When It Seems There Is No Hope

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Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.
— Isaiah 57:10

During my Bible reading last week, this verse jumped out at me, and today I would like to make an application with it. Let's begin with the first phrase: Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way. Does the way before you seem great today? Does the path appear long and scary? Troublesome roads can leave us weary, even if we haven't traveled them yet. Just the thought of the way ahead is enough to cause fear and dread. Whether we're facing a stressful day, week or even year, the path before us can evoke anxiety within us, making us weary before even taking the first step.

But look at the next phrase in this verse in Isaiah:  yet saidst thou not, There is no hope.  No matter how tired, weary or fearful we may become, we should never allow ourselves to feel there is no hope. There is always hope. Jesus made sure of that when He came to die and rise again. Not only did He purchase our salvation, but He also bought our right to believe and have faith in the things we cannot see, including the things that lie at the end of the road which we are facing. And as long as Jesus lives, there will be hope.

So how can we tap into that hope? In the midst of our dread and anxiety, how can we remember that God will get us through this? The answer can be found in the very next phrase of the verse above:  thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.   To dispel the fear and worry, we must remember who life is all about and in whose hand our lives are held.  Psalm 27:1 says, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?   The Lord is the strength of my life; therefore, I need not fear anyone or anything. The Bible assures God will never leave me nor forsake me, and because of that, I should not lose hope. If the Lord is with me (and He is), there is nothing I cannot do.

I do not know what road or situation you are facing today, but I urge you to remember these words. Don't lose hope, dear friend. God will get you through this, no matter how impossible it seems. He is walking with you, and His loving arms of protection surround you. Though the way before you may seem daunting, go forward in faith, knowing that the Lord is the strength of your life, and because of that, you can continue to walk in hope.

In Christ, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation!

Are You Settling for Less Than God's Best?

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Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying, Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon, Even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle: Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.
— Numbers 32:1-5

For forty years, the children of Israel wandered in the desert, and here, on the brink of entering the Promised Land, a group decided they don’t want to continue the journey. After viewing the land they had just conquered, the two tribes agreed that where they were at present was good enough.

Good enough. Oh, how those words must break the heart of our loving Father who longs for His children to have the very best. So, why do we do it? Why do we repeatedly settle for less than what God wants us to possess? I have a few ideas.

    1. It’s easier.

Let’s face it, good enough is much easier to accomplish than God’s best. As far as the tribes of Reuben and Gad were concerned, it made sense to them to stay put. The land was beautiful and good for cattle. The enemy had already been driven out. No more warring. No more wandering. Nope, they were ready to settle down and say, “Enough is enough.” Likewise, we often opt for what is easier over what is better simply because we don’t want to put forth the effort to attain God’s best.

    2. It’s quicker.

If the tribes stayed where they were at the time, they were home. No more waiting for the land that seemed too good to be true. We hate to wait, don’t we? The old saying is “Good things take time,” and that’s very much the case in our lives. Sure, we could settle for the spouse, job, home, or ministry that’s good enough, but how much better off would we be if we waited for God’s best? I often wonder how many people, weary of the wait, have settled for good enough only to regret it later.

     3. It’s less risky.

Waiting for God’s best involves risk. For the children of Israel, it meant trusting that the land to which they were heading was indeed wonderful and plentiful. They had to trust God enough to believe it was worth the work and the wait, and evidently, this crowd didn’t. Do we? Are we willing to work and wait for God’s best when it involves risk and even change? Do we believe God enough to put everything out there, holding nothing back? I fear we often cower in the face of making changes and taking risks and decide that where we are—even though it isn’t where we long to be—is good enough. We don’t trust God enough for us to leave the comfort and pleasure of now for what is waiting in the future. So, we settle.

Later in the Scripture and other historical texts, we see where this decision of the two tribes (and half of the tribe of Manasseh who joined them) backfired. While the land was lovely and perfect for their needs, it left them exposed to the enemies surrounding them. Had they crossed the Jordan River with the rest of their people, the river itself would have acted as a protective barrier against those who would seek to destroy them. Instead, they were an easy target for all who decided they wanted the land.

