Graves Into Gardens Devotional
Not sure if you have been there before. The sweet moments of intimacy with Jesus where you know His closeness, are moved by His word and experience the fullness of His spirit. Walking into Sunday services being so close, feet hardly touching the ground as you walk to the stage, grab your music...plug in your instrument. Those are tender, meaningful times of worship; sweet moments of connection with a deep sense of purpose. You hear Him call your name on that mountaintop knowing that He is pleased with you.
It's a long drop falling from a mountaintop. Stepping over the edge of a cliff happens in a flash. Maybe the next morning starts with hot-tempered, overtired toddlers, or a spouse up too many times in the night with the baby. Sharp words over coffee and running late into the sanctuary where you feel like an ash heap. Feet heavy walking to the stage, heart pounding with guilt for displays of impatience and anger; plugging in your guitar, checking the monitor levels you feel unworthy. The worship set ends, and the imposter syndrome weighs heavy on your heart as you reflect on the morning. And then...you hear Him. He tenderly calls your name down into that valley. Yes, He still calls your name.
And provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. - Isaiah 61:3
Mountains or valleys, He doesn't differentiate your position. He just invites you to come. Bring the sacrifice of praise and offer your gift. Shame into glory. Beauty for ashes. Not because of anything you did, but because of everything He is! He is the only one who can re-shape your broken, battered self. He is the God who turns mourning to dancing and your shame into glory. Those dry and brittle bones creaking in your weary soul find refreshment in His presence. Go to Him bruised with your failures and flaws out there in the open. Nothing is better than a touch from the Father.
Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. "Graves into Gardens" is a song performed by Elevation Worship and singer-songwriter Brandon Lake. "Graves into Gardens" was released as the second single from their eighth live album. The song was written by Brandon Lake, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, and Tiffany Hammer.
Last Updated: February 21, 2021
Phil Wickham's House of the Lord is a celebration shouting out praise to our God who made a way for us. His presence and provision billow up and overflow from grateful hearts. When you experience His joy, or when you have been rescued and set free, it is hard not to shout out with joy from the mountaintops. Is there joy in your house? A joy that bubbles up, spills over, and leaves your world just right. Maybe you glimpse joy walking along a forest trail, watching your kids play outside, or having that first-morning cup of coffee. Possibly, it is sunsets, sunrises or walking along the beach that does it for you; the moments we feel like our most authentic selves and right there in the middle of this moment, we feel it - deep and steady as a heartbeat - joy. There's joy in the house of the LordThere's joy in the house of the Lord todayAnd we won't be quietWe shout out Your praise But, have you noticed that it doesn't take much to steal your joy? How quickly deep contentment like this can be snatched away? Slipping from your soul the moment you see "that" look from the store clerk and realize you forgot to lift your mask up to cover your nose. You know the look: the judgy eyes, furrowed brows, the look of deep disapproval. Sometimes joy is stolen in moments when family or friends comment or question your decisions, their words laced with sarcasm, passive aggression or explicit judgment. Ever disagreed with a friend and then been ghosted, unfollowed or blocked? And one of the biggest dangers lurks on social media platforms—conversation threads enticing responses and disrupting contentment and joy both for the reader and the ones who post. We don't even have to post a comment to be and feel disturbed by what we read. Joy, peace, and provision. In His house, there will be joy. In His house, we will experience peace. In His house, we will have all that we need. If there is joy in the House of the Lord, we should expect to experience it. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7, NIV) If we have confident assurance that our God is near, that He heals, and that He saves, why isn't joy plastered like wallpaper all over our social media platforms, filling our feeds? Because our lives are messy, complicated and we are easily prone to distraction and disappointment. The most common presenting issue in my counseling office is anxiety. Anxiety (fear) and joy rarely co-exist. The emotional marathon of 2020 left some of us depleted with a lingering sense of dread for the next hard thing. Maybe we are having trouble concentrating or feeling stuck and unsure how to get moving again. Some are not excited to re-engage socially when given the freedom to do so. Others report feeling aimless, like wandering through the day looking through a foggy window. With so many unknowns in the days ahead, hope for change is waning. There is a word to describe this -- it is called languishing. Someone described it to me like this: "It's been like hitting a dead end at every turn in a cornfield maze. In the beginning, it was a game, and we were set on winning and persevering. There was all this adrenaline to make it through and to overcome the obstacles. One dead-end isn't discouraging because you've only been in the maze for a short while, and you have a lot of energy to keep pressing through. But now, hitting one detour after another ... having to pivot and change directions has become tiresome. I want to stop playing and have someone rescue me. If I could shoot up some flares and have someone lift me to safety, I'd do that." The thought of experiencing life as a maze is so dark and heavy compared to the contagious joyful expression of praise in the "House of the Lord." What do we have to shift in order to have more sustainable joy? At any given moment, you can respond in one of two ways: Either your authentic best self may show up, or your more compromised version of yourself may appear. Think of being overtired, hungry, distracted, or frustrated, and suddenly someone cuts you off in traffic or drops the entire carton of milk all over your paperwork sitting on the kitchen island. Sidestepping all grace, words and gestures fly from your body quickly without much thought. You react rather than reflect, and your compromised self shows up strong and powerful. Though the fig tree does not budand there are no grapes on the vines,though the olive crop failsand the fields produce no food,though there are no sheep in the penand no cattle in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord,I will be joyful in God my Savior.