Where is the Hope

Angry at God?
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30, 31)
The Zacchaeus Tree of Jesus day
I have a friend who grew up in Bethlehem, Israel. Her her mother and father, brother and sisters still live there. Does that sound exciting or what? What Christian wouldn’t want to grow up in the “City of David”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the place where Jesus was born, visit the town where He lived, and walk the streets and roads He walked while growing up and during His ministry?
His death brought life.
What about visiting Jerusalem where Jesus was put on trial and where He suffered and died? It would, and indeed it should, make us a little sad remembering the sorrow and pain He endured for us, but we can rejoice in the gift of life and grace which is available to all people because of His suffering and death. It is awe inspiring. I’m not sure how I would react if I were to stand at the base of the hill (Mount Calvary) where Jesus was crucified, but I hope it would bring me to my knees in thanksgiving and praise.
The empty tomb gives us hope.
My friend was able to visit her home and her family in recent months. In hearing her tell about her visit, it seems, that very little has changed there since the time of Jesus ministry and the years following His death and resurrection. Christians are still persecuted for their beliefs. The Jews still reject Jesus and the Muslims who have their own god, allah, seem to be taking over. Christians live in fear for their lives when they leave the relative safety of their homes.
In the “Christian” section of town there is no clean running water to drink or to bathe in and clean with. There are no flushing toilets or running water to wash dishes. My friend actually lost weight while she was there because there wasn’t enough food for everyone and no money to buy it. Christian’s are persecuted for their belief in the Triune God and live in fear of death when they take a stand for the truth.
Although she and her little son are all alone here in the states, she was very happy and relieved to return. The U.S. is her home now. She truly appreciates that she can turn on her kitchen faucet to get a drink or wash dishes. She truly appreciates that she is able to take a shower daily and have a toilet that flushes. She appreciates the fact that she can hop in her car and go to the store to buy groceries and household needs without fear.
It was difficult for her to say good-bye to her family and leave them living in those conditions. She came back to the U.S. feeling distraught and hopeless for their sake. She was very discouraged and asked me; where is God? Why does He let His people suffer this way when He has the power to stop it? She admitted to me that she has stopped praying and hasn’t been attending church or reading her Bible. She stated that she still loves God, but feels very angry with Him right now. She feels that He has deserted her family.
So, has God indeed deserted the people who love Him in the Middle East? When people fall on hard times or lose loved ones to death, has God deserted them also? What about the people who suffer daily from a debilitating disease or disability? Are they being punished for wrong doing or some specific sin they committed?
The answer to those questions is an emphatic NO! God is our loving Father. A loving father would never deliberately cause harm to his children, but there are times when fathers must discipline their children. Undisciplined children will grow into selfish, uncaring, irresponsible and foolish adults.
Our life here on earth is a struggle. We face heartache, pain and persecution almost daily. Jesus suffered also when He walked the earth. He cried at the tomb of His dear friend Lazarus. He felt a deep compassion for all who were sick and suffering. He Himself suffered persecution during His ministry and in the end gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice for all people. Jesus warns all of His followers to be prepared to suffer persecution because of Him, but at the same time He reassures us that in the end we will be rewarded. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…(Matthew 5: 11, 12)
Just as an earthly father disciplines his children because he loves them and wants what is best for them – God our heavenly Father disciplines us, His children also. He tells us in Hebrews 12: 5,6; My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
God sometimes allows heartache and pain to come into our lives in order to help us stay focused on what is important and lasting. If we never had trials or hardships, why would we need God? When things are going smoothly for us, we tend to forget about God. We don’t always take the time to pray and study His Word. We may miss church on Sundays using the excuse that we are so busy during the week and Sunday is the only day we are able to stay home and rest. We lose sight of the fact that time spent in worship and prayer offers us the rest we truly need – rest for our souls. We forget how serious sin really is and tend to disregard the sacrifice Jesus made for us when He died on that cross so long ago. Instead we become focused on our own needs and the here and now.
