Prisoners of Hope

The other day I was reading in the book of Zechariah, chapter 9, in a passage where the Lord declares judgement on the enemies of Israel. As I was reading, these words that God spoke concerning His people Israel jumped off the page:

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you…The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. (Zechariah 9:11-12, 16)

This season has been all about transition for me, the in-between, not where I was, but not yet where I want to be. I have definitely begun to see God moving in several areas of my life where previously I had not seen much fruit. Suddenly, I have been seeing prayers answered and things begin to move in a positive direction. God is taking me by the hand and step by step I am walking forward into what He has called me to. But I have not yet reached, where I am heading.

For a long time, I buried my dreams, because of woundedness, discouragement and disappointment. Recently, I took my dreams off the shelf and began standing in the place of faith and belief once more. When I did that, things started to move. I have noticed though that in this time of transition and in this period of in-between, the invitation to fear is always there. I’ll admit that I have fallen victim to fear several times in the midst of this process. In fact, it seems that the closer I get to where I am heading, fear speaks louder. What does it sound like? It whispers all the old familiar lies. It throws my past up in my face and tells me, “Things will never be different. You will always be disappointed.” It tells me, “Don’t get your hopes up. This is bound to fail.” It tells me, “You have to be crazy to take the risks that your taking, you are only going to fall.” Entertaining these thoughts is a slippery slope. It will skew your perception of your circumstances and lead you away from confident trust in Father God. It will cause you to forget that our Father is a good Father, who gives good gifts to His children, who loves us with an everlasting love and promises to get us to the finish line of the work that He has already begun in our lives.

It is so easy to be a prisoner of fear. I would rather be a prisoner of hope, like the passage in Zechariah describes. I want to be bound and shackled to hope, unable to escape from hope. I want hope to be the pervasive theme of my thoughts that I can’t get rid of. I want to hear echoes of hope resounding in my mind. I want to train my mind to see glimmers of hope in all my circumstances, even the most scary ones. I want to feel hope surging up in my heart as I consistently reflect on the goodness of my Father. I want to hope against all odds. Grounded in hope, I want to be able to take huge leaps of faith, to love people without restraint and to believe without the threat of failure or disappointment.

It’s time to return to our fortress…I often hide behind walls that I have built up to protect my own heart. Over the years, the enemy has helped me to build up these walls brick by brick, layer by layer. Together we have built these walls on the foundation of his deceptions and the lies that he has spoken over me. He has whispered in my ear, “Hide behind this wall and you’ll be safe. Safe from being hurt and safe from failure. Step outside this wall and you’ll be crushed.” We have all built these walls before and one thing that I have learned is that while walls may keep you safe, they also keep you from experiencing the thrill of adventure. They keep you from experiencing life to its fullest, love without reservation and the joy of surprises. They keep you from growing and moving forward. The walls become a prison. They aren’t a fortress they are a prison.

According to google’s definition, a fortress is a heavily protected or impentrable building; a person or thing not susceptible to outside influence or disturbance. This is what God promises to be to us. When we cling to Him, though the storms may rage, we will not be shaken. We are under his protection. We are safe from outside influence and disturbance. Circumstances may fail, but He never fails us. Things may fall apart, but we never will, when we find refuge under His wings. If we are too afraid to try, we will never realize how instead of falling apart, things just might come together. But one way or another, God promises to never leave us alone in the process. People come and go, but He is glued to our side. We can be safe in that and reassured in that. We can hide in Him.

When we choose to let down our walls and instead run to our fortress, Father God, the heavy weights and burdens we are carrying can fall by his feet. We can experience freedom. And freedom looks beautiful on you. I want to be one that sparkles and shines like a jewel in a crown as I experience the freedom that comes with giving up control and putting all my trust in God. I want to smile and laugh and embrace the blessings of each day, as I surrender it all to papa. I’m in good hands.

photo credit

Hanging unto Hope

Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out towards sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!” And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:41-45)

At the time that Elijah began to pray for rain, there was a severe famine and drought in the land that lasted for several years. God had brought the drought and famine due to the wickedness of the Israelites, in turning away to other Gods. God needed for the Israelites to understand that He was sovereign and in control. He had brought the drought and He would be the one to take it away.

As I read this passage recently, God highlighted to me Elijah’s persistence and perseverance in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. At this point, the Israelites were about three years into this drought and there was not a rain cloud in sight. Yet, Elijah’s faith, confidence and trust in God drove him to his knees to pray. Elijah continuously sends his servant to look out towards the sea. Six times his servant brings back a negative report. Not a rain cloud in sight. Elijah does not lose hope or determination. He simply prays again. On the seventh time, a small rain cloud, the size of a man’s hand appears. Elijah knows that the rain is about to come. Sure enough, the rain begins to fall.

This summer, I went through a personal draught/famine of sorts. I was hit with some personal issues and trials that attempted to knock me out of the ring. I struggled to have faith and to keep my hope levels up. In the face of situations that had fallen through and unfulfilled promises, I felt discouraged and disappointed. Somewhere in the process, I guarded my heart against hope and stopped dreaming all together. I reasoned that if I didn’t dream, I couldn’t be disappointed. Another disappointment would be too much to take.

Interestingly enough, around this same time, the small group I attend started talking about dreams. We were instructed to write our dreams down. We would start working together as a group to begin stepping into the dreams God had given us. The last thing I wanted to do was to dust off the dreams I had buried deep in my heart so long ago. I got alone with the Lord and had a long chat with Him. God pointed out to me certain places in my life, where I had given up on hope when things got hard. He showed me where I had doubted myself so severely that I had shrunk back, instead of stepping forward into what He had called me into. He showed me where I had hidden behind the pretense of my spirituality, saying I was perfectly content, needing nothing more. In reality, I had built up walls, not daring to hope for anything more, in a vain effort to guard and protect my own heart. God revealed to me that I had failed to trust Him, during those times that it was important for me to trust Him the most. He had grace and mercy on me and invited me once more into the adventure of dreaming big dreams with Him. I accepted.

Since that time, I have begun standing in the place of faith. My faith grows daily. I have learned not to put all my hope into the specifics, the details, or the process. My hope is in the God who knows how to bring about the best possible outcome for my life and is faithful to complete the work He has started in me. When I shifted my focus from what my situation looks like to who my God is, things started to turn around for the better. As I have begun to stand in the place of faith, I have seen specific prayers answered and I have a knowing in my spirit that I have only scratched the surface of what He will do in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Throughout this process, I am learning what it means to persevere. I am learning what it means to continue in determination. I am learning what it means to hang unto hope and to never give up. I am learning to be like Elijah. In the face of the droughts and famines of life, I want to be one who is not driven to despair, but rather driven to my knees. I want to be one who in eager expectancy stays on the look out for the ways God is moving around me. When nothing I can see with my natural senses changes, I want to be one who doesn’t give up, but who simply prays again and again and again, no matter how long it takes.

From where I am standing, I see the small rain cloud. It’s getting closer and closer. I can feel it in my bones. It’s about to rain.

photo credit