Hope Amidst HardshipGod, Devotional , Theology
Contributed by: Compassion Canada
In a broken world, it’s hard to cling to hope at the best of times. It’s even harder in seasons of pain. But the beautiful thing about the hope of Jesus is that it’s not contingent on what happens in this world. This hope is already ours.
Written by Compassion Canada writer Laura Phillips, this 4-day devotional explores practical ways to find, cling to and share hope in seasons of hardship. Rooted in themes from scripture, this study walks you through reflections and prayers designed to help you cultivate the hope of Jesus that is already yours.
Choosing to be thankful when we’re in the middle of or coming out of a season of hardship is probably one of the most difficult things to do. And the truth is, when we are feeling emotionally drained, it’s so easy to want to turn off our brains at the beginning or end of the day to block out the things that pain us. Many times, we turn to our phones. But what we come to find is just an endless sea of bad news or mind-numbing mush. We end up feeling worse.
How eased would our spirits be if we proclaimed, like the old familiar hymn, “in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus”? How different would our days be if we started each morning steeped in God’s goodness, asking the Holy Spirit to help us pay attention to all the ways He is pouring out His love to us? Would we see things differently? What if we ended our days rooted in the words of scripture? Would we sleep with our minds at peace?
If we paid attention, we’d see God’s love everywhere. In the quiet calm of a winter walk in the woods. In the birds that gather below the bird feeder outside our kitchen window. In the dinnertime meals that warm us from the inside out. There is beauty to be found everywhere. We just need to lift our eyes to see it.
Jesus, it can be so difficult to find beauty when I am surrounded by hardship. I admit that in seasons of trial, it’s easier to tune out the world to protect my heart. But when I do, I know I am turning my eyes away from all the ways you are showing your love to me, even in the smallest ways. I pray, Father, that you would awaken my heart to see all the life brewing around me when I am too distracted to see it. I pray that you would compel my heart by your Spirit to take time each day to acknowledge and praise you for the beautiful things in my life. As I do this, would you change my perspective? Would you shift the eyes of my heart away from the darkness and above to your glory? You display your glory in so many ways. Thank you that you are always in the details.
Boldly Choosing Kindness
The reality in which we find ourselves these days is one of polarization. It’s become easier to be angry and point fingers than to show grace. And yet, in the time we live, kindness can seem like a weak, almost irrelevant piece of the puzzle. With so much going on and so much to solve, what will kindness achieve?
Kindness is an ember. It’s small, but it’s mighty. The reality is, we can’t have kindness without respect, and we can’t have respect without the acknowledgement that our sisters and brothers around us are fellow image bearers of God. As Jesus’ ambassadors, we are called to clothe ourselves with His kind of kindness. This type of kindness is courageous and bold. It chooses to see the humanity in a neighbor, treating them with gentleness and understanding. It chooses to be slow to speak and quick to listen. It chooses to see the image of God rather than the list of differing viewpoints.
When we posture ourselves to consider others first, instead of considering ourselves first, hope can ignite like wildfire.
God of kindness, I admit that it is sometimes not easy to show your love to people. It’s easy for my initial response to be one of judgment, protection, and defensiveness. In a world that is so divided, it’s becoming harder to see how small seeds of love and kindness can change the conversation. Jesus, in your time on earth, you treated every person with dignity, kindness, and compassion. What a beautiful example of what it means to be human. You have already given me the ability, through your Holy Spirit, to extend kindness and compassion to my neighbors. I just need the strength to put it into action. Would you help me, in the best and worst of times, to choose to speak words of life rather than words of destruction? Would you shepherd me as I strive to be more like you, gentle Savior. When I walk in the way of love, there is abundant hope to be found.
Remembering the Sacredness of Lament
How often in our prayer lives do we present God with the best of us? How often do we bury the anger or confusion we feel because we’re afraid we can’t get that real with God? One thing that we can be certain of when it comes to our Father is that He welcomes and even longs for our whole hearts—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When we talk about cultivating hope, lament may sound counterproductive. But the beautiful thing about lament is that it births hope. We see examples of this kind of holy lament sprinkled all throughout scripture, and a whole book, Lamentations, dedicated to lament alone! When we honestly open our hearts and allow ourselves space to lament, we come before God with no false pretenses, just raw honesty. It may not be pretty or even easy, but it is an honest offering of the reality of our souls. And it is what Jesus asks us for.
In Matthew, He invites us to lay down our weariness at His feet as the only true way of finding peace and rest. When we are able to put our sorrows in God’s capable hands, He promises to revive our hearts with rest and peace. It’s through this peace that we can scatter seeds of hope once again, in a soil that is irrigated with God’s healing and promise.
Jesus, sometimes this world is heavy, and it all feels to be too much. With the sickness, injustice, loss, and hatred that exist in the world, it is hard to truly cling onto hope. It’s hard not to feel weighed down by the world. But Lord, I know you are in control. You are holding the world in your hands. You are not far from the grieving. You hold the tears of the broken-hearted. There is no pain we feel that you are not acquainted with. I pray that I would remember this truth when I am in the midst of grief. I pray that I would accept your invitation to lay my burdens at your feet. Wounded Healer, would you hold my heart when I pour it out to you? Would you be so near when the shadows are closing in? Teach me to come to you with my authentic heart, that I may make space for your healing.
Living with Intentionality
Intentionality is a bit of a buzzword these days, but what does it really mean for us when it comes to cultivating hope? It means that the pursuit of hope is just that—a pursuit. Hope doesn’t just fall into our lap. It takes persistence and practice. Just like achieving the perfect sourdough loaf or waking up early to pray, catching a grip on hope requires pushing yourself every day to do it.
As simple as the practices we’ve explored in this study may seem, they take all take practice, especially in seasons of hardship. Each of them requires a certain amount of initiative. Make it a regular occurrence to pencil each of these practices into your schedule as you go through the year. Create margin for thankfulness and lament in your prayer life. Share with God the things in your day—both big and small—that are evidence of His love for you. Practice letting Him in on the things that weigh you down the most. Plan out ways to practically bless those in your life—send snail mail just to say hello or order pizza to a friend’s home when you know they’re having a tough week. Sometimes, when hope doesn’t come easy, intentionality can be our greatest tool to finding it, and showing others where it can be found.
God of Hope, you’ve created us in your image. Help me to be someone who reflects your radical hope in times of great fear, doubt, and uncertainty in the world. You call me to be light in this world. You compel me to be salt. As I strive to be those things to a world that desperately longs for hope, may I find the strength from you to do so. I know that it takes time and intentionality, and sometimes I would rather hide from it all. But Jesus, compel me to do the hard work of choosing hope each day. Of sharing hope each day. Give me eyes to see the places and people who are craving stability and light, so that I might be a vessel of your hope amidst hardship. I know it is not always easy, but it always, always worth it.