(Habakkuk 3:17-19) Or maybe this is more you. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you land upon a post from a "friend." It is outlandish, offensive and flies in complete contradiction to all your values. In fact, you can't imagine how you didn't know this "friend" felt this way. Thoughts rush in: "what an ignorant comment to make," and "how can they call themselves Christian?" or "how can they believe that garbage is true?" Think about the last time you read something online that annoyed you, rattled you with such intensity that you reacted and responded rashly, or maybe you just muddled it over and over for days after. And, we keep going back to check that post to see what new absurd comments are being made, further disturbing our thoughts and disrupting our sense of calm. Criticism, judgment, seeing myself as the expert, name-calling, and hiding behind anonymity. These joy-robbers, peace-stealers, and grace-dismantling thoughts lead us directly into disappointment, anxiety and impulsiveness. We react rather than reflect. Our behavior becomes quick and prickly. Our compromised selves have sharp edges and tend not to respond well to correction from others. Not surprisingly, you may find yourself irritable, distracted, and sensitive to criticism and judgment in this state. So what can we do when we find ourselves in a prickly, reactive, critical way? Take a social media break and tend to the garden of your heart. Resist the pull to respond. "Whatever momentary self-satisfaction we experience when we entertain it leaves behind darkness and a hardness of heart — like cement that begins to cure while we're standing in it up to our knees." (The Chosen Book Two: 40 Days with Jesus. Day 8 Love) Lift your eyes above your circumstances and reconnect with the Prince of Peace. Sing praise and worship, allowing His truth to wash over you. He heals, He saves, and He is still rolling away stones. He makes a way through every dark valley or risky mountain climb. He will give you what you need to face the tricky places you find yourself in. But His direction, leading, and heart will not be easy to hear or find if you have not attuned to Him. We grow close to those we spend the most time with, and intimacy is cultivated intentionally, mindfully and with consistency over time. We sing to the God who healsWe sing to the God who savesWe sing to the God who always makes a way Come back to the revelation that we are the house of the Lord. We are the body. We are not a building. We are a people. How we engage with the world reflects how deeply His presence has touched us. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. House Of The Lord was written by Phil Wickham and Jonathan Smith.
We've been on stand-by for the birth of our first grandchild for what feels like forever. As her due date came and went, the waiting game began. She received her eviction notice but seemed particularly content in her womb. Anticipation of her arrival intensified every day that first week in April. Pondering and praying one morning, I heard myself whisper, "I love her already". We do love her already. We have seen more ultrasound photos of her sweet little hands, feet and pouty little lips than all her aunt and uncles' in utero pictures combined! We love her already. Finally, on the evening of April 12, with one text, we learned she arrived! Listening to our firstborn son describe the birth of his first while hearing her precious newborn cries in the background is a moment we won't soon forget. Our son and daughter-in-law planned for a home water birth with the support and expertise of midwives. They had a plan!! The thing we newly-minted grandparents know all too well is that we can't plan for everything. The baby came fast and furious, opting to forego midwifery's arrival and instead make her appearance before any help had arrived. Our granddaughter made her entrance into her Daddy's waiting embrace on the bathroom floor of their home. Two parents already in love with their daughter caught her and welcomed her into their family. So much is happening in our hearts. We are delighted that the baby arrived safely, shocked that they delivered her on their own, and in awe of these waves of love and affection moving through our hearts and minds. We loved her already. That word "already" implies a great deal, before a specified or implied past, present, or future time. "Already" happens before she masters anything; before she shows that unique achievement before she meets any goals or reaches any milestones, we loved her before any past, present, or future accomplishments. Our granddaughter doesn't know how to "do" anything to earn our affection, we love her already. Babies intuitively know how to take in our love. It is hardwired into them to reach for and cry for affection. They respond to our gaze, and they are calmed by our hummed hushes. Responsive, loving caregivers provide comfort to babies when they are in distress, and children learn to trust their parent's safety and love. Holding my granddaughter, watching her eyes move towards her daddy's voice, my heart bursts; she knows her daddy's tone and affection. She is drawn already to his expressions of love for her. As I sit, feeling the depth of this love billowing up inside me, a steadying hush settles me. I have this thought: His love is greater. We gathered, admiring our little one. She showed no discomfort with our adoration. She wriggled, startled when we shifted her from one family member to the other, but she was deeply content held in our affection. Someone whispers: "I love her already." We all smile in agreement. We do. We love her already. We loved her before, but now the love is immeasurably magnified with a "presence" we can see, touch and kiss. Again, this thought: His love is greater. Yes, greater, deeper, more profound, more enduring, His love is greater. Can you take it in? Can you linger and receive this enduring love that God has for you? Our life experiences distort our receptive capacities. Our attachment systems, hardwired in at birth, are disrupted by disappointment, unmet needs, losses, grief; all the hard stuff of relationships. Over time some of us may close off their receptive capacities staying protected and hidden. Closing our hearts from