Where Do You Place Your Hope?

Dear Friends,

I waited in hope for a devotional I had submitted online to be accepted.  The previous one had been accepted so I was hopeful that this one would also be accepted.  Surely they would like what I had written?  Yet hope dwindled as time went by and I had received no response.  The deadline for hearing back from them had passed.  With the passing of time, hope left me.

I was so disappointed. I had really hoped to hear a yes from them.  There were brief moments when I was able to think objectively.  When I was able to tell myself, "That's OK.  What I had written did not meet their requirements this time.  It wasn't needed because it didn't fit with the direction they wanted to take. It's alright.  I can try again another time." 

However, my heart was saying something else and I began to have doubts and fears: I'd been so sure God had given me a gift to write.  I thought God had called me to share his truth through the written word.  Perhaps I wasn't as good at writing as I'd thought.  Maybe I'd got it wrong.  Maybe my desire to write hadn't come from God.  I shouldn't be wasting my time on writing if I'm no good at it.  Why did I think I could write?  Why did I think I had anything to say that people would want to read.  Who did I think I was?  I just can't compare with the well-established writers, they're the ones who really have a way with words.  God hasn't called me to write, it was all just wishful thinking.

Foolishly, I paid attention to those unhealthy thoughts and feelings.  I allowed them to make their home in my mind.  I listened to them rather than listening to what God might want to say to me.  The more I dwelt on them, the stronger they became.  They fed my insecurities, my feelings of inferiority and inadequacy - feelings that once had been so strong in the past, were surfacing once more.  By listening to these things I was giving myself permission to think this way. 

How do you respond when faced with an obstacle or barrier in your path?  When you are faced with what seems to be "no" rather than "yes"? 

Does hopeful expectation give way to doubts, fears, concerns?  Do you question yourself and God?  Do old insecurities, past feelings of inadequacy and inferiority resurface?  Do your thoughts and feelings stop you from trusting in what God has said to you and stop you from pressing on?  Do they stop you from doing what you believe God has called you to? 

These thoughts and feelings can paralyse us so that instead of taking action and continuing to seek God's will, believing what he has said, trusting in his way forward and his timing, we stand still and do nothing.  And if we stand still for too long we will never achieve what God has purposed for us. 

When everything is going well with us it's easy to have confidence in what God has told us to do.  Yet, those times when we encounter closed doors, obstacles and barriers, we can so quickly start to doubt what God has said.  If we are not careful, we can focus on our circumstances and decide that we must have heard God wrong.  Instead, we should be keep our focus on him, lean in to him, trust in his word and keep persevering.  Believing him rather than believing what our circumstances seem to be telling us.

Weeks later, I actually received a response to my devotional I had submitted.  They apologised for and explained the delay, and said that they would actually like to use my devotional.  I was so surprised.  In my eyes God had done a miracle, where hope had died, God now brought new life to my hope. 

And in the meantime, God had done some work in me.  He had taught me that my hope had been in the wrong place.  I was hoping for a 'yes' in my writing, hoping in others and their opinion, hoping in my own ability, rather than placing my hope in God and trusting him for the outcome. 

I need to keep trusting God's plan for my life.  Trusting that he will fulfil it in his way and in his time.  Nothing good can come from trusting in my own understanding of what I think should happen.  I need to give up my desire to be in control.  To stop thinking that God can only work in a certain way, i.e., my way.  I need to remember his words from Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (NLT)

A closed door is not always a permanent one.  Sometimes it can be temporary.  A closed door is not a dead end, it can be closed so that God can take us in a different direction.  Sometimes God takes us where we didn't believe we could ever go, but is still in keeping with his original plan for us.  

The way we see what God has planned for us can be very different to how he sees his plan for us.  We need his eyes, his way of seeing things.  We need to ask God to help us see with his eyes, just as the Psalmist did in Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction. (HCSB) and also as Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus: I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1:18-19 (MSG) 

I know I will face more barriers, more rejections along the way.  But I hope I've learned some valuable lessons which will help me when I do come across them.  I don't need to go down that old route of listening to my doubts, believing what my feelings are telling me or indulging in unhealthy thinking - these things do me no good whatsoever.  Instead I can keep my focus on God, keep my hope in him, and him alone.  As the Psalmist said: Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.  Psalm 62:5 (NLT).  I can trust that God knows what is best.  I can trust in his timing and his leading.  I can know that although I only see a part, perhaps only as far as the next bend or obstacle, he sees the whole of my journey from start to finish. 

To Think About:
How do you respond to a closed door?  How do you respond when you face a barrier or an obstacle?

What might God be wanting to teach you when you encounter a closed door or an obstacle in your path?

In who, or what, do you place your trust?  What difference does it make when you choose to place your hope in God, especially when everything else seems to be telling you to do the opposite? 



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