Not only that but in settling for less than what God had promised them, they were separated from the very presence of God. During that time, God manifested His presence in the Tabernacle, which went across the river along with the majority of the children of Israel. Without access to it, these two-and-a-half tribes were cut off from hearing from God and offering sacrifices to Him. When we settle for good enough, we will often find ourselves separated from God in the sense that something is hindering our communication and fellowship with Him. He is urging us to go forward and claim the prize He has for us rather than to be content with less.

Yes, settling for less than God’s best is easier, quicker, and less risky, but I can tell you, without a doubt, it’s not better. Good enough will never satisfy. We will always long for more, forever wondering what could have been if we had put forth the time and effort to seek God’s best instead of settling for things on this side of the river. No one ever regrets seeking God’s best, and God promises if we will seek, we will find.

Just a Bit Farther

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On a recent hike, Jason and I tackled a new trail (well, new to us). The path forked off one of our regular trails to a beautiful waterfall, and we had been intending to try it out for a while now, but it never seemed like the right time. But a couple of weekends back, we had nothing else scheduled for the day, so we figured we would try it. We knew the trail would eventually end up at another waterfall, but we had no idea what the path would be like or how long it would take to arrive at the destination. Still, it was a beautiful day, so the three of us (Jason, Barnabas and myself) headed off down the trail, determined to go as far as we felt like going.

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At several points, we questioned whether we should continue. After all, the waterfall destination could have been miles away. We simply didn’t know. Each time we stopped, we concluded we were doing well physically, Barnabas was having a blast exploring all this new territory, and we were indulging in pleasant conversation, so we might as well continue. At one point, however, we both had to admit our feet were getting tired, and we still had the miles of hiking to return to the Xterra. Still, neither of us wanted to turn around. “I’d hate to come this far and find we were only another half mile or so from the waterfall.”

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So, we continued, and guess what, it was less than half a mile before we were rewarded with the beautiful, cascading waterfall. Not only were we pleased by the sight of the falls, but we were both elated we had pushed on a little farther. What if we had stopped and turned around that last time? What if we had called it quits? How disappointed would we have been when we discovered how close we had come without reaping the reward for our labor?

Sometimes, the path in life is longer than expected, and we feel like giving up. Some days, the journey doesn’t seem worth the effort and energy. Yes, there are times we want to turn around and just be done with it all. But, dear one, I urge you to keep going. Just a bit farther. You do not understand how close you are to reaping the reward for your efforts, how near you are to achieving your goal or reaching your dream. Don’t stop now. You’ve come too far to turn back, especially when you’re so close. Press on, allowing the destination to keep you motivated because you know it will be worth it.

Just a bit farther, my friend. Just a bit farther. You can do it, and God will help you!

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
— Galatians 6:9

A Time for Every Season

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Life is full of seasons, and I’m not referring to spring, summer, fall, and winter. No, I’m talking about the same seasons Solomon spoke of in Ecclesiastes. Each of our lives is full of seasons. A season to attend school. A newlywed season. A child-bearing and child-rearing season. A season of retirement. A season to go, and a season to stay. A season to work, and a season to rest. That’s life!

There was a God-ordained season in my life where I taught kindergarten. Now, the season has shifted to one of full-time ministry in the areas of writing and speaking. But it seems the Lord has more changes in the works—some of which I’m confident, and others I’m still praying about and seeking guidance. Don’t worry though. It’s all good. As far as I know, God still desires me to write and speak. But, soon, I’ll be sharing with you some additions to Dana Rongione Ministries. I have prayed for many hours about this “new season,” and over the past few weeks, Jason and I have worked to bring about the changes that need to be made so we can move forward.

Here’s the crazy thing about seasons—they can be both exciting and scary! There’s something exhilarating about starting a new task or picking up a new hobby, but it can also be quite intimidating. What if things don’t work out the way we think they will? What if we’re no good at the stuff we’re trying to accomplish? What if we heard God wrong, and we’re going in the opposite direction from where He wants us to go? So many questions and doubts.

There can also be a sense of dread related to changing seasons, especially if there’s a lot of money or hard work involved. We dread putting our money into something when we’re not sure it will be worth it. We hate the thought of the time and energy we must invest in getting ready for the new season. Caution tells us to hold back or wait a while, but sometimes, we just have to take the plunge.