The apostle Paul once prayed for God to remove a physical burden from him. He doesn’t tell us exactly what that burden was. He refers to it only as a thorn in my flesh, but he does tell us God’s answer to his prayer – my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). When physical weakness and pain, or emotional suffering drives us to our knees in humility and prayer to our God, He makes us strong by His almighty power. We are reminded that it is He who gives us all things and that there are certain circumstances in life which we have no control over. When we lean on Him who is ever present, all powerful and has all knowledge He will give us the strength to bear up under the burden. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12: 10)
My husband and I once had a friend who lived in the same apartment building we did. He was fifty years old and a strong Christian. One day he suffered a debilitating stroke which took him from being a strong young man, completely capable of providing for his wife, and made him a man completely dependent on his wife for all his physical needs. His recovery seemed to be very slow. It seemed that for each step forward he took in the recovery process, he would fall three steps back. To make it even more difficult they lived on the second floor and he had a mountain of stairs to tackle each time he came in or went out.
As I was leaving for work one day I came out the door and there he stood with his walker waiting for his wife to bring the car closer. His back was to me and I cheerfully said hello. As I came around and looked into his face I saw tears of frustration streaming down his cheeks. It was a heartbreaking scene that brought tears to my own eyes. I wished so badly that I could do something for him to ease his pain and relieve the agony he was experiencing, not only physically, but emotionally. I encouraged him by reminding him that God loves him deeply and has a purpose for all that happens to us in life. Possibly God was using this man’s suffering to lead an unbelieving friend or relative to Christ, but whatever His reasons, it was for the good of someone. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Here today – gone tomorrow
The harsh realities of life force us to focus on what is important. We need God in good times and in bad, but in good times we tend to forget about that need and we set Him aside for our own pleasures. Regardless, we have His assurance that He will never leave us. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). The apostle Paul reminds us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 18) This life is short and the problems we face here, although they may sometimes seem overwhelming, will not follow us into eternity.
God does not cause our problems, and our suffering never goes unnoticed by Him. Sin is at the root of all the problems we face. It is an inherited virus/disease which affects every person born. It will never go away in this present age, but God rescued us from sin through the sacrifice of His holy and perfect Son. Jesus lived the perfect and sinless life which we are unable to live. He suffered the punishment we deserve for our sin when he was forsaken by His Father and died on the cross at Calvary, but He conquered death for us when He rose on Easter Sunday. Because of Jesus, death no longer holds us prisoner. Because of Jesus our chains are gone and we’ve been set free. Jesus has ransomed us. He has bought us back from sin and death. He has redeemed us. We are His. We belong to Him through His never ending gift of grace and those who love Him are attached to Him by faith.
He controls the Universe.
No, God is not the cause of our problems, but He does allow sickness and pain, sorrow and suffering to come into our lives at times because He loves us. Parents discipline their children because they love them and want what is best for them. So also, God disciplines us because of His deep love for us. When we are happy and all is well, we tend to forget that we need Him. But when we are sad and in pain and things happen in life which are out of our control, we are driven to the open arms of the One who controls all things. He draws us close and promises to never leave us.  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
A parent who doesn’t discipline his child does not sincerely love him or care for him. So it is with us also. If God did not love us, He would allow us to go on thinking we didn’t need Him which would lead to an eternity forever separated from His love and all that is good. Because He loves us, He hurts when we hurt. When we are suffering and in pain He suffers also, but He allows it because He wants what is best for us. He helps us work our way through the seen and what is temporary (this life) so that through faith in Him we can attain what is unseen (eternity) where all believers will receive their reward. This life is fleeting. We are here today and gone tomorrow. The life to come is eternal. It will last forever and God wants the people whom He created and loves to spend it with Him in heaven.
God has not forgotten those who love Him in the Middle East. He is the God who sees. He is the great “I AM”. He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep… the Lord is your shade at your right hand. (Psalm 121:3-5)He will deliver all who love Him, if not in this life, then in the life to come.
Pray without ceasing.
To my friend and to all who doubt God’s love – Don’t be angry with Him. Don’t turn away from His love and the strength He offers. He loves you. He cries when you cry and laughs when you laugh. He is the only source of all that is good in this life. He wants you to come to Him with all your troubles. When you are afraid – pray; when you are lonely – pray; when the world hates you – pray; when the trials of life overwhelm you – pray. He will hear and answer.
Remember these words of Jesus; If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world… (John 15:18,19) There is hope!
Gloria Dei! (All Glory to God!)                          
 By Kristeen

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