Thereís Hope!


A Sane Guide to Turning Your Life Around by

Finding Hope When There is No Hope

* * *

How to Rise from

Hopeless to Hopeful

Without Mindless Optimism

By Grantley Morris

This webpge in German





































Net-Burst.Net









Hope!









The Hope you Need









Finding Hope









Thereís Hope!









Bright Hope for the Future









The smog of despair, defeatism and pessimism snuffs the life out of us; smothering a bright future into bleak hopelessness. All hope might have fled in wide-eyed terror but it has not skedaddled as far as you might suppose. Hiding just over the horizon are genuine reasons for hope. You can find hope when there seems no hope and truly live.

It is appallingly tragic that by mistakenly seeing themselves as overweight, skinny anorexics can end up not just needlessly tormenting themselves but starving to death. Just as anorexics have a dangerously distorted view of their bodies, so we can have a distorted view of our future Ė and the consequences can be just as dire. Innumerable suicides would never have happened if only people could have seen their real future, instead of the murky distortion that fooled them into needlessly throwing their lives away.

Without hope, all meaning drains out of our existence. If our efforts were to end up achieving nothing, life would be meaningless Ė an utter waste Ė but we shall see that this is never a possibility for anyone committed to Christ, regardless of how hopeless things can seem in the short term.

Life without hope is like a meal without food; a tree without water; a world without light. Many of us do not trust hope, however, and would rather shiver in the cold than let it warm our hearts. We think it as likely to remain as a mist on a summerís day, and as dangerous as a rotting bridge suspended by a thread over an abyss. In stark contrast, the Bible describes genuine hope in God as being as solid and secure as a shipís anchor (Hebrews 6:19).

The clash between these different attitudes to hope lingers because human help differs from divine help as a spiderís web differs from the strongest safety net in the universe. Divine hope is the guarantee that, although we almost never guess how or when, Almighty God will ensure that good will triumph over evil Ė not merely in general, but in the life of every person who loves him.

The God of truth has no partnership with off-with-the-fairies optimism, nor with living in denial. Your Lord is not the God of wishful thinking but the God of hope. So when the Bible speaks of hope, it means having a solid reason for knowing that good things are ahead. Itís the certainty that the God who never fails has good plans for you. Hope is one of the big three that stand the test of time: ď. . . faith, hope, and love remainóthese threeĒ (1 Corinthians 13:13). Irrespective of your past, God longs for you to walk in hope as much as he wants you to walk in love.

Regardless of how often you have failed, the holy Son of God makes you worthy of divine blessings the moment you surrender to him in genuine repentance. Then, no matter how dismal your current circumstances and your long record of disasters, the holy Lord declares that you deserve to sparkle with hope.

If you struggle to believe that you are totally forgiven by God, you will struggle to have genuine hope. If so, your problem is not how much you have sinned but how little you understand the magnitude of Godís forgiveness. Elsewhere I have expounded in great depth the astounding extent of divine forgiveness and the exciting implications. So even though this matter is crucial to hope, I will only touch on it here and then move on to other things affecting our ability to maintain hope.

The critical factor in determining your acceptability in the terrifyingly holy, all-seeing eyes of Almighty God is not the enormity of your sin but the enormity of both Godís love and the power of the cross to make you, in heavenís analysis, as pure as if you were born in total innocence and remained so for the rest of your life. Feeling condemned or defiled or defeated or spurned by God is utterly irrelevant, because feelings are not spiritual reality.

Through the stupendous miracle of Christ swapping places with you on the cross, the Holy One gained your sin and you gained the moral perfection of God himself. On the cross the spotless Son of God was so marred by your sin that he became the very embodiment of sin, and by putting your faith in him you completed the transaction and you became the very embodiment of Godís holiness:

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For him who knew no sin [Jesus] he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The extent to which Christ has removed your sins from heavenís consciousness is so staggering that God in his Word uses a vast range of different words to try to express it, including pardoned, forgiven, not remembered, wiped out, swept away, taken away, trampled on (destroyed), unable to be found, blotted out, cleansed, washed. Here are some more biblical attempts to describe the magnitude of what has happened:

    Isaiah 1:18  . . . Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. . . .Ē

    Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west [an infinite distance to Hebrew thinking], so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

    Micah 7:19 He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

The technology when that last verse was penned was such that anything dropped into the depths of the sea was utterly irretrievable.

There are times when the love of God compels him to pronounce peopleís doom, but as final and as hopeless as it seems, it is actually a last ditch attempt to bring them to repentance so that their darkness breaks into the dawn of a bright new day. (Only after death is it too late to repent.)

In Rejected by God I provide many biblical instances of this but here I will cite just one well known example. The prophet Jonah pronounced to the Ninevites that the entire city would be destroyed in forty daysí time. They repented, and so great is Godís love even for pagans that this divine prophesy was never fulfilled. Everyone was spared.

If you still think your past might hold you back from Godís blessing, you need a link at the end of this webpage that further confirms the extent of Godís forgiveness.

Forgiveness means that regardless of how defeated and inferior you might imagine yourself to be, the King of the Universe not only does not regard you as second class, he delights in you. No one in the universe is more loved of God than you are.

You are intensely loved of God and uniquely special and irreplaceable in his eyes. Bursting with love for you, the Lord of creation yearns to pour out his blessings upon you. If you are less than utterly convinced of the magnitude of Godís love for you, however, this matter needs to be addressed urgently to stop it from continually eating holes in your faith.

As I have written of my past struggles:

    I can easily believe that the atom-holding, earth-spinning, galaxy-sustaining, life-giving Source of everything wonderful can do whatever he likes. Even the devil believes Godís power.

    My difficulty is believing that Godís special love for me makes him long to use that power on my behalf.

    Few of us doubt that God can do amazing things. The weak link in our faith is believing that he would do such things for ordinary, inconsequential you and me. We suspect we are not sufficiently special in the Almightyís eyes to warrant such attention. Oh yes, ĎGod loves everyone,í but we have a hunch that by the time that love reaches us it has spread pretty thin. Iím just one of millions. Why would God want to focus his omnipotence on me?

If we could grasp the enormity of Godís love for us, our faith would sky-rocket. The implications for hope are mind-boggling. Nevertheless, I will not expound this glorious truth here because a link at the end of this webpage will take you to many webpages that fully explore how loved of God you are. Instead, I will assume you have already read those pages and understand this life-changing truth, and I will focus here on things about hope not covered in those pages.

No matter how horrifically oppressive your life has been and how doomed you feel, the God who loves you is the master of the surprise happy ending. Your God is the Almighty Lord who unexpectedly snatches victory from the jaws of defeat and suddenly turns despair into wild celebration. Heís the God who reverses fortunes; the God who lifts high the lowly and brings down the mighty; the one who has the final laugh and has been planning for all eternity for you to enjoy the victory celebrations with him.


You deserve encouragement. So, not only have I crammed this webpage with new material; I have also snatched snippets from a vast range of my other writings in my commitment to maximize the encouragement I can give you.

* * *

It is natural to base our future expectations on past experiences. Doing so, however, is often not only illogical but dangerous. Regardless of whether it be good luck or bad luck that a person imagines he attracts, it can ruin oneís life to let a highly memorable but quite uncommon event Ė or string of events Ė trick you into thinking you are more likely than other people to experience a repeat. This fact of life has such dire consequences that we should briefly explore it to help us take it seriously.

If you used a poker machine for the first time and soon had a big win, you might expect to be lucky at gambling in the future, but there is no rational, statistically valid reason for that belief. In fact, despite the big win, if you believed that this highly unusual event is likely to keep repeating itself, it could end up economically ruining your life, along with an avalanche of other tragedies, such as destroying your marriage, and so on.

Likewise, if you were innocently walking down the street and were almost killed by an object that fell from a plane, you would afterwards have no rational basis for being more ill at ease than anyone else about walking down the street. Psychologically, your nervousness might be understandable, but you would have every logical reason for acting as carefree as the next person whenever you go outside. What a pity if you let a one in a million event keep you a recluse; too afraid to leave your house!

You might have suffered more bad things in your past than almost anyone but unless the actual people who hurt you still have access to you and power over you, the reality is that you are just as unlikely to suffer a repeat as anyone else.

The tragedy, however, is that pessimistic expectations often become self-fulfilling Ė or at least seem to come true in the eyes of the person expecting them. As I say in How to Change Your Self-Image:

    Should, for example, I think everyone despises me, I would interpret it as an act of spurning me if people typically go about their normal business without interrupting everything to make me the center of their attention. To my warped thinking, peopleís normal shyness, fear of rejection, preoccupation with their own affairs, and so on, would ďproveĒ I disgust them. Even if a few people actually went out of their way to say nice things about me, I would dismiss it as an act of insincerity (forcing themselves to be polite, feeling sorry for me, trying to manipulate me, etc.) or based on ignorance (not really knowing me, being poor judges of character, etc.). As a final resort, if anyone acts in a manner I find impossible to squeeze into the categories just mentioned, I would interpret it as ďthe exception that proves the ruleĒ and would probably even find perverse satisfaction in restoring my equilibrium by deliberately recalling events that seem to confirm my distorted self-image.

Suppose a wonderful woman has let her past exposure to unusually cruel people crush all hope of anyone finding her lovable. If, despite mistakenly believing she is unlovable, she marries, she will be far more likely than average women to expect her husband to leave her for another woman. No matter how good a wife she is and how passionately her devoted husband loves her, her irrational expectations make her likely to mistake innocent things for signs that her husband is about to leave her. This could play on her mind so much that, to stop prolonging her agony and precipitate what she believes is inevitable, she leaves him; oblivious to the truth of his pleas that he is utterly devoted to her and is continually faithful.

I feel sick to my stomach to mention it, but I knew a man who sometimes paid men to treat him vilely in order to reinforce to himself that he was despicable and unlovable. Like many other people who engage in quite different forms of degradation and self-inflicted pain, he did it to keep killing his hope of being lovable. Yes, crushing his hope filled him with despair but he considered it worth the physical pain and feelings of hopelessness because he saw the relinquishing of all hope as self-protection. Such was his negative view of the future that he believed he was protecting himself from suffering the agony of dashed hopes.

I dislike dwelling on such negativity but it is my conviction that the best way to find the cure is to understand the cause. Some people do such things as cut themselves, overeat, dress drably or neglect personal hygiene because their hope is so low that they fear the slightest trace of hope. They regard rejection as so inevitable that they deliberately create good reason to continue expecting to be rejected. They do this in the belief that they are protecting themselves from being caught off guard or bitterly disappointed when rejection comes.

The heartbreaking reality is that treating oneself atrociously is usually an attempt to shield oneself from what are essentially the minor risks of life Ė such as the possibility of attracting sexual assault by dressing normally. People act this way when highly unlikely dangers loom so big in their eyes as to seem likely. Their fear is not based on a statistically accurate analysis but simply on the basis of highly abnormal events they happened to have suffered earlier in their lives.

The tragedy of trauma is that it was not only distressing at the time; it usually gives those who suffered it a hideously distorted view of their entire lives. Unpleasant experiences keep coming back to them in the form of flashbacks and so on, and past horrors get so indelibly etched into their memories that they can hardy recall all the good times they have had. It is as though the bad experiences they have had scream so loudly as to drown out the sweet strains of good times, even though good things actually happened more often than the bad.

For example, I know someone who, very many years ago, suffered a highly traumatic and prolonged custody battle in which she justifiably believed that her babyís very life was at stake. It was a terrifying time until she finally knew the outcome of the case. It caused her to have an extremely negative view of the entire legal system as well as a crippling fear of courts and, sometimes, even a negative view of God. For years afterwards, however, what hardly registered with her is that she won that custody battle. In court she had been falsely accused of awful things but the judge ruled that she was right and that her accusers had lied. She gained full custody of her baby throughout his entire upbringing and now that he is an adult he continues to love her and think highly of her. Nevertheless, the memory of that relatively short time, when the fear of a disastrous outcome was overwhelmingly intense, is carved so deeply into her mind that the positive outcome of the court case barely impacted her thinking and attitude to life. Thankfully, her outlook is now significantly improving as she keeps deliberately reminding herself of the positive outcome of that traumatic time and she learns to maintain a more accurate view of her life.

* * *

Although the following was originally written for people who were physically abused as children, it is likely to be relevant even if you were not abused in this way. If you feel devoid of hope, it is likely that something in your past Ė perhaps repeated putdowns by authority figures or peers Ė has had a tragically similar effect on you as it has for those I was originally addressing.

    Donít waste your life. Donít let bad people win.

    You had no choice when you were little. Back then, they were so much stronger than you and their lies seemed so believable. Today, however, you are no longer a child; no longer helpless and easily duped. Those days are gone forever.

As I have written elsewhere:

    To restrain a baby elephant, circus trainers must chain it to a huge stake driven into the ground. When the baby grows into an adult, however, it is many times smarter and stronger. What trainers must then drive into the ground is just a tiny tent peg.

    The baby had tried everything to break free. It had strained with all its might, pulling in every conceivable way, hour after hour, day after day. The huge stake refused to budge. So, rather than mindlessly keep trying to do the impossible, it did what at the time was the intelligent thing: it gave up trying.

    The baby grew into a powerful beast. Convinced by bitter experience that whenever it is tethered there is no point trying to resist, it never bothered to determine whether anything had changed. So it suffers indignities, even though, if only it could grasp the fact, it could easily rip up the peg and trample those who sought to dominate it.

    As an adult, it finds itself bound not by a stake but by a powerful psychological force. This powerful force has been given several names, one of which is Learned Helplessness. It has been the subject of much research by psychologists because, in one form or another, it binds millions of people. It is a factor Ė sometimes the full reason Ė in the peculiar tendency of many of us to be plagued by what seems to be bad luck, year after year.

    Consider, for example, the heart-wrenching fact that even after growing into adults, survivors of child sex abuse often find themselves staggering from one abusive relationship to another. Like the baby elephant, abuse survivors once found themselves in a situation in which escape was impossible. No matter how hard they tried, nothing they could do could free them from humiliation at the hands of those who sought to dominate them. Now they are older and have more options, but the devastating effect of their past ordeal is so crippling that if ever they find themselves in a slightly similar situation, it is exceedingly difficult for them to believe they could break free. No one convinced that resistance is useless has much chance of resisting with all his or her might.

    Or suppose an addict is utterly dominated by his addiction. Each of his many attempts to break free simply proved to him the impossibly of the situation. Then he is born again. Suddenly, resident within him is all the power he needs to quit his habit. But he fails to grasp just how radically things have changed. Convinced by his past failures that he cannot break free, he never bothers to use to the full his new, God-given power to break the habit. The result, of course, is that he remains a slave to the habit that he could be free from.

    I find myself hampered by defeatism in many areas of my life. Hereís one example. With many types of puzzles, for example, experience has taught me that no matter how hard I try, I will still fail to solve them. ďIíll fail anyhow, so why bother wasting lots of effort?Ē I tell myself. Weighed down by this attitude, I give up before giving it my best, most determined and most persistent effort. Surprise, surprise, with only a half-hearted attempt I donít succeed, thus reinforcing my conviction that Iíll never succeed.

    It would seem that giving children puzzles that at their age they are unlikely to succeed in, might turn them into defeatists with such games. More worrying still, is that defeatism in this area might possibly carry over into other areas of life and might last throughout oneís life.

Iíll continue by quoting from another of my webpages:
    Learned Helplessness saps from us the drive needed to escape, even when we grow stronger and gaining freedom becomes easy. It saps from us the drive needed to escape when we grow stronger and gaining freedom becomes easy. Being defeated in what is now the distant past has made you so used to being overpowered and having your hopes crushed that, now that it is easy, you do not want to even try to walk free. The prison door has been wide open for years but whether you walk out into the sunshine and truly enjoy life, or remain languishing in the dingy world of needless despondency and restrictions, is entirely your choice.

    Stop frittering your life away in unnecessary inner pain, despair and defeatism. Lift up your eyes and let God inspire you. The Almighty believes in you. Keep asking him to fill you with the same passion he has for truth, victory, healing and wholeness.

    Like the ancient Israelites, it is up to you whether you keep wandering in the wilderness or enter the Promised Land divinely prepared for you. It takes courage to enter into all of the blessings and fulfillment and achievements God longs to lavish upon you. As with the Israelites, it is simply a matter of faith Ė believing that with God on your side you can do it. You donít even have to believe in yourself. Simply believe that God is not so pathetically weak that your weakness could ever negate his power. Fear feels so oppressively real but it is just a feeling; not reality. Take Godís hand and walk through the open door.

