Hope Again

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The winter is fading in Texas and unlike my friends in the Northeast of the United States; my yard and flowerbeds are lush with green. The yard sways with hearty blades and the beds are filled with tiny blooms; unfortunately, they are all weeds. Our winters kill the plants we love, but make no impact on the weeds we hate! It is time to give new plants room to sprout and flourish. It will take a lot of time on my knees and dirt under the fingernails.

Winter for many is a distressing time with dreary days, bare trees, and shorter hours of sunshine. Spring is a time of renewal in nature and also in the spirit of many people. It is a time when nature gives us a living reminder that life can spring from a land that seems dead. It is the season of remembering that the ultimate ‘hope’ is in the resurrection of Christ.

History is crowded with people who seek encouragement in seemingly hopeless times. Perhaps one of the most intriguing accounts is the life of the biblical Job. He had lost his possessions, his children and his health. His spouse became so discouraged and despondent that they became emotionally isolated from each other. His friends confronted him with their insights but they were out of touch and hurtful. It seemed as though God was silent. Job questioned and struggled but continued his faith in God.

We can learn much from Job BUT he did not know what we know.

“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.
But man dies…and is no more.”

Job 14:7-10 NIV

What a beautiful picture from God’s nature – “at the scent of water” it will sprout again. What a heart breaking view that nature has more hope of renewal than people. But he did not know what we know.

“… Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!…”
Luke 24:5c – 6a NIV

Job in his despair still believed that the Lord he is God, even though he did not know the full story. How much greater is our hope this side of the resurrection.

To give hope room to flourish it will take time on your knees and a little dirt under your fingernails.

  • Clear a spot – whether it is replanting a flowerpot or simplifying your day that is cluttered with ‘choking weeds’ like too much mindless TV. Make room for good things. This will require stopping some bad habits and setting boundaries in relationships that negatively affect your spiritual and personal goals.
  • Plant the good – carefully pulling the weeds and leaving the “sleeping” plants takes determination, concentration and attention. You may need to be reminded of what had bloomed before the cold winter and encourage them to bloom again. Remembering positive qualities and activities are key to helping them sprout and grow. Reconnect with people you see living a life that is worth living and follow their ways.
  • Commit to care – sometimes the first step is the hardest but success requires continued attention. Giving the right nutrients, clearing recurring weeds, and a balance of sun and water are all required for continued health. For the believer it is no different. The temptation of letting things take care of themselves will cause all of the effort to be short lived. Steady attention, balance and commitment are ingredients of a life of hope.

It is a new season. For those who are hoping for springtime renewal it will come if we kneel in prayer, work with diligence and remember that “He is risen – He is risen indeed!”

Dr. Bill Heston
Executive Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Houston