HOPE! That is what this chapter is all about. Jennifer shares with us the way an unknown Psalmist talks to his soul. "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" Psalm 42:5 The Psalmist is talking to his soul trying to figure out what is making him feel so sorrowful. As Jennifer called it "honest soul exploration" first being honest with yourself that feel despair, and then asking your soul why. What is making you feel troubled, and searching for the source.
I have to say that this little section alone is so important. How many times have we beat up on ourselves for feeling sad, negative, fearful, or anxious. How many of us have heard that Christians aren't suppose to feel those things, that if we do we don't have enough faith. Well guess what we do and it's okay it's normal. This is when it's time though to sit down and have a good old fashion talk with your soul, and find out where the despair comes from. This is where God teaches us to look to Him to fill our souls and find our Hope. This is where God shows us that the things of the world cannot give us hope. This is when we learn to lean and trust in God. When we are in despair we must find out where it comes from so we can begin healing from it.
Jennifer says: "Despair won't go away just because we ignore it, run from it, drown it out, or deny it. A soul in despair must be honest enough to admit the truth. That's where it all begins."
When we first started this study, I shared back in Chapter 2 how I was feeling very down and frustrated, so much so that my husband was worried that I might be slipping into a depression. That day I sat down, started praying, and asking God to show me what was causing this sadness. I knew I didn't feel right in my spirit, and I didn't want to slip deeper.
I love how Jennifer has us visualize a table and the stability of it's four legs as the balance in our life. "When one of the essential areas of our lives is loose, damaged, neglected, or removed, we will be shaky and imbalanced. We will easily tip and fall into despair." Just like a table if one of the legs are broken or even loose it becomes unsteady or worse falls. Like a table we have four essential supports, ironically as I read through these I realized that I had been working on strengthening these supports, since that day I posted on Chapter 2.
Emotional Leg: "Emotions are valid and important gifts from God. But because they can be very powerful and very present, we can easily believe they represent facts. -- Our problems usually have less to do with our circumstances than with the way we choose to feel about them. --Remember, feelings aren't the same things as facts." I think we can all relate to making decisions based on our emotions. I've made many decisions that were based on my emotions, and they usually ending up a mess. These have involved financial decisions, relationship decisions, work related decisions just to name a few. This leg needs constant monitoring, I always have to stop and check my emotions, and pray for wisdom.
Physical Leg: "Never discount the impact of physical wellness on our souls' wellness. Your body needs adequate rest, healthy food, and moderate exercise." I can definitely relate to this one. My physical leg has been out of whack for the last year. Having my illness I need to be aware of my bodies needs. When I neglected them or ignored them, as I did in 2007, it brought me into a relapse in my health, which then affected every other part of my life and my families life. Only recently have I realized how much I needed to make some changes again. Things I had done but let go of. Resting when my body felt tired, not over committing to things, eating healthy, and exercising had lost as one of my priorities. Then I would become hard on myself when I had saw where it had taken me. I cannot cure my illness only God can, but he has given me the tools and the knowledge to take better care of myself. So this leg right now is under repair.
Mental Leg: "Brains like to be challenged. Your mind needs to have something to do, or it will create something to do -- something that might not be so constructive." When I think of all the time I spent watching TV. Not just something new, or interesting, but reruns of shows I'd seen 2 or 3 times talk about idle brain. Now I don't mean to offend, but I have pretty much put the majority of TV out of my life. I really haven't found anything worth watching that should suck up my precious free time to watch. I've been reading more, love reading my Message Daily Bible, books, and blogs. I have also found that blogging has given me a way to work my mind and write my thoughts and expand on them. Of course I love to create too, that really gets my brain working. So stimulate that brain, with things of value, and that bring you enjoyment. My hubby always teases me says how do you know all this stuff, I just say I don't know I read it somewhere.