My friend, if God is calling you into a new season, there’s nothing to fear. Yes, change is scary, and difficult decisions will have to be made along the way. But, as the old saying goes, where God guides, He provides. God does not call us into a new season without preparing the way for us. As I look back now, I can see how God has been working in our lives before we ever saw the changes coming. He has tweaked us to be ready for the new season. He has provided in ways we never imagined, and I believe He will continue to do so. I have chosen to look forward to this new season as one of wonder and excitement, and I’m eager to see what God will do in and through me during this time.

I challenge you to adopt the same mindset.  Exchange your fear and dread for excitement and wonder. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

Making Lasting Memories

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I am typing this devotion on Thursday, June 21, 2018, the day of my twenty-first wedding anniversary to the love of my life, Jason. My hubby was fortunate enough to have most of today off, so we were able to have a nice, long hike together (with Barnabas too, of course).  

As we walked and talked, we reminisced about our wedding day. Oddly enough, the very first memory we had was a mishap that took place during the lighting of the unity candle. The plan was beautiful. At the beginning of the ceremony, before the bridal party walked the aisle, each set of parents would go to the front of the auditorium, the mothers would climb to the platform and place a single candle on either side of the unity candle. Because of the logistics of walking down the aisle and having candles burning and dripping hot wax during the entire ceremony, we decided it was best to leave the candles unlit until right before the lighting of the unity candle. Easy fix, right? The preacher would pray while the best man (Jason’s dad) lit the two side candles with the lighter he kept hidden in his jacket pocket.

The ceremony was going well, and all seemed in order. The preacher began to pray, the candelabra was put in place and then we heard the “click, click, click.” Jason, the preacher, and I each opened one eye to see what was going on. The lighter wouldn’t catch. Jason’s dad continued to click, click, click the lighter while I whispered to the preacher, “Keep praying.” That had to be one of the most prolonged and awkward prayers in all of history, but in the end, the candles were lit, and the ceremony continued.

As we made our way down the hiking trail this morning, other memories—both of our wedding day and of our life together—surfaced, and we were amused to find that most of them were instances where things didn’t go according to plan. Like the rockslide that delayed our honeymoon. Or the time we used fireballs as the eyes and buttons of our snowman, which looked awesome until the snow melted, at which point, the poor thing looked like the victim of a drive-by shooting. Or the time Jason descended the Alpine Slide without the aid of a cart. Horrible things at the time, but now, those are the things etched the most vividly in our hearts and minds. Isn’t that strange?

It makes me wonder how many events and “tragedies” we face each day that will one day become fond memories. That circumstance looming over you today could be a laughing point two years from now. The hopeless situation you find yourself in could be one of the moments you look back on with tears of joy. That’s the crazy thing about tough times. It’s horrible to go through them, and while we’re in them, it seems they will last forever and that the sun will never shine again. But life goes on, and before long, those tough times are nothing more than a memory. And more often than not, they are the very things we recall because they had the most significant emotional impact on us. But we don’t remember them with feelings of hopelessness or despair but instead with lightheartedness and joy because now that we’re on the other side, we see how trivial they were.

So what if the candles wouldn’t light at the wedding? Would it have made the day any less special? 

So what if we were later than planned arriving at our honeymoon cabin? Did it ruin the trip or dampen our love?

So what if our snowman became a gory mess and frightened children to the point that Jason had to demolish it by driving over it with the car? It didn’t keep us from having a blast while building the snowman to begin with.

As for Jason’s descent down the Alpine Slide, well, it certainly taught me a lot about my daredevil husband and how I never, ever wanted to go on that deathtrap again.

I’m not trying to make light of the situation you may be facing, but would I be wrong in saying we sometimes take life too seriously? Yes, it can be cruel and unfair. Yes, we have problems. But one day, we may be thankful for all of that because it’s part of what makes life exciting and unforgettable. So, don’t think of your difficulties as working through a trial but rather as making lasting memories. After all, a little shift in perspective works wonders!

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
— Romans 5:3-4