Stuck in a Negative Cycle? Try Getting On New One

Life hits us sometimes with a cycle of suffering. Something goes wrong, or little things pile up, and circumstances seem to come at us in waves. The road gets rocky and it’s all we can do to just hang in there. In Romans, Paul says that God offers another cycle we can ride:

cycle stone

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5, NIV)

Often when bad things happen, there is a cycle that goes like this: First, question WHY has this happened? WHY ME? Then DOUBT that God has your best interests at heart. Shake your fist at God, and conclude He’s not interested. Then decide that this faith stuff is useless. Move on in bitter cynicism… it’s a cycle of pessimistic pain, isn’t it? When we respond to tragedy from an earthly point of view, it’s understandable that people end up bitter or even hopeless with nothing to live for.

cycle

There are many things that enter our lives and create scars, leaving regret or anger behind. Paul says that hoping in God’s glory is not one of them. Think about it: would it ever be a bad thing for us to reflect on the glory of God and how it relates to us?  In fact, Paul asserts that our lives have been affected by glory in every sense–past present, and future. We have been justified through our past adherence to faith, so that we NOW have peace with God and access into His grace. His grace seasons our everyday life with spiritual insights, forgiveness, and love. And because of this radical new relationship with God, we can stand confidently in hope that He will take care of the future. It turns difficult circumstances into a choice: either THEY shape our perspective, or GOD does. Participating in God’s glory offers us the opportunity to exchange hardship for hope, and to live with a different view of a cycle of pain…

Our suffering in this present world, when appropriated by faith, bears fruit that remains, and Paul (certainly no stranger to suffering) offers a broader view. IF we can hope in the glory of God, then adverse circumstances produce perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character begets hope. God validates that hope with love, a cycle of productive pain that allows for character building instead of cynicism. It’s a much better cycle than the other one, don’t you think?

Sometimes life will knock you down. You’ll find yourself retreating,
As things come in relentless waves, just beating, beating, beating…
Paul declared that suffering provides a chance to boast,
And when we’re at our least sufficient, God is at His most.
Lifting up our hearts to God can really change our story,
And we can find His peace, and apprehend the hope of glory.
When things occur that outstrip our ability to cope,
Persevere and pray, and call upon the God of Hope.
Circumstance and sin can’t win as long as you allow Him in,
And He will change the hard refrain of pain into your gain.
If you’re hopeless, take a step to God in faith, because
Events can never shape your outlook any more than God does.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“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.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war; the Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, He promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can seem like the only thing that is worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, be comforted by God’s inextinguishable light.”

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Hope for the Best, Even When Things Are at Their Worst

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116 NKJV) David had a unique perspective about God’s word. He saw it as more than something to read in church, and more than a book of wisdom that helped him understand how to live. We sometimes just hit the high spots in David’s biography, but when you really look at the circumstances and events in his life, you realize that there were plenty of times that were discouraging and difficult. In spite of that he consistently found hope in what God said.

As a shepherd, he sang about it and meditated upon it under the stars; as a fugitive hiding in caves from Saul’s dangerous mood swings, he drew strength from it; and as a sinner he depended upon it for comfort and forgiveness. He found in the Scriptures a connection to God that upheld him and gave him strength; he was motivated by it and hopeful because of it. What gives you hope?

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. Or 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted. Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

David suffered hardships and failure, yet he believed absolutely that God is merciful and reliable. His life had plenty of discouragement, but he had hope in God. Have you found anything in God’s commandments that makes you as confident as David was? He knew that God’s custom is to be merciful to those who love Him, and he took hope from that. He got up early to bask in God’s love, and he meditated upon it in the night watches.

hope

Like David, Paul also knew that hard times produce a hope in which we cannot be ashamed: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Have you found God’s mercy? When the world lets you down, it will hold you up.

David had to flee and hide: 
He ran to caves and hid inside,
And lived in dusty, thirsty fear 
That murderous Saul was drawing near.
Before bipolar was a thing, the melancholy, jealous king 
Whose heart and mood would darkly swing 
Was soothed when he heard David sing...
Yet even though he was David's fan, 
King Saul was still a dangerous man 
Who tried to kill him. So David ran.
And somewhere in a cave at night,
Unsettled by his hopeless plight,
Young David found a way to cope
And sought God's Word, which gave him hope.
Strengthened thus, he then proclaimed
That he would never be ashamed
Of hope in what the Lord can do.
So here it is: don't misconstrue,
But when you're hopeless--this is dope-
The God of grace will give you hope.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Perseverance and Hope: Maybe the Best of Things

It’s one of those “chicken or the egg” questions: does perseverance result in hope or does hope result in perseverance? Here’s what Paul said: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25 NASB).
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” (First Andy, and then Red, from “The Shawshank Redemption”. Andy had escaped from prison; Red had been released after years of incarceration.

Both men had left behind a life in prison for a new life fueled by hope—not a bad analogy for a picture of the Christian life, eh? Were you ever in bondage? Were you freed from the shackles of self-loathing and discouragement? In a life of freedom, hope is the new horizon, and as Christians we should be walking towards it with confidence.) What do you hope for?

Hope, Paul says, comes with salvation. It is the logical result of believing the Scriptures and learning from them. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) It is no accident that hope and endurance or perseverance are mentioned together in these verses, because they are irrevocably intertwined. Tell me, in a marriage is it love that sustains the commitment, or is it the commitment that sustains the love?

By the same token, does perseverance sustain hope, or does hope sustain perseverance? Hope is a present commitment based on a future result. It is a powerful thing, perhaps the single most important result of discovering who Jesus is and what he did….

What do you, deep inside, truly hope for? What do you wait for with perseverance? If you long for self-improvement, grab on to that hope. If you worry about the future, then hold on to hope. If you are in a low place, or if you have your doubts, then visualize that hope, and claim Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 “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.” No matter your circumstances, you can be assured that someday you will see whatever it is that the God of hope has promised. I hope you will claim it with confidence. And I hope you will wait for it with perseverance. I hope…

Prison does things to a man; his heart and soul are battered,
Until his hopes are dashed, and all his earthly dreams are shattered.
In Shawshank, Andy made it out; then Red secured parole.
They persevered in Hope, and hoped that it would make them whole.
And we are all in prison; every one of us walks the yard,
Longing for release, a chance to slip beyond the guard,
Free from sin and failure, free from penalty and fear,
Motivated by the Hope that we will persevere.
Approach the prison gates and ask the Warden to set you free;
Remember the perseverance that was shown on Calvary:
Jesus will look at you and smile, and offer you the key…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread