Twenty-four years ago I was given a promise by the Lord. I was walking across the common to church when the Lord started a conversation with me that would change the course of my plans for my life. At the time, (and being very young) I presumed that this promise would manifest quite quickly in my life, however as time went on, I wondered if it would ever happen. For decades I felt that I hadn’t reached the correct timing of this word as the right people and circumstances weren’t in place and quite frankly neither was my maturity, character or faith. I parked the word and assumed that it would be something that happened much later in life.  

Earlier this year, a series of closed doors led me to a dead end with seemingly no way forward. If it hadn’t been for a relative encouraging me to review that word from 1997, and a significant conversation with an old friend, I might never have considered moving forward into new territory. Sometimes the Lord sends a difficult situation into our lives to drive us forward to our Promised Land. Without that, we get comfortable in a place that is no longer suitable and it can rob us of reaching our God given destination. In Exodus 9, 10, 11 and 14, we are told that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart; this happened so that a) the Israelites were so uncomfortable they had to move and b) so that God’s glory could be displayed. The misery that Pharaoh inflicted on the Israelites literally pushed them to seek the Lord’s help and go after the Promised Land. In this we can proclaim that all things work for our good under God’s authority and will (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). The Lord quite literally gave me an “Almighty shove” that moved me into position.

The unfamiliarity and strangeness of the new can make us think that we’ve misunderstood the word. In recent weeks I have questioned what the Lord had said to me. Perhaps this isn’t what the Lord said? Have I got this wrong? Is this new season meant to be this difficult? Hebrews 11:9-10 tells us that Abraham was a stranger in the land that had been promised to him. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the place that was promised to him as home. The land was still occupied by someone else and wasn’t yet his, but the Lord clearly asked him to move there and set up home. Yet after he had settled in the promised land, the promise of a child was fulfilled, and the long time promise of many descendants began its course.  

I think what we can now see is that through the pandemic, the Lord has ended some seasons ended and begun new ones. He has moved people around and opened new doors. In my case, the new door was quite literally an old one that had been waiting for the right time to be opened. Although the new may not be what you’re expecting, in time the Lord will deliver what he promised. I am now in place, waiting for what the Lord promised me. And that’s the key, positioning ourselves to receive what was promised: mentally, spiritually and in some cases physically. The promise will not come about until we are ready to receive. There is a kairos moment for all God’s words and when the conditions are right, the timing becomes opportune.  

For Abraham, the timing was slower than he anticipated, and the new home was not handed to him on a plate. His promise may have been slower than he would have liked but in the fullness of time, it came to fruition and God’s purpose was worked out. If anything, this should encourage us that God is in control and that he always delivers on his word.  

Promises are not so much about receiving what was offered but they are about developing our character in order to receive what was promised. Equally our faith must grow to accommodate God’s blessing, and this is the most crucial part of the process. If we keep going under pressure, our faith develops greater than we can ever imagine, and that is God’s ultimate goal for us. All God’s promises bloom in the fullness of time. 

(Painting: Bright Rainbow Flower by Helen Sanderson White. Copyright 2021 Helen Sanderson White)

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Hopeful Heart by Helen Sanderson White (Copyright 2020 Helen Sanderson White)

Earlier this week, while I was walking into the bank, a woman approached me and asked me outright “this won’t last forever, will it?”. While I was a little taken aback with her directness, I sensed an opportunity to speak the truth about hope and replied with “no, it will pass, things will get better”. And with that, she looked relieved and walk away. While it might sound flippant to say that in the middle of a pandemic, the truth is that everything comes to an end at some point and life moves on. The longterm effects of the stress of the pandemic can be seen in the nation’s outlook and mental health. Eurythmics once sang “everybody’s looking for something” and right now, we’re all looking for HOPE.

So how can we feel hopeful when everything around us looks bleak? Hope is something that has to be worked at; sometimes it flows easily and other times it seems far off and inaccessible. It is not some magical element that is unobtainable though. The truth of the matter is that we have to foster a hopeful and expectant mindset. Hope is sparked when we recall how something worked out well in the end, or we look on the positive side of a situation. We have to train ourselves to believe and expect good things for our lives; human nature tends to believe that bad seasons hang around forever, when in fact it is just a passing season. We live in a world where fear and negativity is prevalent, but if we believe that God is love then we have nothing to fear, as he has our best interests at heart and a plan for our lives. 

The media is full of hearsay, doom, gloom and negative views; provocative headlines sell newspapers but they don’t necessarily represent the truth. A huge amount of damage can be done by scaremongering: it divides and isolates community and focusing on despair will corrode the nation’s attitude and resolve over time. What we know from history is that the human race has survived some of the most horrific events; the human spirit has found resilience and strength to keep going. If you fill your mind with bad reports it will affect your perspective on life, and in the long term make you depressed, and to some extent this all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You get out of life, what you put in. 

Everyday is one day nearer to the end of the season and new beginnings. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a time and season for everything; nothing is forever, and an end to difficult seasons will come in time. What we can do is work together to make things easier for each other. Spreading fear and gloom does nothing to help people, it leaves them in a place of despair and helplessness. We have a duty to ourselves and others to be agents of hope; the change starts with us. What we know from the Bible is that the Lord always comes through for his people, and he loves to bring new life to dead situations that have gone way past the point of no return. If nothing is too hard for the Lord, perhaps we need to remind ourselves not to limit him and his power. He can do far more than we ever dreamed of and that in itself is reason to have hope. If we hand our own situations and even the pandemic over to the Lord, we release ourselves from carrying the burden on our own and give him the opportunity to bring our chaos into his good order. Letting go requires bravery and courage but it leads to a place of peace, and in that peace is the small spark of gritty hope.