Written by: Karen Sweeney-Ryall
Three years ago I went through a dark, difficult season of my life. Rather than one large problem, it felt like wave after wave of various struggles, losses, disappointments, and stressful situations. It was discouraging and exhausting. I found it hard to keep positive and to believe there was a way out. I questioned God and found hope fading into oblivion. I was drowning in despair, lack of vision, and hope for the future
Eventually, I decided to choose to believe that God did have a plan for good in my future. As my perspective changed, hope began to rise again. I envision it as though hope was a fire burning in my heart that dimmed almost to a point of extinction; then built again into flames of hope, believing and dreaming again. I came to the end of myself and realized that my hope and my trust are in God alone.
What you focus your thoughts and heart on will determine what you see, feel, and how you respond. If you re-hash your problems over and over in your mind, it tends to keep you in a whirlpool of worry and discouragement, and possibly hopelessness. Proverbs13:12 (NASB) tells us: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” This is so true! Have you ever experienced being in this dark place?
However, we have the ability to choose not to keep our thoughts focused on our problems and concerns. It isn’t a matter of sticking our head in the sand like an ostrich; it is about deciding to focus our thoughts on our blessings, possibilities and allow our heart to hope. We can choose to trust in God’s promises and faithfulness and to have faith in His Word. One of the verses I cling to and pray is “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NASB)
Over two thousand years ago, the Jewish people were also living in a very dark time. They felt fearful and oppressed by the Roman rule. They kept crying out for a Messiah to save them. They were holding onto God’s promise of a coming Savior. But they had their own ideas of how He would come and believed that He would bring victory over the Roman government.
Jesus came during this dark, difficult season for the Jewish people. He did not come in the way they expected and many never recognized Him as God’s answer to their prayers. It says in Isaiah 55:8- 9 (NASB) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts. People, then and still today, have a tendency to forget this truth and we often try to put God in a box; we expect Him to act the way we think He should rather than realizing that He knows so much more than we do.
But in both cases, He is our source for Hope and greater than any problem or situation we face. When we place our Hope in Him, it grows and brings forth His promises, peace, and joy. We can rest in Him, trusting that He loves us and has a plan for our good.
At this season of Christmas, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and reflect on these scriptures and others that bring you hope and increase your faith. In the midst of lights, trees, shopping, and holiday preparations, let’s take the time to prepare our hearts and place our hope in Jesus, who came to us from heaven, bringing love, hope, peace, and joy beyond our comprehension. As we wrap our gifts for those we love, let us give thanks for the greatest Gift of all. Let us allow His light to shine through our lives to a dark and hurting world.
Karen Sweeney-Ryall mentors women to live their dreams and fulfill the destiny designed for them by God. She is writing her first book, Revealing Your Treasures Hidden in Darkness and blogs at BecomingMyBestMe.com. She speaks to women’s groups about our God-given unique identity, worth and calling and bringing beauty from the ashes of our difficult experiences. You can also follow her at BecomingMyBestMe on facebook.
Karen is an avid reader, loves the beach, nature, and travel, and enjoys her 4 children, 4 grandchildren, and one great- grandbaby. She works as a hospice bereavement coordinator and is active in women’s ministry leadership at Living Hope Church.