Anchored in Hope - Anchored in the Savior
Psalm 42:5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
This week we are excited to welcome guest author Jana Swenson who, along with her husband Jonathan, are our speakers for Family Camp #2 this year. Together they have served for over 30 years in a variety of ministries including 17 years in parish ministry. In addition the online marriage ministry Jana and Jonathan do together, Jana also works as a Development Consultant with Karios & Associates.
A couple of weeks ago, our 27-year old daughter, Caitlyn, called in tears. She was well into her second week of a debilitating migraine. Over the last 6 months, she’s been pain-free for only 35 days. This illness of unknown origin has affected every aspect of her life, leaving her unable to work or enjoy life. Like King David in Psalm 42, her soul was deeply disturbed and her hope had run dry.
It doesn’t take much imagination to identify with this sentiment. Hardship, grief, loss, unresolved conflict, and our own sin threaten and sometimes succeed in stealing our joy. It can happen at a moment’s notice or slowly over time. Scripture uses phrases like “afflicted beyond measure,” “deeply distressed,” “profoundly sorrowful,” and “inwardly restless” to describe the experience of a downcast soul. This certainly was David’s experience, on many occasions.
In stark contrast to his heartbroken cry, David also speaks a word of authority - to himself and to us. “Put your hope in God” he proclaims to our bleeding hearts. Interestingly, the verb "hope" is actually a command in Hebrew. It carries a sense of urgency. A more accurate translation might be: "Hope now! Just do it! Do it now!
A command demands action. Action requires focus, energy and willpower - resources we don’t always have when feeling downcast and disturbed. So what can we do? How do we “hope now!”? We certainly can’t go from the pit of despair to unbridled hope in the matter of minutes. But it’s clear we are to be an active participant in the restoration of our hope. Here’s a process I have found helpful when I’m feeling hopeless:
1. Sit (Still) in the Pit
Our natural instinct is to avoid our pain. We keep busy or distract ourselves with unhealthy things. But those feelings are pretty demanding. They pop up in unexpected places at inopportune times and end up causing more problems. But when we turn and face those feelings, acknowledging them by name, they actually lose their grip on us. As grief and loss expert David Kessler says: “What we run from pursues us; what we face transforms us”.
Sitting still in the pit of our despair long enough to acknowledge the depth of our pain, gives the Holy Spirit time to move in and start working. Oh so gently he calms our hearts and ministers to our spirits. Then when the internal chaos subsides, we experience God’s powerful presence. He becomes our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in a time of trouble.”
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
This is where the seed of Hope is planted - in the stillness of the pit.
2. Let Jesus Hold You
The renowned preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrestled with depression. In a devotion he wrote on Psalm 42 he reminds us that Jesus “did not merely carry our sins in His own body on the tree; He also bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
There’s plenty of evidence in scripture to support this:
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering, Isaiah 53:4a
Then Jesus said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. John 11:32-33
“The reality is Jesus feels every ounce of our pain. As Spurgeon wrote: “He is affected by your trials. Jesus suffers with you and in you; you are a member of His body, and He supports you.”
So here’s what I do when my soul is downcast and disturbed: I picture Jesus sitting with me in the pit. I might pour out my heart to him, or I might not say a word. Either way, it is clear that Jesus understands exactly what I am thinking and feeling. Most importantly, there is no judgement and no advice, only empathy and love. My raw emotions are safe in His presence.
He offers to hold me and I agree. As I rest in his arms, he replaces the heavy yoke around my neck with His - a much lighter one. Peace washes over me and strength returns.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This is where the seedling of HOPE takes root - when we experience Jesus’ love and empathy.
3. Secure the Line
The theme at camp this summer is Anchored in Hope. The image of Jesus as our anchor in the midst of the storms of life is a powerful one. It reminds us that we have been claimed by God and he will never forsake us: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). It reminds us that “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (vs. 37) and “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (vs 39)! When our line is securely attached to Jesus our anchor, Hope will not die.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19
This is where the flower of HOPE blooms - when we secure our line to Jesus, our anchor.
Placing our hope in God when our souls are downcast and disturbed is not easy. At the very least it is a process - a process we need help navigating. My husband, Jonathan, and I wish more than anything we could relieve Caitlyn of her migraines, but we can’t. What we can do, is climb into the pit with her. We can allow her to lament and listen without judgement. We can shoulder some of the burden. We can cry with her. We can remind her that Jesus is her anchor. And we can pray. And that’s what we did the night she called. The next day, without any prompting from us she sent this text:
“I’m been reading the psalms lately. They are helpful.”
Praise be to God in Christ Jesus, the anchor of our souls.
- When have you faced a time in life where hope seems to have run dry? Who has been there to help you through that season in life?
- We often run from pain just as fast as we can. What do you think of Jana's suggestion to sit, to let Jesus hold you, and being sure your to hope is secured to the anchor of Christ?
- When have you found yourself called to get in the pit alongside someone who is hurting and sit alongside them as they journey through a hard time in life?