Not only can an unpleasant past dupe us into needlessly abandoning hope, there are certain medical disorders that trick the mind into thinking there is no hope. These medical conditions, despite being fairly common, are rarely understood and often undiagnosed and have the potential to cause serious spiritual challenges.

Even if you feel certain it does not apply to you, it is important to read the following because it is surprisingly common to suffer clinical depression and not realize it, and clinical anxiety is even less understood. Moreover, they are simply extreme instances of attacks on oneís belief in a good future that we must all fight. Understanding how to combat the extreme should equip us to romp through lesser attacks.

Clinical depression and/or clinical anxiety form too huge a subject to adequately tackle in this webpage but they are also far too significant not to be raised in a webpage that is serious about empowering readers to find hope.

I am referring to depression and/or anxiety that are caused, not merely by external circumstances or oneís attitude, but by a medical disorder. I am not referring to feeling distressed about having an illness but about a medical condition that actually has depression or anxiety as a primary symptom Ė often the only symptom Ė as much as physical pain is a symptom of breaking a bone or a rash is a symptom of measles. And just as psychologists can help you learn to live with pain but it will not go away without the underlying medical condition being corrected, so you can learn to lessen the impact of depression or anxiety but it will not go away without the underlying medical condition being corrected.

Unfortunately, the medical cure for neither anxiety nor depression is fully understood at present and, also for not fully understood reasons, these afflictions are becoming increasingly common in modern society, regardless of oneís walk with God. By not realizing the difference between medically-induced depression and that caused by oneís attitude, far too many Christians fail to understand that clinical depression is an illness and so they mistakenly see it as almost a sin. Most of these people do not mean to be cruel and heartless by harboring this misconception but, sadly, the result could hardly be any worse if they were deliberately hateful. Tragically, they are acting like Jobís ďfriendsĒ who, despite genuinely trying to be helpful, exposed themselves to divine judgment by falsely accusing Job of sin because of the dreadful things he suffered (Job 42:7-8).

Basically, to suffer either clinical depression and/or clinical anxiety is Ė through no fault of oneís own Ė to be plagued by intense feelings that flood a person with a devastatingly convincing illusion that there is no hope. For a person to maintain hope in the midst of either of these afflictions is as heroic as a marathon runner completing a race with a crippling injury.

Depression and/or anxiety do not in any way imply that God is not planning a thrilling future for a person but it means the person will face enormous inner opposition to believing it. It is not that anyone feeling devoid of hope because of this illness has less faith than other people. It is simply that the personís faith is challenged far more severely; like an injured marathon runner who is hit by a car during the race faces more severe challenges as he staggers on than all the other runners.

It is not just by filling us with gloom that depression can dupe us into losing hope. Depression often deadens oneís feelings so that one no longer feels Godís presence, nor his love, nor his comfort. The temptation is to abandon faith in Godís promises never to leave us and to misinterpret this loss of feeling as indicating that God Ė our reason for hope Ė has left us.

This second way that depression can delude us into losing hope is similar to how excess anxiety can deceive those with the misfortune to suffer it. Like depression, anxiety can mess with our feelings. If we make the mistake of trusting feelings as our spiritual guide, instead of trusting Godís Word, we leave ourselves highly vulnerable to deception and end up wrongly believing that God is displeased with us and no longer wants to bless us.

The tempter cannot touch the magnitude of Godís astounding love and the power of the cross. All he can do is to manipulate our feelings. Because of this, all Christians must learn to force themselves to walk by faith, not by feelings. They must hold on to Godís truth, even when everything within them screams that the opposite must be true. Average Christians find this hard at times, but for those afflicted by clinical depression or anxiety, the intensity of feelings that are contrary to spiritual reality is ramped up many times higher.

Even though depression is poorly understood by most people, ignorance of clinical anxiety is many times worse. It is said that people with the anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (which can have enormous spiritual implications) suffer for an average of nine years before even being diagnosed.

Literally hundreds of distraught people have e-mailed me detailing the devastating impact excess anxiety has had on their spiritual walk. Anxiety acts as an internal alarm warning us that something is seriously wrong. Alarms are designed to be unpleasant so that we donít ignore them but it is even more disconcerting when a medical condition causes a malfunction and the alarm keeps going off, implying there is great danger, when it is actually only a false alarm. The false alarm feels like a guilty conscience Ė as if God were highly displeased with oneself Ė and the stress causes one to feel a million miles from God. Moreover those afflicted by this become so anxious about trying to please God that many end up monitoring their thoughts excessively. Unfortunately, the more one focuses on trying not to think about something, the more oneís mind focuses on that very thing. As a result, many of these devout Christians end up plagued by atrociously blasphemous thoughts that are the exact opposite of what they want to think and this further tempts them to wrongly suppose that God must be highly displeased with them.

I have been so distressed by these peopleís plight that I have devoted enormous effort over very many years to trying to help them see through the highly convincing illusion that their dreadful feelings and unwanted thoughts lessen the certainty that God is on their side, and to helping them see that their spiritual future is bright.

There are links at the end of this webpage providing more information and encouragement about anxiety and depression but even without going into detail here, I must emphasize that feeling unforgivable, feeling abandoned by God, being overwhelmed by guilt feelings, feeling hopeless, and so on, are appallingly oppressive feelings that can be highly convincing. Nevertheless, they remain feelings, not spiritual reality. No matter how intense the feelings, they cannot change Godís commitment to bless stupendously everyone who comes to Christ.

bible hope

Now itís time to explore why I commenced this webpage by saying that for oneís efforts to achieve nothing worthwhile is not a possibility for committed Christians.

    1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord . . . being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]. (Amplified Bible Ė emphasis mine)

    Galatians 6:9 Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we donít give up.

    Ephesians 6:8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord . . .

    Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them.

The fact that we shall reap whatever we sow, applies both positively and negatively:

    Galatians 6:7-8 Donít be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

    Matthew 12:36 I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

What we do matters. It sends ripples through all eternity:

    Revelation 22:12 Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work.

Our every thought and action is highly meaningful and valuable and has eternal implications.

The most basic aspect of the Christian message is that God rewards everyone who seeks him:

    Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. (Emphasis mine)

Jesus was continually talking about rewards:

    Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds.

    Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Manís sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven . . .

    Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High . . .

Regardless of what it seems like in the short term, everything we do is rewarding because everything we do will be rewarded. Not even offering someone a drink of water will go unrewarded:

    Matthew 10:42 Whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, most certainly I tell you he will in no way lose his reward.

Jesus kept emphasizing that even things you do that no one knows about are of immense value because God sees them:

    Matthew 6:3-4 But when you do merciful deeds, donít let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

    Matthew 6:6 But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

    Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

People might suppose that things done that no one knows about are a waste. In reality, they are the very things that are special to God. Even the person who did those things might end up forgetting about them, but not God. And he richly rewards.

* * *

Yes, trauma plays tricks on our minds, causing us to imagine a repeat is far more likely than it really is. And it makes it seem as if we have experienced far fewer good times than we really have and it entices us to give in when there is no need to do so. And there are relatively common medical conditions that Ė ably exploited by the enemy of our souls Ė can mess with our feelings; duping us into feeling there is no hope for us. Beyond all of this, however, is an even more staggering reason for not being haunted by the past and/or believing powerful feelings: through Christ, even our worst times end up being golden moments.

To bring together what I have written elsewhere:

    It might seem impossible to believe that what was once your defeat and shame will end up being your victory and glory. It hardens into reality, however, because you are loved by the God of the impossible. You have a God of selfless love who passionately hates evil and is so powerful that he overcomes evil with good. Infinite goodness is the perfect antidote for evil. It is as if the Lord keeps pouring his goodness upon the mountain of anti-God things that were inflicted upon you. He keeps it up, year after year, until you can eventually look back on what was unadulterated evil and see so much good flowing from it that you are flooded with awe and gratitude.

    In his mind-boggling goodness, the Almighty uses his unlimited power to turn disasters into blessings, defeats into victories and shame into glory. Look at Jesus, who blazed this trail for you to follow. See him stripped naked, exposed to the world, as he hangs helpless on the cross. See him Ė if you can stomach it Ė mocked and scorned, humiliated and bloodied, being tortured to death as the nationís esteemed religious leaders get their hateful way with him. He seems the embodiment of shame and defeat; growing weaker and uglier by the minute, as horrific pain sears through his tormented, broken body. What looked like the most humiliating disaster, however, turned out to be the greatest victory over evil the universe has ever seen. Forever and ever he will be worshipped by adoring millions; honoring him far above anyone else because he chose what seemed unspeakable shame.

