Monday, January 1, 2024

My Word for 2024: Hope

I truly can't believe I'm already composing a blog post about my word for 2024! Not only does it seem like 2023 went by super fast, I also feel like I still have a lot of growing and healing to do with my previous word. My word in 2022 was the same way. Both were difficult but BEAUTIFUL words that carried a lot of growth with it. Those words have been everything for me and I am very grateful for all that God has brought me through and how I've become closer and more in love with Him than ever! He truly has been (and will continue to be) my refuge and safe place; more than enough for me. 

Given how weighty the previous two words have been, I was hoping for a bit of a break and that I would get something like Isaiah 40 (like I did in 2020) or "Come" in 2021. And there it is right there: I was "hoping." 

Last week, I had been praying, journaling, and waiting for my word. A lot of things were heavy on my heart and I was unburdening myself to the Lord. I felt emotionally drained and weary. I really needed refreshment and restoration. 

As my lunch break ended, I was leaving the sanctuary and getting ready go back to work. Suddenly, something caught my eye. The decorative bulletin board to my left had several words on it, and the one closest to me said "hope." I've seen this bulletin board many times, but for some reason, it's like it jumped right out and begged to be seen out of the corner of my eye as I walked past it. I'm like, "Hope. Could that be my word?" I had mixed feelings about it. At first, I thought it was restful, beautiful, and the perfect word for me. It made me feel good, relieved, and hope-ful! Yet, simultaneously, a part of me wanted to shut it down because it seemed too generic, cliche, and simple. As always, I wanted to be sure, so I shelved it in my mind for consideration and waited for further confirmation. I was still hoping for something that I considered a "better" word. I knew I was being a little bit too much like Red and a little less like Andy with that mindset. I had no reason to treat hope like a "dangerous thing" when I knew that true hope does not (and never could) disappoint, because it's JESUS! In fact, that verse had been coming to my mind a LOT, and here it is in context:
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. - Romans 5:1-5

When you look at those verses altogether, it would make perfect sense that "Hope" would be the word that follows "Refuge" and "Enough". All the problems and trials that I have had in these past few years HAVE helped me develop endurance and have strengthened my character. Now, I need to progress to being strengthened by my "confident hope of salvation." I want to increase in faith; being secure in Christ and comforted by the fact that I'm filled with love by the Holy Spirit. God will not disappoint me and it's ALWAYS safe to hope in Him!

Another verse that kept coming to my mind is this one: 

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

That definitely screams "hope" to me! I have been feeling every bit like a fragile clay jar. Yet, I am filled with the great treasure that is the Holy Spirit. No matter what has happened, He fills me and never abandons me. He builds me up and restores me. Always.  

It didn't take long for confirmation to come. The very next day, I was bent down and getting something from under the sink in my bathroom cupboard. When I began to stand and lift my head up, my eyes met smack dab with this jar of beauty cream on the counter: renewed hope in a jar. My gosh, you can't make this stuff up lol! I was like, "Seriously?! You've got to be kidding!" I laughed because this is so like God to do this with me; and I also heard "There's Hope in Front of Me", by Danny Gokey, playing in my head lol. I'm like, "Ok, but I still need that third sign." He was very quick about it. Again, I couldn't help but laugh because it's just too perfect! I had a stack of clean clothes sitting in a pile that were waiting to be hung up (I know! Tsk, tsk!). I took the top shirt off of the pile to wear, and what do you think I uncovered as I did so? Yep, that's right! I uncovered "hope"!! 

"Really. For real?!" I thought. Wow lol! I just couldn't get over it. There it was again; staring me right in the face! I laughed and shook my head, "Ok, ok. I get it." 

Next, something else came to my mind. I happened to think about a gift that was recently given to me by my friend, Anita. It was a cross with a word on it. "The word is 'hope' isn't it?" I said to myself. Yep, it sure is; and it has Romans 5:5 on it (as well as Philippians 1:20). 

I journaled all of it later in the day and went to to look up the word: ἐλπὶς elpis . It seemed that "hope" was indeed my word. Nevertheless, I asked God if he could make one of those verses show up somewhere in the next few days; so I could be extra sure. Or, if the number 1680 (the number in the concordance) showed up, that would be cool too. Up until today, I hadn't seen any further confirmation, and I was telling myself, "Melissa, you already know. It's 'hope.' Why are you fighting it?" I know very well why. It's because of all the times I DO hope and things don't work out. "But that's just the people and things of this world. That's not where your hope is anyways," I told myself. Yes, I know that. Maybe that's exactly why I need this word. I was reminded of this in the movie "Slumberland", which I watched this weekend for only the second time since it came out (and I highly recommend it!). You may not get the dream you want, but you're going to get the dream you need. "Hope" isn't the word I really wanted, but it's most certainly the one I need. It's basic, simple, and beautiful; and those aren't bad things. In fact, Andy is right

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

"Hope" isn't  meant to be an overused word or cliche. True hope is much deeper than that. It's time to really rest and soak in the REAL hope. Jesus is my hope NOW and for all eternity. He is with me NOW; and I'll also be with Him whenever I go home (or when He comes back for me/us; whichever comes first). I will NOT be disappointed! All the people, things, and cares of this life will all be gone, but my eternal hope is always real and certain. 

Today is the first day of this new year; 365 days of new opportunities and each of those days that we get is a gift from the Lord! As a wonderful bonus, God did confirm that verse for me once more as I was looking back at this old post of mine about Red and Andy for this post. I also had the pleasure of seeing this post in my Facebook memories. There's no doubt about it! I can be confident of my hope, which is Christ, and look forward to all that is to come:

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

- Philippians 1:20.

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 

- Hebrews 6:18-19

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I genuinely HOPE and pray that this will be a blessed year for us all! Our "hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." On Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand! Stay anchored! He is our firm foundation! Amen! God bless you!

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