The following was written as a devotional for our church’s Faith Quest 2015 team. Our theme this year is God’s Plan, Our Hope.
As I prepared for this devotional, my first thought was, After the last two months, maybe I’m not the best person to write a message about finding hope in God’s plan. Perhaps a different Nichole, from a different time, a Nichole with a lighter heart with feathers and wings, might have something to say about hope. So I pored over my blog archives and, even though a few posts came close, nothing was quite right.
That’s when I decided to skip the devotional this year. After all, who reads it anyway? And then I heard that still, small voice saying, Maybe God wants you to dig into this topic for a reason.
So here I am, dreading the dredging of my black, inky soul, the drawing out of the ugly and the real. Cringing as each keystroke scars this white page. Because right now, I’m not really a fan of God’s plan – at least the part of His plan I can see.
It’s difficult to find hope in a plan that includes the night you held your 32- year-old brother’s hand as he suffered and died from a sudden and terrible illness. It’s difficult to find hope in a plan that includes watching your mother weep as her only son breathes his last breath. It’s difficult to find hope in a plan that includes leaving a young mother a widow and a six-year-old boy fatherless.
No. I find no hope in that.
Left to my own devices, I would avoid this digging and dredging. I would skim the surface of the Faith Quest wave, insisting that this year, this time, the message is for someone else, for all of you, for the children, but not for me. No, not for me.
But God – oh, He is clever – He asks me to dig in for you, to write this devotional for the team. Then He digs in for me; He writes the message on my heart.
Because Esther was a girl with little reason to hope. Orphaned and raised by her uncle, she lived in exile, a Jew among a foreign people. As a teenager, she was taken from her home, moved to the royal palace and forced into a competition, at the end of which the polygamist king would choose his next queen. And once crowned queen – a position more symbolic than powerful – Esther watched as the king authorized the annihilation of her people.
Where is the hope in that?
You answer quickly: Esther found courage to confront the king and he responded favorably, saving Esther and all the Jews in his kingdom!
And you’re right. But you have an advantage over Esther. You know the rest of the story. But what if, like Esther, you didn’t?
Imagine the hopelessness that assaulted her as she paced the palace halls like an animal caught in a trap. Living and serving at the pleasure of the king, Esther’s life was not her own. She was cut off from family and friends, walled inside the palace, and bound to a king who, with the wave of his hand, condemned a people, her people, to destruction.
What did she think of God’s plan then, in that moment?
Isolated, defenseless and at the mercy of the king’s whims, Esther was shrouded in a fog of uncertainty; so much so, that upon determining to go before the king uninvited – an act punishable by death – to plead for the lives of her people, Esther uttered, ”And if I perish, I perish.”
Esther didn’t know if she would survive. She must have at least considered that if she died and her people died, her sacrifice would be meaningless. I imagine she had a difficult time finding hope in that. Because Esther didn’t know the rest of the story.
That’s what God showed me in the digging and the dredging: Esther didn’t know the rest of the story. But she followed God anyway. Because her hope was in Him and not her circumstances.
Then I heard Him say: Nichole, that’s where you are right now. In this fog, you can only see so far ahead. You feel isolated, defenseless and some days, like you’re at the mercy of My whims. You fear that it was all meaningless – his suffering, his death, even his life. But you don’t know the rest of the story. Don’t give up on Me. There is more.
A flame flickers in the dark.
And I remember: I may not know the terrain of the path ahead, the heights or depths, the twists or turns, but I know the destination. I may not know what lies between this moment and eternity. But I know how the story ends.
And I remember: In my brother’s last days, he gave his life to Jesus. I know his destination. I know how his story ends.
It ends with a new beginning.
These thoughts don’t take away my pain. There is no shortcut through the valley of sorrows. But there might be hope. Or the hope of hope, at least.
Things to Consider:
- Have you ever felt hopeless? Why or why not? If so, how did it affect your relationship with God?
- Are there any parts of God’s plan for your life (or the lives of loved ones) that you dislike, hate even?
- Can you be honest with God about that? If not, why? If yes, what do you think He would say to you in response?
- What does the Bible say about hope? Are there any verses you find particularly helpful?
Our Assistant Pastor, Ben Greene, spoke last Sunday about finding hope in difficult circumstances. Listen to his message here.
© Nichole Q Perreault