The desires of our heart become the desires of God’s heart and we seek after all the fullness of what He has for us. We place our hope in His care, trusting Him to meet all our needs physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually.

One of the deepest fears for a mother of a child with special needs is the fear of what will happen to her child if something happens to her. We can trust God’s care for our child- whether we are here to help or not. God will provide for all of his or her needs.

Trusting God to take care of all our needs frees us from the worry and stress of thinking we have to come up with all the answers. We are free to lay all our fears at His feet and place our confidence in His faithful provision. We are free to enjoy the many blessings He has given. We are free to delight in His faithful, watchful, caring hand.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

              

 

Hope Trusts God’s Creation

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Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

In the story of creation, we learn that “God created man in His image. In the image of God, He created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Human beings are the only creation that bears the image of God. All human beings have been uniquely created by the sovereign hands of Elohim- our Creator.  Each one fashioned to bring glory to God.

Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.  Isaiah 43:7

Jesus teaches us in John 9 that God seeks to glorify Himself through all people, even those with a disability.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  John 9:2-3

As parents of children with different kinds of disabilities, we may need to wrestle out this issue with God and with ourselves. Can we trust that God uniquely created our child- just as he or she is- to bring glory to Himself? Do we trust His divine design- or are we tempted to consider this an “accident?”

For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well.  Psalm 139:13-14

Trusting God’s creation means trusting God with how He created my child.

Moses wrestled out this issue with God when God called Him to go to the Egyptians and lead Israel out of captivity. He was “slow of speech and tongue” and didn’t feel equipped to take on this great task.  God made clear to Moses that even with this disability, He was exactly who God created Him to be.

The LORD said to Moses, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I the LORD?”

We can come to rest in knowing that it is the Lord who creates each of our children, with their unique physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual development. We can turn our hearts to His great plan and trust Him to work all things for the greater good. We can focus on the beauty of God’s handiwork and be thankful for what we have, not discouraged by what we don’t have.

Friends of ours lost their third child late in the pregnancy. It was a very difficult loss. When God blessed them with a fourth child, and sustained them through the pregnancy, she was born with club feet. Their attitude has been a great witness to trusting in God’s perfect design for her, even with this challenge.  Their experience through the miscarriage gave them an attitude of thankfulness for this new life, in place of discouragement that could have otherwise come. They are focusing on what they have, not on what they don’t have.

Trusting God’s creation for my child moves me beyond “Why, Lord?” to “Be glorified, Lord.”

Trusting God’s creation also means trusting God with how He created me.

As “fearfully and wonderfully” as our children are made, so too are we created uniquely by God to bring glory to Himself.  He fashioned us to be the mother our children need us to be.  He uniquely placed us together in our families, whatever shape they may take. We can trust that our personality, our education and experiences, our passions and our interests, our strengths and our weaknesses have all shaped us to be used in our ministry to our children as mothers.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10

One of my favorite quotes for ministry is “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”  We may not feel equipped for this calling, yet we can trust God to pour into us exactly what we need to do the work He prepared for us to do. After He reminded Moses of who had created him, He made a promise.

Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  Exodus 4:12

Hope trusts God’s creation- how He created my child and how He created me- all to bring glory to Himself.  He will help us, He will teach us, He will equip us for all He has called us to be.

Creator God, Lord of all, may I trust you with every detail you have fashioned in my child, and in me. Be glorified as your hands continue to shape us into all you’ve created us to be.