others creates a false sense of safety, but we remain distant and disconnected from others. We might find it challenging to receive human affection or love, dismiss our need for it, or shift to people-pleasing to earn love and affection. These distortions in our receptive capacity to take in love and affection show up in our human connections and will undoubtedly appear in our relationship with God. Consider your own receptive affective capacity to take in human affection: When someone says to you: "You sang beautifully this morning," or "This meal is delicious." Do you bat that compliment back so quickly, you startle the giver? We mumble things like, "It was ok," or "I don't know, it was a bit overcooked." How uncomfortable do you feel? Imagine sitting for a moment in the discomfort of someone's affection for you, when you have heard heartfelt messages of appreciation like these: I admire you.I respect you.You are gifted.You bring such joy into my life.I love spending time with you.You are funny.I love you. Shake off the false humility that wants to pass back these words and allow yourself time to take them in and notice what happens inside. Allow yourself to be touched, moved, and loved. Then, you can take it a step further. His love for you is greater. His love for you is passed, present and future -- it is already. Without you doing a thing. Nothing right, nothing wrong, nothing outstanding. His love is "already" for you. We are invited to experience His love. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 19-21, NLT) His love. His love is greater than the billowing up, indescribable warmth spreading through my chest as I hold my granddaughter. His love is greater than the joy escaping through my breath mixed into the tears streaming down my face when I heard her first cries over the phone.His love is greater. Don't miss it. The totality of God's love for us, already matured. It won't grow or deepen. We don't have to be alarmed by this -- His affections won't become more evident, deepen or shift because His love for us is at the greatest depth we could ever hope or imagine. He loves us already. His love isn't dependent on "getting to know us." He isn't the grandparent waiting to hold a newborn grandchild. He knows us. He fully knows us. Our past, present, and future selves are known. And He loves with more depth, breadth, and presence than our minds can comprehend. Be held in the Father's love for you. Close your eyes and drink that in. You are fully known. God knows all the places and parts of you, the ones you share and the ones you hide, and He loves you. Go deeper into Christ's love. "This song has honestly been a reminder for me that God is everything we'll ever need. My prayer is that everyone who listens to this is reminded of the Father's heart toward us and that He loves to take care of us." (Naomi Raine, Maverick City, JFH) Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Promises was written by Dante Bowe, Aaron Moses, Joe L. Barnes, Keila Marin, Lemuel Marin, and Phillip Carrington Gaines, and recorded by Maverick City.
I was soaking in Maverick City Music / Elevation Worship's song Jireh this weekend and I feel stretched. At the first phrase, my chest tightened, and a lump of emotion rose in my throat catching my breath -- I'll never be more loved than I am right now. Do I believe that when I have Him, I have everything? Do I believe that He is enough? It's more than you ask, think or imagineAccording to His power, it's working in usIt's more than enough Walking the dog with this song speaking to my heart, I realized the words hit me hard because of how sickly contradictory the world can feel right now. I haven't noticed the boldness of others trusting in God's provision, or witnessed courage and confidence in the face of calamity. Maybe it is my job, or my social media platforms? Maybe it is just situational with our current circumstances? But what seems to be more visible is a message like this: don't trust anyone; protect yourself, be on guard! Some hold firm to the belief that those in authority are out to get them, so be cautious and don't believe what they say. Extreme responses and conspiracy theories pop up on every social platform. They are all too familiar. Be vigilant ... be wary — question everything. We tend towards cognitive bias; a confirmation bias based on overvaluing the information confirming our already-established beliefs and expectations. Our preferences can be rigid, leaving us immovable and unwilling to engage our curiosity to consider alternative perspectives. Interactions quickly deteriorate if our primary goal in communication is to hear we are right. The evidence of this is everywhere. Navigating around the cesspool of opinions feels dangerous. When I manage to offer the grace or understanding or lay down my expectations and face someone's disapproval without blowing my top or losing my mind or wits, I look for a reward. I want someone to notice and say, "Good job, I saw you didn't fight back,...good for you for taking the higher road!" or, "Hey, well done for showing so much patience!" Honestly, please give me a gold star or a button to wear because loving difficult people is exhausting. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV) I will tell you something I have learned about myself: my love is shakeable, circumstantial, and dependent on how I feel. I gravitate towards those who are easy to love and find myself avoiding the people who are difficult to love. There, I said it! I avoid difficult people. I am not proud of the way I hide, but I am so aware of my need for Jesus when I make this explicit. