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Place Called Hope

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Psalm 91:1-2 (NLT)
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

Being back in Hope Lodge is so bittersweet. This haven located just two blocks from the hospital is such a blessing to those who must remain close for ongoing care. Funded by the American Cancer Society, patients and caregivers are provided with a private suite including sitting area, bedroom and bathroom. There is a community kitchen with space provided for residents to store food items for meals and everything imaginable to prepare them. When we arrived yesterday late in the afternoon, it was a flurry of activity to get moved in, unpacked and settled. With my son tucked in bed sleeping, I grabbed my IPad and headed to the kitchen for a late dinner and some quiet time. There were a few residents lingering but it was quiet and peaceful. With mixed emotions, I took a deep breath and looked around the room. Not as before when racing around to unpack and unload, ready to move on to the next thing but really gazed around my surroundings. I missed our friends that were with us here before but I am glad they are not here now. I remembered the laughter in the midst of pain and those who ended their battle safely home with the Lord. The emotions rolled within in me. Thankful that we are still in the fight but sad that we must keep fighting – see I told you it was bittersweet. Longing for my loved ones at home but yet relishing the quiet beyond all the clamor of the hospital, I took a deep breath. I never expected to be back in this place. When we left it was with the assumption that we were done and the horrible nightmare called “cancer” finally over. But this was not the way it turned out so here I am back at “Hope”.

When the sleeping giant finally arose ready for some food around 11:00 PM, we made our way through the dark corridors to the same place that I was earlier when I realized where I was. As we sat together with only the security light, I looked at him closely. The notoriously bald head that I have grown accustomed to, his eyebrows sparse from the last chemo. His face shows the wear on his body from another long ordeal. My heart grew heavy in my chest. He has fought a good fight. He has been so strong. Never once complaining about a diagnosis or treatment plan – this man steadily endures. Finally, we make our way back to our room. As I lift the covers crawling into a bed for the first time in almost a month, tears fill my eyes. I am quite certain that they came from every vessel in my body that had endured long interrupted nights on a hospital fold out. But also from the depths of my spirit and soul, I am looking for rest. I guess it is not wonder that God put me back in “Hope.”

Those who live in the Shelter of the Most High will find rest in the Shadow of the Almighty! I am there. No really, right there. My rest is not of a physical nature and has not been for quite some time. I live on high alert. The adversary in our life has been relentless and if at any point I had waited for physical rest to find me, I would have been greatly disappointed. Cramming minutes of regular life into the midst of a battle can be quite a struggle so finding peace and rest in the moments that are left is quite a challenge. But I am reminded in this place called Hope that His Rest is all that I need. I live in the Shelter of the Most High and find rest in the Shadow of the Almighty because I have found that in my weakness – He became my strength. In my brokenness, He became all that I need.
Psalm 23:4-6 (NLT)
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 depicts all seasons of life. The first four verses talks about those times when life is good. We have all we need although remained plagued with wants and desires. It is the green pastures that we long for when we do not care if the other side is greener. We are doing all the right things as He guides us strengthening us along the way. We are content. But then it happens as quickly as a fast brewing storm, dark clouds burst forth in crashing lightning and booming thunder. The wind kicks in whipping all around us. The storm is upon us. What happened to the peaceful stream and green pasture? We are now in the darkest valley that we have ever known. Now what? It is here where we find in the depths of our soul the sufficiency of our God long taken for granted. When I came to the end of myself, thankfully Jesus was standing there. My strength gone. My self-confidence crushed. This is the place when faith yields self-confidence in the dark alleyways of testing. The fiery trial meant to refine our soul melts away all pretense to our innermost being. Those who find their shelter in the Shadow of His Wings and in the shadow of the Almighty find that His Grace is always sufficient for me. It is a place called hope where we find that God is good even when this life is bad. His Goodness and Unfailing Love that have pursued us all the other days of our life pour over our crumpled form of the man or woman we used to be before this terrible storm. Priorities are brutally shaken. The life once lived is now forgotten. Those who make it through the valley with their faith intact will find that which they hoped for is real. They will live in the House of God forever.

Upon our arrival yesterday, it was like coming home. The circumstances surrounding our arrival not as important as the fact that we made it. One step closer no matter what. We never know what tomorrow holds but we know who has our future. What a cliché statement I used to think that was until tomorrow became uncertain. In the dining hall, two gentlemen who visit this place on a regular basis after overcoming cancer while spending time in this place. He spent his life writing as a journalist and made his living this way. However, it was not until he began to write about his journey against cancer that he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for writing. Is it possible that our faith becomes genuine in this place of utter brokenness? Could it be that we must fall apart for our purpose to rise above our natural thinking and self-made comfort zones? We have great potential and purpose in us as Sons and Daughters of God. We have all the provision that we need because He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. What will it take to release it? Will it be “when I walk through the darkest valley”?

Psalm16:5-9 (NLT)
LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.