    And thatís the path Christ blazed for you. Like him, and through him, your shame, pain and blame will be transformed into your glory; like a disgusting grub becoming a butterfly of breathtaking beauty. (Incidentally, beautiful butterflies exist only because they were once grubs.)

    You can see good coming from the horrors in Jesusí life but you might think there are too many differences between Jesusí suffering and your bad times for there to be any connection. Look at this, however:

      Romans 8:28-29 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Emphasis mine.)

    Those who, through faith in the power of Jesusí sacrifice, are in spiritual union with the triumphant Lord, not only share his destiny but are becoming increasingly like him.

    As I have written:

      Right now, your life may seem a hopeless mess of shattered pieces, but your devoted Lord treasures every fragment, even those life experiences you have suffered that seem worse than useless. Discarding nothing, he will lovingly treat each incident in your life as a critical piece of a jigsaw that only a supernatural genius could solve. He will reassemble every meaningless disaster, shameful failure and hideous sin, until together they form priceless beauty that no one would ever guess could emerge from such evil and chaos.

      Yes, things would have been better still had we not sinned, but when we come to Christ for cleansing, he not only removes our shame and makes us sparkle with his purity, he works all things Ė including our sin Ė together for good (Romans 8:28).

      Even our pre-Christian days will end up flooded with divine glory. Consider, for example, the apostle Paulís atrocious sin. If anyone had reason for shame, it was this man. He arrogantly and brutally tormented Christians in the hope of destroying their faith and making them blaspheme Jesus and permanently renounce their Lord and Savior, thus destroying them eternally. With Christianity in its vulnerable infancy, Paul, like perhaps no one else in all of history, had the opportunity to totally wipe from the planet every memory of Christianity. And he was intent on doing so. God intervened, of course, but had Paulís determined plans succeeded and Christianity were eradicated before any of the New Testament were written, all of us today would be without the Gospel, destined for hell. Given the eternal implications, this makes serial murder seem like a parking offense. How could even the God of the impossible wring any good out of that evil?

      There is no thought in the Bible of covering up the story of Paulís atrocious, anti-Christ behavior, however. Amazingly, the story is told in detail not once, but three times in the book of Acts (Acts 8:1-9:20; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:9-20). Thatís how significant Paulís sinful background is to God. Thatís how much the Holy One longs to use it for his glory. And in two of those passages, it was Paul himself recounting the story when a powerful testimony was needed. It was presumably a regular feature of Paulís evangelism. In addition to being critical in turning countless skeptics of the power and authenticity of the Gospel into committed believers, Paulís dramatic transformation from a violent, hate-filled opponent of Christianity has inspired millions.

      Throughout Christianityís history, similar transformations of evil acts have been repeated too often for anyone but God to count. Peopleís former shame has been transformed into such powerful evangelistic tools and sources of inspiration as to tempt Christians with more mundane backgrounds to be envious. ďI was a criminal,Ē ďI was a Satanist,Ē ďI was a prostitute,Ē I was a heroin addict,Ē declare Christians, who almost reach celebrity status because of pasts that should have been shameful. Past atrocities are no longer guilty secrets that shame them into silence but, through Christ, what should have been stumbling blocks have been turned not just into stepping stones but into launching pads to spiritual achievement as they use their past to win souls and inspire fellow believers.

      What about sins after conversion? Though you would be excused for expecting the opposite result, throughout history literally millions of Christians have drawn comfort and inspiration from Peter denying his Lord three times. ďIf thereís hope for Peter, thereís hope for me,Ē they gladly conclude. The same is true of King Davidís shocking adultery and murderous cover-up. Moreover, who alone out of David's many sons did God choose as heir to David's throne and ancestor of the Messiah? Bathsheba's son, Solomon. This man should never have even been born. His mother should still have been married to the man David murdered. And yet God so forgave that he chose the product of David's greatest moral fall to be a key figure in Jewish and redemptive history and the one he endowed with astounding wisdom.

      As I have written elsewhere:

        ĎThen will I teach transgressors your ways,í crooned David. When? After a calamitous moral fall (Psalm 51: title, 3-5, 12-13). ĎSimon . . . feed my sheepí (John 21:17). When? After denying his Savior.

        ĎHe slew at his death more than he slew in his lifeí (Judges 16:30, paraphrase). When? After Samsonís greatest humiliation.

        Samson and David each knew the horror of spiritual failure. On the crest of their vocation, they plunged to abominable depths. Their lapses were inexcusable. Their ministries were desecrated. Yet they refused to dwell in defeat. They were failures for a moment, but they were overcomers forever. Grasping Godís hand of forgiveness, they clambered to new heights for the exaltation of the One who washed them clean.

        Oppression crushed Simon the rock into sand. On the brink of ministry, after years of grooming, he blew it. He lied. He invoked a curse on himself. He disowned his Lord (Matthew 26:74). Yet though it rocked him, this one-time rock didnít peter. Empowered by his Savior, he again turned to stone.

        Though the righteous Ė thatís you and me in Christ Jesus Ė fall seven times, they rise again. Thatís a promise (Proverbs 24:16, see also Psalm 37:23-24).

            It was just a hair-cut
            For the plaything of Delilah;
            And just a prayer-cut
            For Peter the denier.
            Strong they dozed
            But weak arose,
            And knew it not.

            Men destroyed by fatal cuts;
            Left to wallow in their ruts;
            Left with blame
            And haunting shame,
            In sin to rot.

            A seed so small and barely sown
            Meant to die, but how itís grown!
            Things so small
            Grow so tall,
            But marvel not.

            If sin can grow,
            So can prayer;
            If prayers will flow,
            So will hair.
            With faith restored
            Hope will soar,
            And blunders blot.

            His repentance real,
            The victim of Delilah,
            Had victories still.
            And the spineless Christ-denier
            Shed his shame
            And became
            The churchís rock.

* * *

Inspiration from the apostle Paulís embarrassing moments extends way beyond his pre-conversion days. Consider his repeated humiliation when he was stripped and mercilessly beaten time after agonizing time, or shackled and jailed, or shipwrecked three times (what a temptation to think that God had abandoned him!) or went hungry (even today prosperity teachers find him an embarrassment). These were not Paulís shame but his glory. Not only will he be eternally rewarded for enduring them, but down through the ages millions upon millions of us have been inspired by what he endured. We hail him as a hero because of them.

You might think your suffering is less noble than Paulís, but you underrate the significance of your testimony. As I have written elsewhere:

    Consider Scott and his team, who struggled to the South Pole only to discover their honor of being the first to reach the Pole was lost forever. Amundsen had beaten them by about a month. To add to the futility, they endured further blizzards, illness, frostbite and starvation only to perish; the last three dying just a few miles from safety. Yet today their miserable defeat ending with death in frozen isolation, witnessed by not a living soul, is hailed as one of the greatest ever epics of human exploration and endurance.

    Every fiber of my being is convinced that their glory is just a shadow of what you can achieve. Though you suffer in isolation and apparent futility, with the depths of your trial known to no one on earth, your name could be blazed in heavenís lights, honored forever by heavenís throngs for your epic struggle with illness, bereavement, or whatever. The day is coming when what is endured in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Look at Job: bewildered, maligned, misunderstood; battling not some heroic foe but essentially common things Ė a financial reversal, bereavement, illness Ė not cheered on by screaming fans, just booed by some one-time friends. If even on this crazy planet Job is honored today, I canít imagine the acclaim awaiting you when all is revealed. Your battle with lifeís miseries can be as daring as Davidís encounter with Goliath. Donít worry that others donít understand this at present. One day they will. And that day will never end.

There is yet another way in which our past failures and apparent disasters can be powerfully used of God. To explain, Iíll again quote from another of my webpages:

    Your greatest contribution might flow from your greatest weakness. If you find my writings useful, itís because I have felt useless. Itís the spear through my heart that binds me to the pain in yours. Itís years plagued with questions that have unearthed answers. Had something dulled my pain, you would not be reading this website.

    Great men like Whitefield and the Wesleys suffered enormously in their struggle to find salvation. Whitefieldís spiritual need was so all-consuming that his fastings almost killed him. John and Charles were inconsolable until at long last they found salvation. Spurgeon suffered so greatly in his quest for salvation that he wrote, ĎI had rather pass through seven years of the most languishing sickness, than I would ever again pass through the terrible discovery of the evil of sin.í Not surprisingly, their subsequent ministries eclipsed that of almost all Christians who have been spared such anguish of soul.