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV) We can't love our critics without Jesus. Look around you. Read those political threads. Witness the virus debate, the vaccine dialogue, and the COVID conversations: our love is fickle. Our love goes up in flames when our opinions or perspectives feel attacked. We justify our cruel, critical commentary, becoming instant experts because we disagree. Allow this thought to reach your soul. God loves that difficult family member, that defensive person online, and that government official you find offensive or out of touch. And if in the moment, you cannot show up with love, step aside and get out of His way. Forever, always and more than enough. He responds with perfect love. Our God sees the issues with perfect clarity, and we do not. His viewpoint, perspective, and wisdom are above all our circumstances. Nothing written, spoken, or even implied comes as a surprise to Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3, NIV) Yes, sometimes it can be hard to trust people. Friends, family, co-workers will disappoint us, let us down, and fall short. You will bump into difficult people who stretch you, test your patience and hurt your feelings. I hope this doesn't come as a surprise to you, but there will be moments that YOU are the difficult person. When we feel threatened by someone's response or judged unfairly, try lingering longer in His love. Be reflective, not reactive. His love is enough. He has chosen you. No one can stand in the way. No words spoken over you or to you can dismantle the heart of His message about you. He loves you. When we can take this in and allow our hearts to be changed by His love, our responses to others then changes, too. This song has honestly been a reminder for me that God is everything we'll ever need. My prayer and hope is that everyone who listens to this is reminded of the Father's heart toward us and that He loves to take care of us. (Naomi Raine of Maverick City) Thank you Jesus for your love that your love is more than I could fathom or imagine — it doesn't change; it does not depend on how we react or feel. Thank you, Jesus, that I'm already loved. That it is forever and always more than enough. Maybe if I stay close to God's way of loving me, I will get a taste of how I can love others better. After all, I do believe that is part of His plan. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Jireh was written by Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, Chandler Moore, and Naomi Raine. Jireh was recorded by Maverick City and Elevation Worship.
Do you remember the worst moments of your life? Burning recollections that flare up, taunting you with a sense of failure and shortcoming. Wretched moments. Do you remember feeling a sense of hope after a long winter season? Times when grace and peace brought you to your knees in gratitude. Salvation moments. Moments when you were rescued from the miry clay, and delivered safely to solid ground on the other side of the raging rivers. We are wretched. Standing rigid by someone you love, unwilling to acknowledge your mistake when you betrayed their trust. Seeing the pained expression on your child's face when you lost your cool, holding fast to your right to discipline. Letting that hurtful, harsh criticism fly from your mouth without regard for how it cut through the heart of a friend. We are wretched. Maybe you don't see glimmers of yourself in the scenes above. Maybe you have been the one hurt. Your spouse cheated. Your parents screamed at you. Your friend betrayed your trust. The disappointment and pain held weighed down, pulling you into the darkness of despair. You longed for relief -- but the relief didn't come -- in desperation, you looked for an escape from the pain. We are wretched, but the story does not end there. Charity Gail's, Thank You Jesus For The Blood is a powerful reminder of how Jesus has rescued us. He plucks out of the pit where there is loneliness and heartache. The words of this song put a layer of truth on top of our pain, making us whole again. When I was lost, Jesus "broke my chains, freed my soul. For the first time, I had hope." Sometimes the lyrics of a song reach deep down inside, and we recognize ourselves as the melody moves through each verse. We all have a rescue story. Maybe for you it is addiction, or like me, despair. Perhaps you are still trapped behind a curtain of anxiety or doubt. Maybe you come from a long history of broken relationships or epic failures in life. When we find ourselves stuck in the muck, wounded on the battlefield, scarred by hurt from those around us, we need rescuing. I know a thing or two about being rescued. Almost 20 years ago, my world shifted dangerously. My darkest days came after the birth of our fourth child. Hopelessness descended on me like a dark, heavy curtain. Imagine the inner conflict, holding a brand new life and simultaneously wanting to run away from it all. I experienced what felt like an unyielding sorrow -- my heart breaking into a million pieces. No one could see my pain. No one could help. I felt all alone. My secret strength and shield around me,You are salvation's ray of brightness shining on the hillside,Always the champion of my cause.So all I need to do is call out to You,Singing to You, the praise-worthy God.And every time I do, I'm safe and sound in You.When the spirit of death wrapped chains around meWhen terrifying torrents of destruction overwhelmed meAnd took me to death's door, to doom's domain;I cried to Him in my distress, the delivering God,And from His temple-throne He heard my troubled cry. My sobs came right into His heartAs He turned His face to rescue me.-“Psalms: Poetry on Fire,” Psalm 18:1-6, Brian Simmons My journey through the winter season of depression was a road of darkness I would rather not travel again. However, that painful journey took me to places with Jesus that I may have otherwise missed -- this is my experience of the Kingdom like a double-edged sword. My heart both ached and soared as I turned to God and God alone. I learned the upside-down truth that even in my distress, God is good, faithful, and He is for me. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2-5, NIV) I have journals filled with scripture -- the truth of the Word written out letter by letter. Writing scripture and soaking in worship helped me create a roadmap through the dark nights of my soul. I experienced God's goodness as He healed places deep inside me. He is the faithful God who stayed in the boat with me through all the stormy seas and never left me to drown. Is your current season dark and heavy around you? Are you more connected to being wretched than hopeful? Settle in and take a moment to let the words of worship wash over you. Be encouraged by the tender-hearted truth of Jesus. He is for you. Thank You Jesus, for the blood appliedThank You Jesus, it has washed me whiteThank You Jesus, You have saved my lifeBrought me from the darkness into glorious light We all need rescuing. We all have dark, wretched moments. There is nothing more powerful than the blood of Jesus poured over the stormy seas of our own disasters. Thank you, Jesus, for the "wonder-working power of your blood.” See the full interview behind the song Thank You Jesus For The Blood here. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Thank You Jesus For The Blood was written by Charity Gayle, David Gentiles, Steven Musso, Ryan Kennedy, and Bryan McCleery.