God will give us rest. This not figurative but literal. Rest is a mind, soul and body effect. If your soul is at peace with God, you will find rest not just now but forever. If your mind is at rest, sleep will not evade you because of circling worries, cares and burden. If your body can rest, you will be physically restored and rejuvenated. For the last three weeks, I have been staying with our son day and night. The days are filled with activity but at night that place comes to life. Each evening at midnight, they would draw labs for bloodwork. Based on their findings a number of medications and even blood products administered via an IV pump. A matrix of tubing and machines consisting of two “brains” at about twelve different pumps doing whatever the core unit was programmed to do. This is twelve different alarms that can go off at any time. Nurses constantly in and out of the room. Not to mention paging over the intercom. The small vinyl couch in his room folded out to a makeshift bed. Not ideal place to sleep, but I was very thankful for it nevertheless. My body was exhausted. My mind shaken awake with each entrance and every alarm. Sleep deprivation set in. At 5:30 PM each day without fail, I would suddenly become very, very sleepy. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t nap very often but about that time each day I would fall soundly asleep for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour no matter how hard I tried to stay awake. I believe that the Spirit of God within in me knew that from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM was shift change and the least busy time of the day.

Could it be that the Lord turned my mind and body off because He cares that much for me? Absolutely. God not only guards all that is mine for me but He guards me because I am precious to Him. He is my inheritance and I am His Reward for the sacrifice of His Son. If only we could come to terms with God’s Love for us, His Diligent Care over us and His Never-Ending Attention that is on us – we would be confident in our hope. Such confidence says YOU Lord are my inheritance so the things of this world don’t really matter anymore. It tells us that we are blessed no matter where life takes us or faith finds us. We believe that the “land” that He has given us is a pleasant land rather than a dry wasteland even in the midst of seasons of “famine” and “drought”. We know that all that we really need, want and desire is found in Jesus Christ who guards it for us. We feel Him right there with us when we should feel all alone. We have peace that produces thanksgiving, peace and joy even when the unthinkable happens in our life. This is what I have found at the other side of the dark valley, I have found hope that is secure.

Matthew 11:27-29 (NLT)
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

“Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest” has to be one of the most misunderstood and over-quoted semi-truths that I know. Yes, come to Jesus with your exhaustion and heavy burdens. Yes, He will give you rest. But if you don’t know why He is worthy of them or what you must do to release them, you can call on His Name over and over again with no relief because the Word is not operating in your life in its fullness. The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, but if you know nothing about handling such a weapon it comes with great consequences. God would never hurt you. Jesus will never let you down. We must operate in the FULLNESS of the Word and stop taking out the bits and pieces that we like, no one will never have the desired outcome without all the necessary ingredients. For example, my family LOVES pound cake. There are many ingredients included to make a good pound cake the most plentiful being flour. If I take a big spoonful of flour and gobble it down, I promise you friend it is not going to taste anything like pound cake. Pound cake also ha eggs in it. It is dangerous to consume raw eggs so if I begin eating the batter without baking it into a delicious cake, I am at risk for salmonella. God’s Plan is just that a plan. It must be followed completely to have the desired results. So with this in mind, God has entrusted EVERYTHING to Jesus Christ. The entirety of this world including power and authority over it belong to Jesus. He overcame the rulers and principalities taking all power to harm you from them. (John 16:33) Faith is what connects us to His Power. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. We must believe that Jesus Christ has the power to change every situation in our life to fully entrust our existence to Him. (Hebrews 3:18) It is through problems and trials in this life that our faith is tested to be sure that it is genuine. Then it says, “Come to me” which means we have to move from our position of doubt, fear, dismay and discouragement and come to Jesus. We must step out of the darkness (sin) into the Light of His Love. We must give up our life and the burden of it to the Lord AND THEN accept His Yoke. What is His Yoke? Follow me. Love one another. Walk by faith not by sight. Faith releases our worries and cares to Jesus as we pursue confident hope in Jesus. He will teach us how to live and be an imitator of God. Rest comes from faith locked in on confident hope that chooses to live in right-standing with God.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NLT)
“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.”

Willful disobedience is not a quality of a true believer. Failure to obey God to the letter of the Law no longer results in punishment because of His Grace. Those who choose to live carelessly choose not to find rest. Rest is not for perfect people because there not a single one. It is for the persistent and patient people who will not stop until faith becomes confident hope in the Lord. God created a special place of rest for us today. It is high above the worries and cares of this world. As in the darkest valley, the Word says that his rod and staff are a comfort. The rod of discipline and staff of instruction will lead us through the dark times until we discover the hope that gives us rest. It is in His Word. It is in His Way. We are led by His Spirit. God wants to give you rest today. Will you do what it takes to attain it?

Ephesians 1:18-20 (NLT)
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

I have found respite in this hope that I have today. Faith in Jesus Christ is what has kept me above the wind and waves on this remarkable journey. Hope is what I hold on to day after day of this storm. It has held me so far. It has given me peace and joy even in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and tears. I have a rich and glorious inheritance in the Lord of this I am certain. I know that God’s Greatness is for me in all the miracles that He has done in our son’s life leaving no question that God is real, He is good, and He loves us so. The same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead is working in our son’s body as God brings Him back to life. I have found rest by faith in my hope. But respite is deceptive although it means rest, it doesn’t always mean the end. Respite is a delay or cessation of anything distressing or trying. It is a pause from exertion and a temporary hiatus. Trials in life are evitable. This storm will surely give way to another. But through it all, I now have hope which allows gives me peace. Yes, it is well with my soul as I live in this place called Hope.

Romans 15:13 (NLT)
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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