This isn’t a story I’ve told before, but I really should, for a number of reasons. First of all, I remember the things I write about, and I want to remember more. Second, we encourage one another when we share about our own experiences. Also when we tell our stories, we might jog another’s memory back to a time they had forgotten, to an experience of their own that they can share. In fact, I only thought to post this story because of what another friend shared, “just in case” someone needed to hear it. So you never know!
Here it goes; I haven’t spent a lot of time on this so there might be gaps or incoherence… dear God, please make sense of this!
When I was a junior or senior in high school, I was blessed to travel with my youth group to a New Year’s Eve event in Gatlinburg, TN. This was a huge event with hundreds of students and leaders gathering to hear speakers and bands, and I’ve since met others who have attended… but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Maybe someone can help me out. I do remember that David Nasser was a speaker- so funny and encouraging. I’m also pretty sure that NewSong played “Faithfully” as part of one of the guys proposing to his girlfriend. That was cute. Anyway, I clearly remember that Third Day was one of the musical acts. I’ve always appreciated Mac Powell’s voice and approach to “performance;” every time I saw Third Day (which was quite a few times growing up in the Nashville area) it was more about worshipping God than about the band. So even though I was having fun with my friends, giggling over all of our inside jokes and discussing the minutia of our high school lives, Third Day’s music focused my attention on the Father.
It was during “My Hope Is You” that God really grabbed me, and the moment felt important, even as a young person who frequently found herself wrapped up in the little distractions of teenage life. I had a pretty deep inner life, too, but the pulls of pride and friends and comparison were strong! With a transition to college looming on my horizon, and not having life planned out to the degree I thought my friends had, I felt in my heart, assured by God’s Spirit, that I could say the words from the song to my heavenly Father: “My hope is you, show me your ways, guide me in truth, in all my days.” I prayed it in my heart, and I meant it, even though I couldn’t know then the true weight of it. And somehow I grasped that, too… “I don’t know what this will mean, but I know what it means to say it now.” As much as I could at the time, I was willing to put my life in God’s hands and accept whatever he had for me.
At different points in my life, the Spirit has snapped me back to that moment, in the dark, surrounded by youth group friends plus hundreds of strangers. Because of how God’s Spirit can move our hearts and communicate with us directly, I felt for a moment that it was just me and God, his listening to me and my telling a feeble promise to him.
Flash forward… the latest example of God upholding the promise I made to him (sounds backwards but it’s true) was near the end of another medicated cycle. I found myself in the middle of another “two-week-wait“– that time when everything I could control had been done– feeling defeated. My post-ovulation blood work had not been good and we weren’t sure we had gotten our timing right, so I figured this cycle would be another bust. But I’ve been through this experience enough times to know that, inevitably, for “whatever reason” (hint: there’s a reason), I would find myself hoping against hope for a positive pregnancy test as the wait neared its end. It had happened without fail every time before: I would find any shred of positivity I could and think that maybe, just maybe, we would finally have a success. I really felt like I couldn’t bear feeling that way again only to be disappointed. So I prayed that God would protect my heart by keeping me from hoping for a positive. “Please, don’t let me get my hopes up just to be brought down again. Let this end quietly, on a down note, so I can just move on to the next round.”
But this is what I heard back from him, from his Spirit to my heart: “That hope you feel when you reach the end of every wait… it’s not yours, it’s mine, and it canNOT be taken away. You asked for my hope all those years ago, and I’ve given it to you. I want you to feel it regardless of what happens, because I am here for you in every disappointment.”
I didn’t get that positive, as I guessed, but I was so humbled and thankful that God would remember. That he would give hope, and then sustain it in his strength and faithfulness. That he gives me what I need so I don’t have to be afraid. That his presence is constant, even though I sometimes think I’m alone. That he can bear my disappointment because we both know I’m not strong enough.
This is just one example of God helping me keep my promises and reminding me of who he is when I ask him to show me. He is always moving and working, even when I forget the things I’ve asked for.
It’s because of moments like these, and many since, that I often find myself praying for God to “bless and multiply my efforts” in this life of following him. I’ve seen him do it many times. It is exactly because of what he has done in faithfully showing his hope to me that I can keep going and keep doing this life, even and especially through the dark times. He’s taking the growth he brings about in my heart, mind, and deeds and graciously using it for his glory in so many big and small ways.
If you are a follower of Christ I’m sure you have examples of these gracious, “only-God” things, too. Ask him to show you what you might have missed… and then tell someone! We need to remind each other of his goodness.
Here’s a little image to remind us of God’s hope…
…and the song that God used to speak to me all those years ago.