Due to a communication mixup, we have a bonus treat for you today: not one but two powerful Insights reflections. Enjoy!
Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Group Life. He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008.
A few nights ago I was sitting on the floor of our family room playing a card game with my three kids. It was my son’s turn to draw from the deck. Just before he reached his hand out to draw a card my other son said to him, “I hope you get the card you need to win.” Wow! What a profound moment, I thought. “One of my sons is actually putting winning the game aside so that another can experience the joy of winning,” I said to myself. Just as I felt the pride oozing through me his brother said in return, “I hope so too! I want to crush you!” Ha! Later that night I asked my son, “Why did you want your brother to win that game?” My son said, “He hadn’t won a hand in a really long time. I think he was beginning to lose hope and I don’t want that!”
Like my son, I don’t want people to lose hope either. Gosh, that’s the worst. To view the world through the lens of what’s wrong (despair) instead of what is right (hope) can be so paralyzing. How can we, during this time of Advent, help people see through a lens of hope?
I completely trust that God is in fact restoring the world to its intended wholeness, just as God promised to do. I trust that God’s promise to act in the coming days is as real and significant as the fact that God has acted in the past. Therefore, my hope in the future promises of God (think: restoration, justice, peace, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, etc.) does not make me want to withdraw from the world with the wish that a better world will somehow evolve. Instead, it pushes me to choose to live into the hope that we’ve been promised. The promise of God given to the Israelites in Isaiah 40 remains true today. God is and forever will be an incomparable God who still cares and has not given up on humanity (Is. 40:27).
And so we advent – we await the arrival of Christ. We wait expectantly but patiently too knowing that “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)
Debi Nixon serves on the Executive Staff of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection as the Managing Executive Director of Regional Campuses and Catalyst Ministry.
In Isaiah 40, the prophet is speaking to the Hebrews returning from exile in Babylon about hope, this week’s Advent theme. “Exile” means they were forced to live outside of the Promised Land, but yet even in this “exile” God was showing them He had never abandoned them—they could always keep hoping. God does not call us to live in exile. Yet, even today, we may temporarily experience what may feel like “exile.”
For me, it was exactly 5 years ago when arriving home on Friday evening excited to decorate for the holidays, I found my husband’s car was in the garage. Normally, I arrived home before him so seeing his car was a surprise. I bounded into the house, yelling, “I’m home,” but my husband wasn’t in the kitchen or family room so I went upstairs and found him sitting on our bed. As I approached, he looked at me with sad eyes, and said, “Debi, I lost my job today.” I was in disbelief, waiting for that next moment when he would tell me he was just kidding, but the deep hurt in his eyes let me know it was true.
At first, I was strong: “We will be okay. We will figure this out.” But that sense of strength, that sense of peace, that sense of hope didn’t last long. Within days, I moved to despair, anger, fear, and anxiety. What would we do for Christmas? What if he didn’t find another job? How would we pay our daughter’s upcoming college tuition? Our son and another young man living with us were in high school. One was a senior preparing for graduation and college, and the other a junior. How would we make ends meet? It was unsettling. An experience of exile, forced to live outside of my own “promised land.” Had God abandoned us? Why? And how could I even be having these thoughts? I work in the church. Yet, in this period of waiting, this exile, the reality was that I was afraid, questioning, grieving.
In today’s passage of scripture, Isaiah reminded the Israelites in their exile to wait, to put their trust in the Lord. When Zechariah and Elizabeth were unable to have a child, they waited, putting their trust in the Lord. When Mary found out she was with child in such an unexpected way, she waited, putting her trust in the Lord.
So, in my exile, I learned to wait. To be like the Israelites, Elizabeth and Mary, waiting with expectation towards what God was going to do, confident that God would give strength to my husband and me as we waited upon him. Isaiah 40 gave us this assurance, and although our circumstance didn’t change immediately, it gave us a sense of peace and hope that the God of the universe would never abandon us, never leave us in our predicament, but instead would provide us with strength, even in the midst of our weakness.
My husband found another job, college tuition for the children was paid, and I received the gift of learning that hope can only be found when we wait fully upon the Lord. If you are facing your own season of “exile,” weary, tired, anxious, considering giving up, take time to consider the promises of Isaiah 40:31. Wait before the Lord, and let Him give you His peace and His hope this season.
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.