A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

The 3 “D” Words Continued…


IMG_0936Despair.

The dictionary definition of despair is “to lose, give up, or be without hope.”

“The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair.”

Oswald Chambers

I would add that something done to us that is irreversible can also lead to despair. Despair is that feeling that every option is depleted and there’s no use trying anything else because nothing will yield positive results.

Haven’t we all been there at one point or another?

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest had some great insights about despair and how to handle it. He explains how the disciples must have felt despair when they were asked by Jesus to keep watch and pray with him, but they fell asleep instead.

That night was a pretty big deal.

When soldiers came to take Jesus, the disciples realized they had lost their opportunity to participate in a special time with Jesus. And the worst was that they may never see him again. Since he was crucified soon after that, it ended up being the last moments they spent with him alive. At least until he rose again. But they didn’t know that then.

Whether a tragic event has occurred in our life, we’ve done something regrettable, or we’ve missed a great opportunity, with God there is always a future. Even if we can’t change what’s happened, we can act for what is to come.

Chambers reminds us that Jesus encouraged the disciples to “Get up and do the next thing.”

When faced with despair, I’ve learned to:

  1. Grieve over the situation. Acknowledge the reality of what’s happened. Neither denying nor wallowing is helpful.
  2. Leave what’s happened in God’s hands. He sees all and has a plan for everything.  What’s been done to us, or what we’ve done is no surprise to him. Our plan B has always been his plan A because he knew what would happen. He’s granted forgiveness. He’ll bring comfort. He’s the God of justice and mercy.
  3. Remember that God has a future hope for me that can’t be cut off.  (Prov. 23:18; Prov. 24:14 & Jer. 29:11)
  4. Look to that future. What is the next step I can take? Take it.
  5. And as Oswald Chambers says…

“Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.”

Despair is real, human and expected from time to time. We may even feel we can’t pull out of it. But by taking these steps, and being patient with myself, I’ve learned to move ahead with my life–even when life seemed like it must be over.

It’s not over until God says it’s over.

What are some steps you’ve found to be helpful in dealing with despair?

The 3 “D” Words


DSC_0199

Another tragedy struck Florida this week.

I hate to say this is becoming common place – may that not be true! But at the very least when people are senselessly shot down, we are left with questions, anger and sorrow.

But a tragedy isn’t the only situation that can set off the 3 “D” words. Sometimes it’s past trauma or something as simple as a difficult day. Maybe they’re set off by prolonged distress like abuse or bullying. Perhaps we’ve managed to survive for years when one of them, or all three, strike, leaving us reeling.

What are those words?

Depression. Despair. Destruction.

From the limited information I’ve heard, I would guess that the young man who open fired at the school in Parkland, Florida experienced those emotions. And certainly the families devastated by his actions will grapple with them.

So how do we handle depression, despair and destructive patterns?

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have formal training. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. But I’ve experienced all of these feelings at some point in my life, and I’ve talked with others who have struggled to get a grip in the wake of these emotions. Along the way, I’ve learned some information that has helped me.

Maybe if we each learned to cope with our feelings of depression, despair and destruction and noticed the indication of those emotions in others, we could help lessen future incidents of violence that result from hurting hearts.

Depression.

First, I want to acknowledge that there can be chemical and hormonal reasons for depression. For some people, medication may be the answer. I don’t propose that someone who is being helped by medication should not take it or feel bad about taking it. Each individual needs to do what’s best for them. Here are a couple of things that have helped me:

  • A dear pastor friend once told me that depression was caused by something being “pressed down” in my life, thoughts or heart. So I learned that whenever I feel depressed I should ask myself “What are you pressing down?” Usually, it’s sorrow, disappointment or frustration created by some previous incident, and I haven’t allowed myself to process, cry, talk, grieve or somehow deal with my feelings. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or thought I shouldn’t feel that way or tried to pass it off as no big deal. It’s usually a far bigger deal than I think if it leaves me feeling depressed. Sometimes I’m not sure what my feelings are or why, but I believe God knows. So I ask him. The Bible says:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”   Jeremiah 33:3