We received a text from our mother at 9:31 am on July 30th, 2020. "I think Dad died!" He died in his workshop. His death was shocking. This weekend we will gather as a family to remember him -- one year later. Dad lived life on his own terms and left deep, tender impressions on our hearts. For you, the words may have been different, but the pain is familiar. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes it is expected and sometimes it comes out of nowhere. Some waves feel manageable, bumping us around with flashes of memory -- even bringing a soft smile to our face. Like the moment you find a picture of your loved one that reminds you of the years gone by. It is tenderly sweet and sad all at the same time. Other waves pick you up and slam you underwater, trapping you in an undertow that threatens your very next breath. What have been the words that left your world forever altered? Your mom has Alzheimer's. Your dad has cancer. Your daughter's baby died before she took her first breath. Your husband wants a divorce. Heartache. No one escapes it. Our experiences look different, but suffering is the human condition. A mark of our frailty. All are at risk of feeling pain. In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials for a little while. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6,7) I wrestle with the scripture inviting me to rejoice in my grief. In the moment when waves of pain crash over me, the last thing I think about is rejoicing. I am more focused on breathing through the unbearable ache that comes with loss. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3) Phil Wickham's song, Hymn of Heaven, offers words that we can sing while being tossed by the waves of sadness. The song acknowledges our vulnerability and desperation, inviting our hearts to lean into the end of the story when death and suffering are no more. Whatever your experience with grief, whatever waves crash around you today, there is a promise waiting. The breath of Heaven is coming. When He returns to wipe away our tearsOh, there will be a day when all will bow before HimThere will be a day when death will be no more Maybe there is room for hope and grief to co-exist? One that grieves and one that rejoices as we look towards a future with Jesus. It doesn't have to be an either/or option ... maybe it is a both/and journey. Not "either I grieve, or I rejoice," but "I can grieve and rejoice in my suffering." We don't have to deny our pain to prove our faith. The songs of faith we sang through doubt and fearIn the end, we'll see that it was worth itWhen He returns to wipe away our tears Thank you, Phil Wickham, for writing music that invites our humanity to exist side by side with the heart of Heaven. This is the kind of worship we can sing with all the pieces of us -- harmonizing the places that ache and the parts that celebrate! Hymn Of Heaven was written by Phil Wickham, from the album Hymn Of Heaven.Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children.