Spiritual Leg: "A deep longing resides in each of us that only God can meet. Neglecting this longing doesn't make it go away. It will only continue to grow, and left untended, it leads to a sort of melancholy of the soul. -- When our spiritual needs aren't met, we experience the effects physically, emotionally, and mentally. -- Your spiritual nature is the part of you that is eternal. It's the part of you that will live forever and longs to commune with the eternal God. -- As we transfer trust from ourselves to Him, we find deep satisfaction, and our longing is fulfilled." Oh how true this is. I feel it every time I've drifted away from spending time with God, when I've slipped into the "Sunday Christian Mode". It's affected my life in huge ways. That's when I make decisions based on feelings, or slip into mind numbing entertainment, and lack of physical motivation to take care of myself. My time with God is so precious to me. I have such a hunger to read the word, and learn more about God, and what His plan is for me. I talk to God all the time like he's sitting right next to me, like I would talk to a friend sitting with me. It's apparent to me that strengthening that Spiritual Leg will keep the others from needing so much repair.
LOOK UP: HOPE IN GOD!
HOPE! It such a small word with such a huge impact. Jeremiah 29:11 has been my life verse since I first gave my life to the Lord it was the first verse I ever memorized, " For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future" This verse carried me through the uncertainty of being a single mom, when God brought me back to work, when I got sick, when my husband admitted his addictions, and through many other trials. God is our HOPE and He promises that to us. It may not be the future we expected, but it's what He knows is best for us, and so I HOPE in his plan for me. This verse is in big beautiful letters written on the walls of my thought closet, when I feel despair and am crying out to God I repeat this over and over like a chant, and He brings me peace.
I love the story she shared about the women's husband Bruce that is a quadriplegic. When people asked him if he couldn't wait to get to heaven so he could walk his reply was so powerful " 'I'm not so interested in getting to heaven so I can walk or run or jump,' he replies. ' I long for heaven because there I can kneel.'" Wow, have you ever met someone like that. I have, she's my daughters best friends mother, she inspires me with her hope and her faith. She has MS and is confined to a wheel chair, mostly bed now. She's in and out of the hospital for seizures, and yet when ever I go over to her house she is always smiling, she is always concerned for others, and she never complains. Now of course I don't live with her so I'm sure she has her moments, but I really don't believe that she could endure without her Hope in Christ, and her husbands hope in Christ. When I feel whinny about my illness I think of her. I call her just to chat, because she reminds me to Look Up.
Jennifer reminds us, "When we look up, we broaden our view and are able to see that our losses remind us of all that we have received. Hope is lost when we focus only on our own problems. But choosing hope widens our perspective."
Jennifer asked the question what do we put our hope in? In these times in our country people are putting their hope in all kinds of places, false religions, people, government, self help books, it's heart breaking. So many people are living in uncertainty. My friend just told me today that her husband was let go from work. Here in California, our budget still hasn't passed, and they are making cuts all over the different agencies. Of course there is all the other things going on in our country, and the world around us. I hear so much fear in peoples voices, and the majority of people seem to be putting their hope in our new President. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but let's be realistic he's just a man, so he is not where my hope lies. The presidents power is limited. If we put our hope in earthly things our hope will perish. "Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless." Job 8:13. So where do I put my hope. MY HOPE IS IN THE LORD. My Lord has no limits. "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint." Isiah 40:31. I have to put my HOPE in the Lord, if I don't I will end up trembling under some broken table somewhere, not sleeping, worried about things that haven't happened yet, and things I can't control. I don't want to live that way, I don't have to either.
This quote from Jennifer's book is where I want to be, "The most hopeful people I know are those who place their trust n God. Liberated from the need to always be in control, they are able to rest in Him rather than struggle to avoid difficulties in this life. They don't become hopeless because their hope is in God, not in themselves or the alleviation of their circumstances." My hope in God has carried through many difficult trials in this last 9 1/2 years, and it fills me now even when so many around me have no hope. My prayer is that all my family and friends who don't know the Hope I have found in God, will come to find it. I would love to share it with you. It's a gift God gave us that He wants us to pass on.