In This Issue...
- A Theology of Humor by Cheryl Taylor
- Ministering With Humor by Stephanie Nance
- Christian Leaders Having Fun? by Pam Morton with Kathy Jingling
- The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter by Dwenda Gjerdingen, MD, MS
The Role of Surrender and Hope in Believing God
By Amy deVries
Night after night I stained my pillow with tears that would not stop. After 10 years of marriage the reality of infertility held me in a painful and suffocating grip. My dreams of giving birth to a family diminished as the years passed.
The unraveling of my inner life began gradually. During the day I was fine, but occasionally, late at night while my husband slept, I would have a little breakdown and cry out to God through my tears. This happened a few times a year. The next day I would be back to normal and able to go about normal life. As time went on, I walked around with a sense that there was a shadow in the corner of my life. This shadow was faceless and nameless, but it was powerful and it could make me cry. Usually this shadow had its back to me, and I acknowledged its existence, but learned how to ignore it when I needed. At night, however, when I was sick or otherwise weak, it would turn toward me, and I would feel engulfed in a powerful sense of helplessness and longing.
Over time the late night sessions with the Lord became more crushing and more frequent. Not only was I crying - I was sobbing with a deep sense of pain and longing. It was like mourning the death of someone - but someone I had never met. I dreaded these times, but my ability to manage them was lessening. The nebulous shadow became a faceless monster I could no longer control. I feared that it would eventually take over and imprison me. I went through each day painfully aware of its presence and found myself crying at the smallest triggers and not just at night anymore. The monster started getting bolder - turning toward me during the day whenever I was alone. For about a year I struggled with this bold (and increasingly aggressive) monster. I prayed and prayed for God to help me.
If hope is compared to a rope, then maybe my hope isn't broken. Maybe it is simply anchored to the wrong thing.
I held on to the verse, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires" (Psalm 37:4). I dissected that verse for months, asking God to grant or change my desires for a family. Then I focused on delight and tried to figure out how to "delight" properly.
Lying in bed one night just before falling asleep, my mind wandered to the subject of this monster's identity. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had this thought, "The monster is HOPE."
Hope? This thought brought me wide awake instantly, and I felt myself growing confused and a little angry. Hope? Hope is making me cry? Hope is stalking me and haunting me? In the Bible, hope is part of the good list - faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope isn't supposed to make you cry!
This brought me to a sudden realization that my hope must be broken. My delight and desires were not the issue. My hope was. There was something wrong with my hope if it was a monster bringing me pain and threatening to imprison me in a world of bitterness and unfulfilled longing.
I remembered a dear woman in my church telling me several years prior about her life journey that included a renewed understanding of what hope meant. I immediately contacted her and met her for lunch, eager to hear in more detail what she had learned about hope. She shared that her discovery boiled down to two questions. Did she believe God was good? And was she willing to surrender to God's plan? She told me about a small metal magnet on her fridge that said "hope" on it. She said every time she looked at it she was reminded to align her hope with her deep belief in God's goodness and her willingness to surrender. In an unexpected act of generosity and friendship, she then reached into her purse and pulled out this magnet, handing it to me as a gift. I thanked her through my tears and realized that God and I needed to have a long conversation.
I began searching the Scriptures for information about hope. I found verses in the New Testament that talked about putting our hope in Christ. No huge revelation there, I thought. I am an ordained minister and graduated from Bible college. Of course I knew we should put our hope in Christ. Still, this truth grabbed a hold of me and would not let go. I dug deeper and discovered some interesting things about tiqvah, the Hebrew word for hope.
In the Old Testament, tiqvah is used 34 times and usually means "hope" or "expectation" - such as "Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him" (Psalm 62:5). Two little verses in Joshua 2 translate tiqvah as "rope" or "cord." The Hebrew spies said to Rahab, "When we come into the land, you must leave this scarlet rope [tiqvah] hanging from the window through which you let us down" (Joshua 2:18). "`I accept your terms,' she replied. And she sent them on their way, leaving the scarlet rope [tiqvah] hanging from the window" (Joshua 2:21).
Living a life of total surrender to God is not an easy three-step process.
Something about these verses smacked me between the eyes. If hope is compared to a rope, then maybe my hope isn't broken. Maybe it is simply anchored to the wrong thing. In the midst of all my biblical knowledge and training, had I allowed my hope to attach itself to my own dreams? I frequently sing worship songs and teach studies that include the truth that our hope must be anchored securely in Christ, yet I realized that my hope had loosened its hold on Christ and had wrapped itself around my imagined future.
Rahab put down her scarlet rope signifying her belief that "the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below" (Joshua 2:11).Was my hope anchored in my belief that the supreme God of the universe would or should do what I wanted? Or was my hope anchored in my belief that God is good and His plan is worth surrendering to? I realized that when our hope is tied to a belief in something other than God and His goodness, we anchor ourselves to a heavy and sometimes suffocating burden. Picture yourself pulling a boulder around on a leash. However, when our hope is tied to our belief in God's goodness, we tie ourselves to Christ who says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
Rahab is later listed in the New Testament as a woman whose faith saved her in a city that refused to obey God (Hebrews 11:31). But not only is Rahab commended for her faith, she is commended for her action. James 2:24-26 tells us that Rahab's faith motivated her to righteous actions. Total surrender to God is easy to talk about in philosophical terms. It's easy to sing and even preach about. When shadows and monsters are revealed, however, it is much harder to do. Galatians 2:20 says, "My old self has been crucified with Christ.Â It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." As a servant of Christ, I am continually reminded of His great love and sacrifice. I see the goodness of God proclaimed throughout the Scriptures and proven throughout my life. Do I believe that God is good? You bet. Do I believe that He has a good plan for my life? Yes. Am I willing to surrender my dreams to His plan? Yes, because I love Jesus and know that He loves me.
Living a life of total surrender to God is not an easy three-step process. Maybe this is why Jesus describes it as picking up a cross and Paul says it involves crucifying ourselves. The hopeful side of all this is that Jesus also says His burden is light. Once we go through the initial pain of surrendering and dying, the life we gain is filled with joy and hope. This deep, inner joy is stronger than our circumstances and this hope is tougher than the disappointments life brings us.
Right in the middle of my journey toward hope and surrender, God did something miraculous and unexpected. He brought us a perfect and beautiful little girl that we adopted. We were present for her birth and 24 hours later walked out of the hospital with our own miracle wrapped in pink. I would never have imagined such a perfect chapter in our story.
I am still living a life of constant surrender and renewed hope. Not every day is perfect, but I walk with confidence believing that God loves me and has a good plan worth submitting to. Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think". Amen.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.