Ever faced a vast army? Have you walked alone down your driveway to see an angry mob glaring back at you waiting for you to cross the residential boundary line so they could attack? Would you turn around and run back inside? The story in 2 Chronicles describes a vignette like this and is the inspiration behind the song Battle Belongs. The people of God find themselves facing a war they cannot win without help. In 2 Chronicles 20, one of my favorite stories in the Bible, a huge army has amassed to come against the people of God," Wickham explains. "Every time I sing Battle Belongs, it pumps me up because we know that in anything we might face, our God is bigger. I hope this song reminds people that He is with us and for us. If we stand firm and hold our position, we will see the salvation of the Lord on our behalf!" - Phil Wickham We have been facing a pandemic for some time now, and it isn't the virus. The most common presenting issue in my counseling office is anxiety, along with the unbearable feeling of being alone. Unbearable aloneness is the current crisis we face. We may be a part of community groups, bible studies, ministry teams, surrounded by others, and yet, feel lonely. Surrounded by people and still feeling alone seems incongruent. But it is sadly common and very understandable. Aloneness is the vast army many of us face. I will feel alone, not just in the absence of people around me, but when the people around me don't know who I am. Ask yourself: who knows me? Who knows me at my best along with the side of myself when I am compromised? Does my compromised self stay hidden? When you feel anxious, angry, or disappointed, are you alone in those moments? At any given time, we can be our best selves or our worst selves. In my work, I notice that we often feel uncared for when we are showing up less than our best selves. When we are afraid that we won't be heard, accepted, or understood, we don't allow others to see behind the curtain of our one-dimensional "Instagram-worthy" personas. We hide from the potential for criticism or judgment. We present only the parts of ourselves that we decide are worthy of being known. We are often validated to keep offering only the good because we experience the same criticism and judgment we fear when we show up compromised. In 2 Chronicles 20, it says "You will not have to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf". – Phil Wickham Do we hold to the distorted belief that we can only bring our best selves to worship? Isn't the better way to hope that our faith communities would be safe for us to show up no matter what? Sadly, many are not. People who have been hurt by church communities often end up in offices like mine. They have been minimized, victimized, and shamed because they risked showing more vulnerable parts of themselves and faced rejection or invalidation. They heard hollow, spiritually sounding phrases; vain attempts meant to offer hope but left them feeling broken and damaged. Hurting people are told to, "cast all their cares onto Jesus," "trust He has a plan," or that "God is using this season to grow you." There is truth in these words, but if we over-spiritualize distress, we serve to protect only ourselves from our discomfort witnessing someone else's pain. If I offer you some spiritual platitude when you bring me your pain, I only create distance between us, and you are left feeling alone with it. For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. – 2 Chronicles 20:12 Unbearable aloneness is the crisis we face today. Why are we not brave enough to be with another while they are in pain? Please resist the temptation to rush in to fix, to offer some empty spiritual words; instead, allow each other space to be in it. My Christian clients are often very relieved to hear that they can feel an emotion from beginning to end, and it doesn't mean they are not "trusting" in the Lord. I have witnessed the great misconception or belief that rewards and commends chasing after emotions like joy or peace but criticizes all negative emotional experiences. What if we stopped being afraid of emotions…both the ones that reside in ourselves and the ones we witness in someone else? What if we humanized emotion? By our very design, God gives us the neurobiological mechanisms to have feelings and respond to His creation. We can be in awe. We can feel joy. We know sadness.We feel anger … and we can be disappointed, hurt, and betrayed. All of this is what it means to be human: we feel. Emotions show up in our bodies, wired into our physiology. When we pay attention or notice them, they do come and go like waves come and go. Pathologizing people as "too emotional" or labeling emotions as good or bad feeds loneliness. Emotions exist to help us experience the world God created. But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze; For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. – Isaiah 43: 1-3 Unbearable aloneness is like a vast army standing against us. When faced with profound loneliness, our Father says: I will be with you! It is a battle cry, your war song. Wherever I am, in the middle of the storm, falling from the mountain top or dragging myself across the desert wasteland. My God is with me…undoing my aloneness. In the face of the loneliness experienced globally, knowing that He chooses to be close to me even when I am at my worst, is deeply encouraging. Imagine the healing possibilities for us if we could be with one another in our pain, sorrow, and disappointment and undo the aloneness so prevalent in our world. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Battle Belongs © 2020 Phil Wickham Music, Simply Global Songs, Sing My Songs (Admin by Essential Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing CCLI Song No. 7148126.