  • I had to learn how I process situations and the emotions arising from them. Some people process internally, mulling over things until they can sort them in their head. Others process externally. I’m one of those. I think of it as dumping the contents of my purse on the table. When I see it all, I can keep or discard what I need. I have to talk out loud about things, sometimes more than once, in order to sort through it. If I try to process internally, I become depressed. Likewise, for some internal processors, if they’re forced to talk about something before they’ve had time to think, they may feel depressed by their inability to pinpoint what is in their heart or head. How do you process? It’s good to know and act according to how you best function. Whether you are internal or external, it’s good to talk to God and a trusted friend about your feelings when the time is right for you. God says in Hebrews 4:16 that we can approach him with confidence. He understands what we’re going through.
  • Sometimes we need to do some simple, everyday, ordinary task. Take out the trash, get dressed, make a bed or take a shower. Just one task at a time. And then another one when we’re ready. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah was depressed. He’d just had a show down with an evil woman and was exhausted. An angel came to him and said

“Arise and eat.”  I Kings 19:5

No earth shattering advice or vision or deep spiritual explanation. Just get up and eat. Sometimes God tells us to do something ordinary.

“…His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things– things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find him there.” Oswald Chambers

  • A change of scenery can change a perspective. Often when I am feeling depressed, I’d rather lie in bed than go out and face the world. But sometimes getting out to another setting even if it’s simply going outside for a little while can shift my thinking. Isolation begets depression so even when I feel I can’t be around people, interacting with others, especially if I’m doing something to serve them, is exactly with I need to break out of a depressed state.

These actions help me when I’m feeling depressed. I pray they will be helpful to you as well.

Next week we’ll look at the next “D” word: despair.

What helps you when you’re feeling depressed?

 

 

 

 

Sex Begets Sex


I heard another story of a brokenhearted woman this week.

Light out of Darkness
Light out of Darkness

Hard circumstances followed her through life and relationships never seemed to turn out right. Deceived by men over the years, she wondered if anyone would ever love her purely, rightly, completely—at all. She hates the life she’s found herself trapped in, but doesn’t know how she got there or how to get out. Despairing and lonely, this woman cries out to God asking “what’s wrong with me?”

Her name could be Susan or Jane or Crystal. Or Fantine from Les Miserables.

While the women have different names, the story is the same. Sexually abused as girls or young women, we now search in vain for true love and acceptance. Our hearts live in a confused, turmoiled state of unrest, if not every day outwardly, at least in the secret depths of our souls.

As grown women, we wonder why we feel targeted or lost; why we can’t find a good man or keep any; and why compulsion or addiction rules us. We question our sanity and worth. The only value we seem to possess is derived from doing enough, making enough money or offering our sexuality as a sacrifice for “love.” Sometimes it’s the same thing.

I was such a woman.

Now I long to reach out and grab hold of each one whose eyes hold deep secrets. I want to say I understand. It’s not your fault. You didn’t imagine these twisted nightmares or create such craziness. Perhaps you don’t remember anything but bits and pieces of tortured pleasure; or maybe you’re haunted with images you wish would disappear forever.

The bottom line is that sexual abuse creates an emotional, spiritual, mental and physical environment for the repetition of a broken, abusive life.

It may be that you are stuck in a relationship with someone who is abusive, or that you abuse yourself with cutting or food or drugs. You may have deeply related health issues. Perhaps you have found a wonderful man who is kind and loving, but you can’t allow yourself to believe he actually loves you. You may visit your abuse on your children through the same type of circumstances you endured, or in eruptions of rage that fly from you unbidden, unexpected and unwanted.

Whatever your situation, I am so sorry it happened to you.

Hope seems non-existent, but I promise it is there. God’s heart breaks with yours and longs to unravel and redeem all the broken, hurting places of confusion and pain. It may seem impossible. It may take a long time. The truth seems lost in the lies, but light shines in the darkness; there is hope for you. Cry out to Jesus. He hears. He answers. He heals.

If you’ve started on the journey to wholeness, don’t quit.

So many times I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve felt that the deepest issues couldn’t change in me.  I’ve often cried in despair (even recently) thinking that no healing was available for the tiniest cracks in my heart. But Jesus doesn’t let go. In the darkest moments of confusion and pain, he holds me close and comforts me if I let him. He whispers,

I love you, truly. Don’t despair. I’m everything you need. Rest in me. Be still because I am God. I created the entire universe and I am holding you right now. You will be alright.”                                  Jesus

Beloved, can I pray for you?

Jesus, because my heart breaks for these women, who have suffered abuse and suffer from the effects of it still, I know your heart breaks. Please draw them to you. Change their perception of you so they can see that you love them and long to comfort them. Please embrace them with all the grace and strength and gentleness of your spirit. Thank you that while you accept us where we are, you never leave us there, but instead take us into new life and healing.   Amen
 
If you need prayer or want to discuss your situation feel free to comment below or contact me privately at: laurabennet14@gmail.com