    John Bunyanís spiritual torment was horrific. With a severity that few of us could even conceive, year after year he was repeatedly overwhelmed by a consciousness of sin, hopelessness and the seemingly certain prospect of an eternity in Hell. Then followed long years of harsh imprisonment, intensified even when not in prison by the very real threat of execution or deportation. No wonder Pilgrimís Progress is such an outstandingly powerful book. Much of it was virtually autobiographical.

    Mark Virklerís torment was his inability to hear Godís voice. In vain he sought the help of those who regularly heard from God. They could not even understand his problem. For them, itís as easy as prayer. Year after year, Mark wrestled in the agony of silence. Why would a Father who longs to communicate with his treasured children, allow him to suffer so cruelly? Because, unlike those for whom hearing comes easily, Mark now has answers which have swept thousands to Ďthe other side of silence.í

    Traumas qualify us for ministry like nothing else can.

    After losing his sight, Dr. William Moon prayed a prayer that was powerfully answered: ĎLord, help me use this talent of blindness in your service . . .í

    Barbara Johnson has touched incalculable numbers of people for the glory of Christ, because of the numbing horror of being robbed of two sons through death, losing a third to a gay lifestyle, and her husband being critically injured.

    Who would have heard of Corrie ten Boom or Richard Wurmbrand if they had not suffered in prison camps?

    Rather than test your patience by citing hundreds more examples, let me conclude by stating the obvious: for vast numbers of Christians, the spiritual impact of their lives seems directly proportional to their past agony. Situations they would have most wanted to avoid Ė times when death seemed preferable Ė empowered their lives like no other experience.

* * *

Jesus revealed that the most critical thing in our entire spiritual lives is how much we love God (Matthew 22:36-38) and that those who love God the most are those who have been forgiven the most (Luke 7:42-43,47). We are all equally unworthy of forgiveness but those who love God the most Ė and so delight God the most Ė are those who are most grateful for their forgiveness. Letís get very practical. How grateful we are Ė and how much we end up loving God Ė depends on two things: how aware we are that God truly does forgive all sin, and how convinced we are of the magnitude of our sin. So if your past has caused you to think of yourself as the worst of sinners (as it did for the apostle Paul Ė 1 Timothy 1:15), that gives you the edge over the rest of us, provided you believe that Christís sacrifice is powerful enough to cleanse you.

Because God bringing good even out of sin is so mind-boggling, Iíll give just one more example. Suppose you had an abortion. No matter how appalling the sin, the Lord is keen to forgive and once he forgives you, amazing things can happen. The Lord could, for example, use the experience to deepen your awareness of the magnitude of Godís forgiveness, or to keep you from falling into pride, or to give you ministry and witnessing opportunities by increasing your empathy for others who have suffered that way. Should we sin that grace may abound? Of course not! But our sufferings move God far too deeply for him to let them be wasted.

Letís return to the context of that Scripture that deserves to be chiseled into the brains of every Christian:

    Romans 8:28-29 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Emphasis mine.)

This seems to be saying that the good that God works towards by manipulating all things that beset us is not so that we get our self-centered, short-term pleasure but that we end up conformed to the image of Christ. If that disappoints you a little, you havenít thought it through. To be like Christ is something far more wondrous than any cheap thrills you might have had in mind.

To be like Christ is to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit Ė love, peace, goodness, self-control, and so on. Thatís thrilling, but thereís more. To be like Christ is to be not just dignified but regal; not just powerful but ruling from heavenís throne; not just smart but having access to divine wisdom; not just attractive but radiant with unsurpassable inner beauty; not just morally upright but perfect in the piercing eyes of humanityís holy Judge; not just happy but overflowing with inexpressible joy; not just youthful but eternal; not just sympathetic but empowered to transform lives. Itís something worth paying the highest price for.

Happy

Hereís yet another reason for hope: as thrilling and inspiring as miracles are, virtually no one in the Bible experienced a miracle without first being painfully sick or in a distressing or even terrifying situation. Dreaded events are not the end but the precursor to exciting things. Consider the faith heroes acclaimed in Hebrews Eleven. All of them were victorious but they are heroes only because they faced situations that every sane person would want to avoid. None of them liked their initial situation but it ended up exceedingly worth it and they are now the envy of millions. Oppressive times did not mean God was not with them, nor that they were doomed to defeat. Dark times simply made their faith shine and turned them into inspirational heroes.

And you were born to continue this tradition.

It doesnít take much Bible reading to learn that there are often disasters Ė frequently a whole string of them Ė before the happy ending springs out of hiding. Consider:

    * Joseph, sold into slavery by his own family, then falsely accused of a hideous crime, then forgotten by the prisoner he had helped and left to rot in prison

    * David fleeing Saulís repeated attempts to murder him when his would-be killer had under his command every citizen and the entire nationís military might, then Davidís house being plundered and burnt to the ground, his family kidnapped and his once-loyal friends so enraged against them that they, too, began plotting to kill him, and later David having to run for his life from his own son, Absalom, who had amassed an army to steal the throne from him

    * Job losing all his wealth and all his children and even his health and his reputation, with even his best friends accusing him of sin.

Like Jonah thrown overboard in a raging sea and swallowed by a sea monster; like Daniel fed to the lions and his friends fed to the flames; and like so many others crammed between Bible covers and spilling over to literally millions more down through history all the way to you and even to Almighty God himself who is continually mocked and rejected: things can look disastrous in the short term. Nevertheless, with good reason Scripture declares:

    Micah 7:8 Donít rejoice against me, my enemy. When I fall, I will arise. When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

    Proverbs 24:16 for a righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again . . .

    Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

    Psalm 37:23-24 A manís goings are established by the Lord. He delights in his way. Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for the Lord holds him up with his hand. (Emphasis mine)

    Psalm 107:13-14 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke away their chains.

    John 16:33  . . . In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.

    2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ . . .

    Romans 8:37 No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

    1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    1 John 4:4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.

    1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith.

* * *

Through Christ, we truly are winners but there are two critical things we must understand:

    1. We must be careful to embrace Godís definition of winning.

    2. Winning is all about the final result, not what things look like before the finish.

Letís explore the first point.

Earlier I touched on Learned Helplessness Ė the despair that results from being continually subjected to no-win situations so that one eventually loses all hope and gives up trying.

It seemed as if a womanís primary goal in life was to break people and dominate their emotions. She suffered a mental condition that rendered her incapable of loving anyone but herself. She was so miserable that no one could please her and she made sure they knew what failures they were Ė especially her children, who would be belittled and mercilessly beaten whenever they failed to lift her out of her depression. Moreover, in an attempt to increase her power to control others, she always claimed to have the moral high ground and asserted that God was on her side.

Her adult daughter shared her heart with me. Although she had finally escaped the emotional maze her mother had locked her in, she would often revert to seeing things as no-win situations and finding herself oppressively tempted to cave in to despair. What turned events into no-win situations was her past experience Ė cruelly enforced by beatings Ė of feeling obligated to please people, even if they refused to do things Godís way. Her long history of abuse conditioned her to be terrified of displeasing anyone. Nevertheless, she was fully committed to obeying God. So she often found herself in the no-win situation of being committed to please God but, at the same time, feeling obligated to please people like her mother who wanted her to do things contrary to Godís way. That truly is an impossible situation, but it is not something our loving Lord expects of anyone. Not even God pleases everyone. In fact, there is no one on the planet who is as hated and misunderstood as him. Her no-win situations were solely of her own making. They existed only because her definition of winning was mistaken. Winning is not about pleasing people who expect us to live lives contrary to Godís leading.

Yes, with Almighty God on our side we are winners, but the critical issue is how does one define winning? How a person defines success is the acid test of that personís integrity and dignity. Is it success to be a lazy non-achiever who lounges around in fame and luxury; the envy of millions for the perfection of his/her plastic surgery? Is it success to rip off so many people that you get to fritter your life away in decadent self-indulgence and a thousand one-night stands? Is it success to be the envy of hordes of addicts because you have an endless supply of drugs and porn?

To win is to have your treasure stored up in heaven rather than on earth; to be so filled with love that you love your enemies; to be so cleansed of sin and basking in divine forgiveness that it spills over in your generosity to everyone who seeks to hurt you; so full of joy that you rejoice in adversity; so peace-loving that you turn the other cheek; so self-controlled that you bless those who would infuriate a lesser person; so patient that you endure like a hero.