Ever feel like an imposter? A pretender who is supposed to be full of faith and love but is also full of a bunch of other less desirable stuff? On the one hand, we confess to know Jesus and love our neighbor while our other hand thinks our neighbor is an annoying git? If others knew the thoughts of our hearts, we would be tossed out on your keister. Doubt and shame can hover like a dark shadow. Maybe your thing is a deeply held insecurity you try to keep buried. Your job is secure. You are relatively successful in your work or even wildly successful in your career. On the outside, no one would know the beast of self-doubt that lurks in the dark corners of your heart. Even with all the worldly successes, you wonder if you are enough. All the wrestling on the inside is not hidden from the God who created us and calls us by name. Sit on that and let the shiver snake down your spine. He knows our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts, and his response is to love. Watching the Maverick City's video for I Thank God, I wanted to jump in with equal expressions of gratefulness. God knows all the deep, hidden corners of my inner world, and He isn't repulsed. He invites me closer. The gift in that invitation is that as I move closer and those hidden areas light up with His presence, they are changed. I am changed. The darkness fades, and the light shines more brightly. Because He healed my heartHe changed my nameForever free, I'm not the sameI thank the MasterI thank the SaviorI thank God Maybe you are in recovery - or have been labeled as anxious or depressed. Overidentifying with labels is dangerous. I am not a fan of labels unless they help me learn how to take care of something. Clothing labels help us decide whether to hang it up or throw it in the dryer. A food label helps determine the expiration date. But labels on people are harmful. Labels on people put us in boxes with sides too high to climb. He is in that boat with you. You are not alone. I say I am broken, but God says He makes me whole. "So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority" (Colossians 2:10). A more vulnerable truth might be that we are all in some sort of recovery. Recovering from broken hearts and broken lives. Recovering from what we created and what we have to deal with but never asked for. We face the dangers from within and the chaos all around us. Our slowly drifting, weary souls leave us battered and bruised. Got no choice but to believeMy doubts are burningLike ashes in the windSo, so long to my old friendsBurden and bitter nightYou can't just keep them movingNo, you ain't welcome hereFrom now 'til I walkThe streets of goldI'll sing of how You saved my soul We tend to want people to look and act a certain way, and deviations from the center typically don't fit in well. Variations often find themselves isolated and silenced. I'll sing of how You saved my soulThis wayward sonHas found his way back homeHe picked me upTurned me aroundPlaced my feet on solid ground Let's tell some truth. All fall short of center. On my worst days, you would run and hide if my heart was exposed before you. I have experienced anger so intense my teeth chattered. I have cursed in ways that would curl paint of the walls, but I also create safe spaces for vulnerable people to share their deepest emotional wounds. And if it happens in me, I know some dark things happen inside you, too. Wandering into the nightWanting a place to hideThis weary soul, this bag of bonesAnd I tried with all my mindAnd I just can't win the fightI'm slowly drifting, oh bag of boneAnd just when I ran out of roadI met a man I didn't knowAnd he told meThat I was not aloneHe picked me upHe turned me aroundHe placed my feet on solid ground I do thank God! He invites all to come close, no matter how visible the flaws. Have you dangerously tight roped your way through major depression? Have you felt your heart tear with sorrow holding vigil with a loved one in the ICU? That's my story, so what is yours? And if He did it for me, He can do it for youIf He did it for me, He can do it for youGet up, get up, get upGet up out of that grave God doesn't define you by your mistakes. He gives you a new name! He sees you in a way that the world may not. His vision of you is through the lens of His sacrifice. His blood for our life. God calls you up. He will not push you out because you haven't mastered or cleaned up every area of your life. Get up out of that graveIf He did it for me, He can do it for you Be encouraged. Join in the dance of gratefulness. Worship with Maverick City and thank God for grace - and His unfailing love. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. I Thank God was written by Maverick City Music from the album Move Your Heart.
I remember when the worship team first introduced the new song The Blessing. It was one of the last in-person weekend services before the first wave of COVID hit our area. As these powerful words reached our hearts, the Spirit moved profoundly through our auditorium. One by one, people stepped to the front of the church, hands raised, hearts opened to receive the gift in the blessing. The echo of this melody prepared our hearts for what was coming. We didn't know how much we needed to hear this. The timely reminder that His presence surrounds us; how He hems us in both behind and beside. While our world waged war with the invisible threat, The Blessing reminded us that through every hour of every day, our Father's face turns towards us. In the morning, in the eveningIn your coming, and your goingIn your weeping, and rejoicingHe is for you Thinking back how we basked in the radiance of His presence on that Sunday, I wonder if those sweet moments of tenderness mattered when the road became rocky? When we faced social distancing precautions as the unknown divided households, communities and countries. Facing disappointment, heartache, and fear did we lean towards hope in the promises of God? Were we comforted by the faithfulness of our Father who is for us? Or did our doubt and frustration spill out everywhere over everyone? Our God Is For Us When your kids can't graduate with their classmates, and your daughter cries herself to sleep. When your school moves to online classes and you fail pre-calculus because online learning is hard. When you have to homeschool your kids, yet don't know what the heck you are doing. When Zoom meetings give you headaches, and your office shuts down, leaving you without a paycheque. When the venue cancels your wedding, and your dreams go up in flames. When you don't meet for the holidays with your family, but notice your neighbours not following the public orders or precautions. With all the information and opinions online, you hardly sleep at night worrying about what to believe. During all that sadness, confusion and heartache, do you believe: He is for us? Our God Transforms Your Mourning In early 2020, collective grief and suffering fractured and divided our families, cities, and countries. We lost loved ones. We faced loneliness, disappointment, and restriction in our movements. Displaced from our pews and meeting centers, we faced sickness, death, and the disorderly conduct of family, friends, and associates who aligned on one side or another regarding precautions, advisory notices, and public orders. We may have watched our frustration rise and fall, and seen the way fear ran through social media posts. We moved to smaller spaces and fewer faces, but the blessing of our God never diminished. In the months that have passed, have we boasted in the hope of the glory of God? Did we glory in our sufferings? Did we share the hope of our Father's