I was just about to leave the school restroom when a poster on the wall caught my attention. I stood and stared…my heart sank.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the devastation of a child so filled with life, so full of potential, CHOOSING to end it all. And yet I know, this hopelessness–this believing that nothing will ever get better is a very real and prevalent problem.
That moment in the school restroom last fall stirred in me a passionate fascination with hope.
Hope–defined simply, is a feeling of trust; a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; grounds for believing that something good may happen.
I contemplated the power of hope, and how without it, daily life seems nearly impossible. I thought back to the last time I felt overwhelmed by hopelessness.
It was October 2016. After a beautiful autumn day filled with farming, family and football, my husband’s father, my children’s grandfather–the pastor of our church, the leader of our tribe–suddenly and unexpectedly took his last breath.
Our hearts were overcome with grief, our family circle was broken, our church fell apart at the seams.
After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, our family felt led to leave the church my husband had known since he was a young boy.
We visited several wonderful established church families, but, despite our trying, couldn’t quite feel at home–until Northgate.
One of the first few Sundays at Northgate, our youth pastor, Josh shared of his recent trip to Texas–at the site where JFK was murdered. While he visited the historic area, Josh was drawn to a homeless man playing “Amazing Grace” on his violin. Josh listened to him play for nearly half an hour, and then suddenly felt led to strike up a conversation. After a few exchanged sentences, Josh asked the man what it was that he needed. His response broke my heart.
The homeless man didn’t ask Josh for food. Not money. Not shelter. He didn’t need Josh to drive him anywhere or buy him any clothes. He simply looked at Josh and answered with one short word. HOPE.
As Josh spoke, I hung my head and cried. I needed hope too.
After several months at Northgate, a beautiful young family invited us into their home for lunch; we gladly accepted. After hours of laughter and conversation around their dining table, they shared their story.
Our new friends walked us back in time to the winter of 2012 when Dana had injured his knee while skiing. He struggled with pain pills years prior, but had been clean for six years, so thought he would be okay to take the prescription. He was wrong.
The pain pills quickly led Dana to start using marijuana, which led to cocaine, then crack, and lots of alcohol. While on stage in front of the congregation on Sunday mornings, Dana would simultaneously play the piano and get drunk on vodka and Red Bull. He snorted pills in the church restroom. He lied and stole from his family.
This behavior continued for several years; he ended up in jail after stealing a man’s debit card.
Chris, our pastor, regularly visited Dana in jail and spoke truth into his life. He persistently repeated, “I know who you are. This is not who you are…”
While lying in his bunk bed in jail, Dana cried out to the Lord for help, and he said an overwhelming sense of peace came over him. Over time, the Lord restored him and his family. He is now healthy and whole and full of hope.
Dana now regularly returns to the jail and offers hope to the prisoners inside who desperately long for it.
Dana’s promotion of hope reminds me of my friend, Nicole. For the last two decades, Nicole has worked to help restore hope in hurting hearts.
Nicole has educated and empowered countless men and women on the topic of sexual abuse all across the globe. Nicole was sexually abused for most of her childhood by her step-father and she has made it her life’s work to be a bright, shining light in the darkest parts of the world.
One Voice, Nicole’s organization, has multiple amazing ministries, but one of my favorites is a “prostitute pampering night”.
Women are gathered off the roughest streets of Nicole’s city, girls trafficked for sex over and over; women struggling to survive–and on this special night she feeds them delicious food, showers them with gifts and speaks encouragement into their lives.
As I scrolled Instagram one night, one of Nicole’s posts caught my eye. She had just spent her evening with 50 prostitutes and drug addicts. She wrote, “We brought so many incredible gifts for them to leave with tonight, plus some good food, free shoes and clothing. This is what I expected would be the most important thing for them today. I actually considered it may be the ONLY reason they’d come. But you know what they kept saying? They came for my book…”
In Nicole’s book, “HUSH“, she shares how she was healed after years of sexual abuse; she also walks sexual abuse survivors through the process of healing step-by-step. And so more than food, more than gifts–those ladies wanted to know that they were not alone. They wanted to know if there was somehow, some way they could be restored too. They came to Nicole in search of hope.
I’m sure many of those women believe the lie that nothing good can be made from their lives after all they’ve been through and done. That it’s too late for them, their path has been set and they are destined to keep walking the same walk they’ve been walking for years. I’m sure for many of them, hopelessness runs deep.
Hopelessness is a thief. A stealer of dreams. A killer of faith. A plague for the future.
A few months ago our Northgate church hosted a “Dream Day” where members of the congregation were invited to listen to and talk with God for a full day without interruption. To be given space to ask Him questions. To dream dreams with Him. To be filled with hope for the future.
I could not have been seated next to a better example of “it’s never too late to dream great dreams” on that special day. The husband and wife pair beside me were each in their early eighties. They were SO excited to be there, dreaming with God; listening to what He would have for them to do while living out their remaining days here on earth. They realized that as long as they have breath in their lungs, the Lord has purpose for them here. That kind of hope is beautiful–and contagious.
This past week our pastor took the first Sunday of the new year to talk to the congregation about hope. He said that without hope, it’s impossible to have faith; and that fear is the opposite of faith. So, if I’m not filled up with hope, then I’m not filled with faith, and if I’m not filled with faith, then I’m filled with fear. Did you follow that? I know it’s a simple concept, but it shook me.
We choose every day whether we will be filled with fear based on our own strength or filled with hope that comes only from God.
In order to offer hope, one must first be filled with hope.
My prayer for the new year for all of us is 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.”
I’m currently reading Andy Mason’s book “God With You at Work“. He states, “Whenever people experience the Presence of God, their level of hope for the future increases.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Do you?
Josh, Chris and Nicole each took time to notice the individuals before them who couldn’t see how life could change. They offered hope and vision to those that didn’t feel worthy of being blessed. I challenge you to do the same.
This year expect great opportunities to share the hope that is in you with strangers, friends and family. Be intentional; stir hope in others and know your testimony is working. I believe in you!
I made this sign specifically for this post, with the hope that one of my readers would want to hang it in their home as an encouragement. It is a beautiful wood sign, measuring 25″x25″.
In order to be entered in the giveaway, simply comment in the box below (on THIS blog post, NOT on Facebook, because I can’t see all of the comments on Facebook) this post with what you’re hoping for this year. Don’t stress about this part. I know I talk to a lot of people who say they want to enter, but never know what to write. It can truly be as simple as, “I hope to get healthy this year,” or “I hope to read more books.” Anything at all you’re hoping for–I just want to know you’re hoping for something.
Anyone can comment, and if you don’t necessarily want the sign for yourself, try to think of someone that might be blessed by these words, and give it to them. A winner will be chosen within the week.
And of course, if you want to comment “for real”, and not be entered into the contest, I love reading all of those words too!
Thanks so much for reading.
****UPDATE****Heather won the painting. Thank you to everyone who participated!****
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I have attached a couple of affiliate links below in case you’re interested in the books I mentioned above. Thanks again.