To quote from my favorite book (Waiting for Your Ministry):

    We view Jonahís ministry as exceptionally successful. Single-handedly, he saved the entire populace of magnificent Nineveh. Youíd expect him to be as excited as a centipede at a shoe sale, yet his face was a good imitation of half a squeezed grapefruit. (Jonah 4:1-3) His whole message had been, ĎYet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.í (Jonah 3:4) Forty days later, Nineveh was celebrating and Jonah was suicidal. The envy of evangelists, perhaps, but as a prophet this man was a write-off.

    ĎSuccessí hinges entirely on the measure used. Genuine success Ė the synthetic varieties donít last Ė is achieving what God expects of us. Only God can measure it. Donít gauge hurdlers by how high they jump, or pole-vaulters by how fast they run. Judge archers by their accuracy but donít apply this measure to javelin throwers. If that seems obvious itís because sport lacks the mystery of real life. In the game of life spectators speculate, the Judge judges.

    Eleven thousand teachers competed with Christa McAuliffe and lost. The winner of a seat on space shuttle Challenger was the envy of millions Ė until the shuttle disintegrated. Eleven thousand losers suddenly became winners.

    In the twinkling of an eye, the first shall be last. (1 Corinthians 15:52; Matthew 20:16; Luke 16:15) Until that wondrous moment, donít assume youíre a loser.

    Many of us are far more successful than we imagine; perhaps more than our humility could handle. It is tragic to find in the body of Christ an ear accused of failure because it cannot see, or an eye that thinks it has let the body down because it cannot smell.

    What the world thinks, what other Christians think, what you think, is irrelevant. Nothing matters except Godís approval. It is the sole measure of a ministry.

* * *

Having explored the importance of seeking Godís definition of winning, itís time to consider the second critical point about winning: winning is all about the final result, not what things look like before the finish.

    1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each man will get his praise from God.

Permit me to quote from another of my webpages:

    The Showdown

    It was a duel between spiritual super-powers: the false gods of Egypt versus the one true God. Aaron throws down a rod. The stick becomes a writhing snake. What a victory Ė the raw power of God spectacularly displayed in the very court of Pharaoh. Face it, Pharaoh, youíve backed a loser! Heathen sorcerers step forward. They drop their rods and each squirms to life. Before Pharaohís eyes is Mosesí solitary snake, hopelessly outnumbered by the magiciansí slithering brood (Exodus 7:9-12).

    * * *

    A homeward-bound Levite needed to lodge for the night. Though a pagan place was more convenient, he chose the security of an Israelite town. Here heíd sleep peacefully, surrounded by Godís people. But to his horror, he discovered these people, despite having known Godís blessing and his laws, were more depraved than the heathen. Given half a chance, they would have raped him. They abused his concubine all night. She was dead by morning. An Israelite town had slumped to the putrid decadence of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Outraged, the Levite summoned the whole of Israel. Godís law was explicit: those murderous perverts must die. But their tribe refused to hand them over. The entire tribe was so committed to wickedness that the Benjamites resolved to fight, if necessary to death, against the united armies of the whole nation, rather than allow the execution of Godís law.

    Greatly disturbed, the faithful sought God. It would have been tempting to by-pass this step. They were obviously in the right and the odds were heavily in their favor. Though the Benjamites had a few skilled fighters, they were their brethren, not some super-race, and Israel outnumbered them, 400,000 to less than 27,000. But they did the right thing. They consulted God, and he so approved that he gave them his strategy. On their side were natural superiority, righteousness, divine approval, and the wisdom and infinite might of the Lord of hosts. In obedience to their Lord, they marshaled their forces, high in faith and in the power of God.

    And they were slaughtered. In one day 22,000 of them were slain.

    They wept. They prayed. They sought the Lord again. Empowered by a fresh word from God, they mobilized for the second day. And 18,000 more of them were massacred (Judges chapters 19-20).

    * * *

    The mighty Son of God came to earth. This was the climax of a divine plan conceived before the earth was formed, and for millennia intricately woven into the fabric of human history. It was the showdown: creature versus Creator, dust versus divinity, filth versus purity, mortality versus immortality.

    And Jesus died.

    * * *

    In Pharaohís court, occult powers miraculously produce many times more vipers than God. In the time of the judges, Godís forces are routed by an army of inferior strength. At Calvary, Godís Son is dead.

    How I thank God for the Bible! Few other Christian books tell it as it really is: you can be flowing in the power of God, following his instructions to the letter in absolute purity and be routed by Satanís puny forces.

    But only for a season.

    Aaronís rod swallowed up the sorcerersí rods. On the third day, Israel crushed the Benjamites. And Jesus, on the third day, swallowed up death, having crushed the devil.

    * * *

Expressed poetically:

    Hounded by defeat,
    Immersed in gloom.
    Confounded by a curse,
    Scorned and spurned.
    Haunted by despair,
    Mocked by words of doom.
    My eyes may fill with tears,
    But not with dread or fear.

    This grub, wings will sprout.
    This down-trodden worm will soar;
    Transformed by redemptive power,
    Set free by the Lord of all.
    No one sees it yet:
    The secretís heaven-kept.
    They mock and jeer
    They do not know;
    Success is slow, but it is sure;
    Though it tarry, it will come.
    All Father touches turns to gold.
    It matters not what others say,
    The winningís done;
    Like Father, like son!

    Founded on his Word;
    Embalmed by love.
    Surrounded by his arms;
    Washed and warmed.
    Granted all I need,
    Buoyed by thoughts above:
    From fear I find release,
    Becalmed by heavenís peace.

Hereís my final attempt to express this profound truth:

    God is making a smart cookie:
    If Iím covered with spilt milk, thatís marvelous.
    If thereís egg on my face, itís a bonus.
    If Iím mixed up, Iím delighted.
    If Iím beaten, Iím making progress.
    If the heat is on, Iíll warm to my task.
    If Iím half-baked, something good is cooking.
    When I feel I could crumble, Iím nearing perfection.
    Everything is going my way.

Ē*

God is working in our lives, creating beauty like an artist. In the early stages of their creation, however, works of art usually look chaotic and even ugly. The finished masterpiece will be magnificent but for that to happen we must have enough faith in the divine Artist to cooperate with him as he completes his work. Since God is not an abuser, we either willingly cooperate with him, or we act alone and miss out.

As in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-28), past and present blessings are a precious gift from God that we can bury and ignore, like the unfaithful servant who let fear rule his life (Matthew 25:25), or we can choose to be like the servants who won acclaim by repeatedly making the most of the good things entrusted to them.

Unchecked, negative thinking is a cancer that will spread to every part of our lives and destroy our future. But we donít have to let that happen. At any time we can fight back. Negative thinking quickly becomes a habit, and breaking habits takes determined effort and the establishing of new habits. But you can do it.

Instead of downplaying or ignoring past or present victories, achievements, compliments, blessings and fun times, it is important to give them the prominence they deserve by regularly reminding yourself of them and actually celebrating them. Donít be like I am far too often Ė so afraid of an inflated ego that I remain so deflated that I lack the faith to seize Godís best. Donít let blessings and achievements fade in your mind but highlight them and keep savoring them in your memory. Otherwise your mind will deceive you by exaggerating the frequency of negative things and this will suffocate your hope.

Keep working at establishing a habit of daily finding things to delight in. When you look hard enough, youíll find hundreds of possibilities. It might be a flower, a sunset, a pet, a joke, food (but donít overdo it), uplifting music, a work of art, or whatever, but when you spot something, pause to savor the moment. Dwell on it; deliberately storing it in your mind as a good memory. I suggest you keep a journal in which you record nice memories and good things that have happened to you, whether recent or from the distant past. You might also consider a box or a corner of a room where you store or display things that remind you of personal achievements, happy times, friendships, and so on. They might include mementos, such as a shell from a lovely walk on the beach, pictures, a thankyou note from someone, a positive e-mail from your boss at work, and so on.

Hereís what I wrote near the end of my favorite web book:

    Despite my relentless longing to share these truths, it hurts to let this book be published. The more I work on the book, the more immersed in its truths I become. Itís continually washing away layer after grimy layer of negativity and buoying me ever higher. I hate the thought of this process ever ending, but dour experience affirms that it will Ė soon after I put the book down. I have had to reread it scores of times to halt my slide back into the bog. And still I need it.

    Though my need is chronic, I doubt if the mildest affliction could be relieved forever through one reading of this book. I expect you to feel better after a single dose but regular doses are essential for a permanent cure. So I urge you to keep this book handy, even after completing it. Long-term problems need long-term solutions. I covet a new life for you, not just a momentary easing of the pain. Experience suggests you will need this book year after year. We never reach the point where temptation leaves us forever.

    Negative thoughts have been roosting in our heads, pecking away at the fruit beginning to form in our lives. Weíve shooed these pests away, but they will stealthily return. Thatís our cue to skim through the book again. Highlight the parts that especially speak to you or uplift you. Personalize them. Write them out. Display them. Memorize them. Add to them. Share them. Live them. They will keep the vermin away and bring you to new levels of fruitfulness.

    Find ingenious ways to keep in your consciousness truths you particularly need. At work I must set and use several computer passwords. I might say to myself I will praise the Lord at all times, while typing the first letter of each word. IWPTLAAT then becomes my new password. No one could guess such an apparently random string of letters and I can remember it only by rehearsing in my mind that positive declaration every time I must use it. Perhaps you could put a little heart somewhere to remind you how much you are loved by God. There are thousands of possibilities. Finding some that work for you will be well worth the effort.

    Iíd be thrilled if my expressions sometimes help. I have tried to shape them to stick in slippery memories. But donít be chained to my words. Using your words will help the truths become yours. And donít be confined to the paltriness of my insight. Hound God with the passion and confidence of a cherished lover until you receive your own Bible-based, Christ-centered revelations.

    No matter how hot itís served or how much itís sweetened, second-hand revelation is as insipid as second-hand tea leaves unless the Holy Spirit comes upon you, exploding those words within you with such power that it becomes your own divine encounter. A hand-me-down word from God might bring a little refreshment, but a truth super-charged by the Spirit of God percolating through oneís life is so superior that no cost is too high a price to pay for it. Fervent prayer and Bible meditation is the usual price.

    Though I have prayed incessantly that this book bless you as much as it has me, I fear Iím asking God to break one of his principles. Why should he command us to seek and to ask and devote our lives to poring over Scripture unless thatís the way he prefers to reveal his truth? It is truths in the heart, not words in a book, that set us free. And lodging them there takes spiritual and mental effort. I crave the joy of serving you by doing all the prayer and study, but thatís like trying to play tennis for you Ė I get the healthy exercise and you miss all the fun.

* * *

The more you have suffered, the more remarkable it is that you have survived. You could decide to see yourself as a failure with a history of suffering disasters, or you could decide to rejoice in having survived and see yourself as a winner with a proven record of having what it takes to overcome adversity. Without putting other people down, you could choose to see yourself as someone granted the privilege of having a significant edge over those whose supposed strength and faith have barely been tested, and over the do-gooders who are quick with advice in seeking to support people having a hard time but have never personally endured such adversity.

We need to keep shining Godís light on our past to nurture a new perspective on life. To see our past, present and future as is really is, we must dwell on Godís truth. Godís Word is truth (John 17:17) and it never sugarcoats the fact that distressing times may have occurred. Note how strongly hope shines in the following, despite fully acknowledging the reality of adversity in oneís life:

    Psalms 30:5  . . . Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

    Psalms 126:6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves [a bountiful harvest].

    Jeremiah 31:13  . . . I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.

    Luke 6:21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

    John 16:20  . . . You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

    1 Peter 1:6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials

Such Scriptures stand in stark contrast to escapists who try to suppress memories in the hope of convincing themselves that past suffering never happened. Biblical teaching also contrasts with spiritual weaklings who seem to be strong but it is only because they have had an easy life and their so-called faith and hope have never been tested.

The fact that you are still alive, despite having plunged through devastating times, means that you are already half way towards demonstrating the truth of these Scriptures. Letís see some more of the multitude of hope-filled Scriptures shining triumphantly in the midst of dark times:

    Psalm 23:4-6 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [yes, dark times happen], I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. [yes, you could have people who hate you but even in the midst of it God will look after you]  . . . Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the Lordís house forever.

    Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. . . .

    2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we donít look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Letís pause on that last Scripture. Was Paul mad? Who in their right mind would call all of his shipwrecks, beatings, stonings etc, ďlight and momentaryĒ? It is possible only for someone who takes his eyes off the temporary and looks to God to be empowered by faith to see the bigger picture.

bible study

Here are some ways to keep that bigger picture in focus:

    1. Keep reminding yourself of Godís promises:

      Romans 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things [in the midst of hardship, persecution, deprivation, danger and so on], we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

      Isaiah 54:17 ď. . . No weapon that is formed against you will prevail; and you will condemn every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the Lordís servants, and their righteousness is of me,Ē says the Lord.

      Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.

    * * *

    2. Keep focusing on the positive:

      Philippians 4:8  . . . whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.

      1 John 4:1 Beloved, donít believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

      1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Donít despise prophesies. Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.

    * * *

    3. Keep reminding yourself of the good things you have experienced:

      Psalms 103:2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and donít forget all his benefits

      Isaiah 63:7 I will tell of the loving kindnesses of the Lord and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has given to us . . . according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses.

      Psalms 40:2-5 He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust . . . Many, the Lord, my God, are the wonderful works which you have done, and your thoughts which are toward us. They canít be declared back to you. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

    * * *

    4. Keep striving to be joyful and thankful. It is highly scriptural to get in touch with your inner pain and grief and shed tears. (If you have the slightest doubt about this, see Real Christians Grieve and When is Positive Confession Living in Denial?.) This does not mean, however, that we should spend our entire lives there:

      1 Samuel 30:3-4, 6 When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters were taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept until they had no more power to weep. . . . David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the souls of all the people were grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters; but David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

      Romans 12:12 rejoicing in hope . . .

      1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.

      Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, ďRejoice!Ē

    I can understand you groaning in contempt at Scriptures that tell us to rejoice. It feels as if you are being told to run a marathon when you are already exhausted and you just want to stay snuggled up in your cozy bed. Cheekily hiding in these annoying Scriptures, however, is an exciting and comforting truth. They are saying there is no need to endure the humiliation of allowing ourselves to be reduced to helpless victims of our feelings. We do not have to let moods become monsters that bully us into being their slaves.

    We can rise up, regain our dignity, and take control.

    What renders depression an insidious parasite, sucking the life out of us, is that depression makes it seem too much effort to do the simple things that would help us feel better Ė a little physical exercise, getting out of the house, social interaction, eating healthily, and so on. Christian thinker, C. S. Lewis, plunged into depression after the death of his wife. He described it as being like lying in bed, too cold to sleep, but feeling too tired to pull up a blanket.

    As much as we do not feel like it, we need to seize the initiative and break the impasse by making the effort to rejoice.

    This reminds me of the astonishing power of smiling. Iíve touched on it in several other webpages. Letís bring it together:

      Research has confirmed that forcing oneself to smile broadly for two minutes reliably alters oneís mood. (Grimacing as if in pain has also been shown to alter mood Ė in the opposite direction.) According to researchers, not only are there psychological reasons, there are actually physiological reasons why, even if one feels miserable, the mere act of smiling lift oneís spirits (More).

      ďRejoice evermore,Ē says Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, KJV). What sort of rejoicing produces a solemn face? If a bride had an atrocious headache, wouldnít she smile for the sake of the camera? Is God more important than a camera?

      So deliberately smile. Forcing yourself to smile will initially seem Ė and feel Ė weird, but there are many good reasons for doing so. Even if the grin is entirely artificial, the mere physical act of grinning brightens oneís spirits. It is also likely to aid relaxation, which is also highly beneficial.

      Besides the psychological boost, smiling gives a spiritual boost by reminding you that you have much reason to be calm: you are spiritually safe. By making yourself smile, you are involving your body in an effort to impress upon your entire being that it is appropriate to be happy and at peace and that you can relax.

    * * *

    5. Praise Ė Godís anti-depressant and spiritual telescope

    Imagine you are terrified, expecting to be attacked at any moment by the biggest army the world has ever seen. On every side of you the ground gradually dips away, but if you stand on the tips of your toes, you can just make out the top of the heads of angels forming a single tight ring around you. ďThatís nice,Ē you think, ďbut what are they, against an entire army of invaders?Ē

    Behind you is a huge stepladder. Its rungs are so far apart that it would be difficult to climb. The angels urge you to climb it but youíve got things to do and it just seems too much effort.

    One day, you climb a rung and from that vantage point you begin to see the angelsí bodies. These beings are not as insignificant as you had thought. They are warriors armed for battle. You make the effort to pull yourself up another rung and discover that they are enormous. Each one looks over nine feet tall. Thatís interesting, but they would still be hopelessly outnumbered by the huge army you know could attack at any time. The angels keep urging you to climb higher but you are tired and do not bother.

    Weeks pass. Eventually you decide to give that ladder another try. You struggle up two rungs to where you had reached before and decide to try one more. From there you see to your surprise that behind that ring of warrior angels standing shoulder to shoulder, there is actually a second ring of angels. Thatís comforting but they would still be no match for an army.

    Later, you give the ladder another go and this time climb even higher to discover that behind the second ring of angels is yet another ring. You struggle up another rung of the ladder and see even more angels. Exhausted, you climb down again.

    Eventually you return to the ladder and go higher than ever; discovering that every rung you climb reveals still more angels until you can see not just hundreds, but thousands and then tens of thousands, and from higher still you see hundreds of thousands. By pushing yourself to climb even higher you see millions and then hundreds of millions of fierce warriors eager to defend you.

    Praise is like that hard-to-climb ladder. The higher you go, the more of God you see, and with each rung you discover that God is more powerful and more devoted to protecting you than you had thought. Eventually you discover that God truly is on your side and that nothing that could ever think of attacking you is anything to be concerned about. No one has ever climbed that ladder of praise and worship high enough to fully see how staggeringly stupendous God really is. This is such a vital topic that I urge you to read the link Godís Anti-Depressant provided near the end of this webpage.

bible study

If you have abandoned your past sins and your own attempts to rule your life and have made Jesus your Master Ė surrendering to him and letting him control your life Ė your past is no longer your god. Its power over you has been broken, and ruling in its place is the infinite source and embodiment of love, goodness and kindness. For as long as you let Jesus reign supreme in your life, Jesus, not your past, decides your future, and Jesus is a God of new beginnings:

    2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

    Lamentations 3:22-23 . . . his compassion doesnít fail. They are new every morning . . .

    Ezekiel 11:19 I will . . . put a new spirit within you . . .

    Isaiah 43:18-19 Donít remember the former things, and donít consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. . . .

    Isaiah 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered, nor come into mind.

    Ephesians 4:22-24 that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Emphasis mine.)

Ē*

What happened to us in the past does not determine what will happen to us in the future. As I have written elsewhere:

    The shadow of his affliction fell across his life like a black and bottomless chasm. Reeling under hellish torment, bereft of all his children, cruelly stripped of his reputation, all of his possessions gone, Job coveted death. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing ahead but pain, accusations and despair. Job had nothing to live for (Job 3:1-26; 6:9, 11). Or so everyone thought.

    Before him lay joy and honor, a long and fruitful life, double his past prosperity and the fathering of a superb new family. (Job 42:11-17; compare Job 1:2-3) Job had everything to live for.

    The pain and the glory

        Hounded by defeat,
        Immersed in gloom.
        Confounded by a curse,
        Scorned and spurned.
        Haunted by despair,
        Mocked by words of doom.
        My eyes may fill with tears,
        But not with dread or fear.

        This grub, wings will sprout.
        This down-trodden worm will soar;
        Transformed by redemptive power,
        Set free by the Lord of all.
        No one sees it yet:
        The secretís heaven-kept.
        They mock and jeer
        They do not know;
        Success is slow, but it is sure;
        Though it tarry, it will come.
        All Father touches turns to gold.
        It matters not what others say,
        The winningís done;
        Like Father, like son!

        Founded on his Word;
        Embalmed by love.
        Surrounded by his arms;
        Washed and warmed.
        Granted all I need,
        Buoyed by thoughts above:
        From fear I find release,
        Becalmed by heavenís peace.

    Like vine branches, we are not continually laden with fruit. That would be unnatural. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) For a significant portion of its life, a grapevine is nothing but a dry, twisted stick; fruitless, useless for shade, worthless as timber; to all appearances fit only to be ripped from the ground and reduced to ashes. Yet those barren times are as vital in the life of the vine, as the seasons of fruit.

    If spring could tip-toe past nature without stirring it from its winter slumber; if the sun could slip through the sky without dispelling the night; if rain could fall to the ground without bringing life to the desert Ė only then should you fear dry times, dark times, lean times. Though you feel as useless as a fur coat in a heat-wave, the time will come when your warmth is treasured. For everything there is a season.

    We could stock a library with stories of spectacularly unsuccessful men and women who eventually sparked massive moves of God. Many closed their eyes in death without seeing the fruit their labors finally produced.

    God established the pattern millenniums ago: Abrahamís wife, Sarah, knew nothing but barrenness for ninety distressing years, yet became the ancestress of multiplied millions.

God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would be the ancestors of entire nations, but they remained childless year after year after year after year. They had a choice: to keep themselves miserable by seeing themselves as childless, or to delight and honor God and bubble with happiness by rejoicing that they will end up having millions of descendants. Likewise, you have a choice: make yourself miserable and sadden your loving Lord by looking at your past negatively and imagining that the negative will keep repeating itself throughout your future, or thrill God by getting excited ahead of time that your devoted Lord has wonderful surprises planned for you.

The second option will achieve far more than merely lift your spirits. Any fool can rejoice after the fact but to display your faith by rejoicing before you see it will bring you eternal honor; just as it did for Abraham who is forever hailed as a faith hero, even though he was so much like us that his faith was wobbly.

You might complain that, unlike Abraham, God has not promised you that good things are ahead, but he has done just that in such Scriptures as Romans 8:28 and:

    1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, ďThings which an eye didnít see, and an ear didnít hear, which didnít enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.Ē

    Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us.

    2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory

    Romans 5:3-5 Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesnít disappoint us, because Godís love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

    1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.

    Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep them from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory in great joy

Ponder the implications of these Scriptures:

    Hebrews 13:5  . . . for he has said, ďI will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.Ē

    Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Donít be afraid or scared of them; for the Lord your God himself is who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you.

    Isaiah 41:10 Donít you be afraid, for I am with you. Donít be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

Because the above Scriptures are true, you can say:

    Psalms 31:19 Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for those who fear you, which you have worked for those who take refuge in you, before the sons of men!

    Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the Lordís house forever.

Ē*

Any traumatic or highly unusual experience assumes huge significance in our memories and perceptions of our past. We need to keep cooperating with God in restoring our view of our past and our view of our future. Letís rise to the challenge of seeing things Godís way. Itís a key feature of being Godlike.

When you invite God to rule in your lifestyle and in every decision you make, the past does not determine your future; God does. So no matter how dark your past, your future will be bright. And not just your future; even your past will end up shining in ways you would have thought impossible.

Consider Joseph, whose status lurched from despised brother, to slave, to falsely condemned rapist, to forgotten prisoner, to Head of State. God loves surprise endings. Being sold into slavery in Egypt suddenly turned from calamity to Josephís route to becoming savior of the family through whom the Savior of the world was born. ďYou meant evil against meĒ he told his brothers, ďbut God meant it for good . . .Ē (Genesis 50:20). God loves surprises, and he loves you.

We began this webpage by noting that many lose hope because they confuse human hope with divine hope. Hereís other confusing factor that can dupe us into losing hope: when our hope in the God whose ways are higher than our ways, good will triumph in the lives of those who love him, but we can rarely figure how and when it will happen. If we presume to have guessed, we are likely to disappoint ourselves Ė like a stone-age tribe would be disappointed with a satellite phone if they guessed they were being given a newfangled hammer. In the end, however, it will be proved that Godís choice, method and timing are exquisitely perfect and as superior to ours as every other aspect of God.

Never forget the power of Romans 8:28 Ė that God works all things together for good in the lives of those who love him. The Master Restorer treasures what lesser persons discard. He lovingly and tenderly collects the ugly incidents in peopleís lives that even the owners want to trash. He works on events that people think of as junk and builds on them. He keeps polishing them until they gleam with divine glory and builds on them until they become astonishing works of beauty that all of heaven will admire for all eternity.

For more help in overcoming a damagingly negative view of oneís future, record the web address of this page so you wonít lose this list, then see:

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2014, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

[Much More!] [Bless & Be Blessed by Facebook] [Daily Quotes] [My Shame] [E-Mail Me]
 


 

Bible Versions Used
(Unless otherwise specified)

King James Version

Place mouse or equivalent over a Bible reference on-line

World English Bible
(Slightly Modified)

Appears in the text

For more information, see Bible Version Dilemmas