love...a love poured out for us? Or did we only mourn? Please hear this ... mourning is healing. Rationalizing away hurt and disappointment is one of the great ruptures found in church communities. A belief that if we feel pain, we do not have faith. We don't have to invalidate the pain, to receive the blessing. We are not without faith if we acknowledge the losses around us. We are not without faith if we feel disappointed about the changes and adjustments our families have made in response to this global pandemic. But, we don't have to stay immobilized by pain either. Our God Meets Us In The Middle Of The Mess What will you remember? Standing here in the middle space between The Blessing and our mourning of what is lost, will you remember the precious moments of singing about the radiance of His face turning towards you? Will you remember that He is for your children and your children's children? Will you remember that He turns our mourning to dancing? Will you take the brave and courageous steps to let your neighbors, work associates, and family know that they do not have to walk this journey without help? Peace in the midst of our disappointment and sorrow is possible -- not because we avoid or minimize the pain, but because we find peace in His presence. Hear this good word? The brilliance of the blessing is in the abundant, faithful love of the Father. Our Father in heaven turns His gaze towards us. Our circumstances do not change the blessing offered to us. When your circumstances blurry and muddy His plans and purposes and you are weary, He is for you. He is with you while you wander in the wilderness in the same way He is for you when you praise Him on the mountaintop. When you fall on your knees, head bowed in grief…He is for you. When you reach your arms to the heavens in gratitude, He is for you. Our circumstances do not change the heart of the Father…He is now and forever will be your more than enough. Our circumstances change, our God does not. Let this truth matter…take it in. Our God Has Not Moved Entering into 2021, this promise in The Blessing still rings true. We need to hear words of a faithful God who moves towards us, not just in time of need, but because it is in His nature to be with us. We need to know that the Lord will go before us and hem us in as we move through the sometimes unbearable losses. Being in His presence is how we manage disappointment and regulate fear and anxiety. He is with us…the Prince of Peace is with us. Even when the world around us feels uncertain, we can experience peace in His presence. Spending time in peace, slowing down, and taking in that you are not alone with this…might be the shift you need to keep pressing through one more day. He pours His love into our hearts. Let it flow out of you towards the people in your sphere of influence. Our world changed in 2020. We may meet in different places, in smaller spaces, or over Zoom screens, but our God has not moved, nor is he limited. The world needs to know the blessing of our Father is for them. We can bring the hope and peace of His presence into the hurting places in our world. Where your influence extends, reach out with grace, mercy, and hope. Let the peace of God move through you and out into the world around you. Undoing aloneness is a powerful gift. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. The Blessing, performed by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship was written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe, and Steven Furtick. It won the GMA Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year. The Blessing has been produced by various artists and languages all over the world.
I have a confession. I don't read my Bible the same way I listen to my favorite audible series. I don't read my Bible the way I would choose my next "vacation" book. I don't anticipate getting lost in the storyline or caught up in my imagination while I do my morning run. The Bible isn't fiction. Jesus doesn't have a podcast.The Holy Spirit isn't hosting a Livestream. The Father won't post His latest big idea on Instagram. Not For Our Entertainment The Word of God isn't for our entertainment. It is for our benefit. Given to us to build our faith, enlighten us towards salvation, show us how to walk in freedom, help us endure through the darkness, reveal heaven's truths. The Word of God is our guide, our comfort, our source of spiritual nourishment. The words of God point us to the person of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16) Are We Captivated and Hungry? If restoration in my life comes through His story, why am I not more captivated and hungry to devour it? Has it become so familiar that I am no longer fascinated by the chapters? I know what's coming next; I turn a page and have a sense I have been here before. Some of the passages are so familiar, I skim through, no longer in awe, or surprised, or moved the way I used to be - back when the story was "new" and the revelations more inspiring. Because of this familiarity, the surface reading of memorized verses and Bible stories effortlessly recalled - this is why we worship! Why We Worship Worship bypasses our human tendency to seek entertainment over devotion. Worship breaks the spell of our monotonous scrolling, podcast perusing, the leisurely downloading of information on iPads, tablets, or cell phones. Worship is our reset button, like flipping a circuit breaker, bringing our hearts online. Worship awakens our senses and tunes us into the person of Jesus. As we worship, our hearts open, our minds soften, and we become more aware of His presence and the profound influence of His words. Knowing, feeling, experiencing Him in this way adds new color, texture, and truth to reading His Word. King Of Kings King of Kings is packed phrase by phrase with Scripture. Line by line, we can sing the restoration story of the church, the gift given in the person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit's ministry, all the hope in the gospel. Worshipping through each verse, we sing of how the gospel of Christ stretches across eternity. Our lives are mere phrases in the storyline, and we stand with an army of believers generation after generation: we, the body of Christ on earth. Praise forever to this King of Kings, who began a story that we will tell forever and ever. "King of Kings is packed full of theology — theology releases praise. When we believe correctly about God, when we understand and get a greater revelation of who God is and what He's done, we can't help but respond in worship." – Brooke Ligertwood *By the way, in case you ever wondered if King Of Kings is a song inspired by the Word of God, here is a line-for-line reference: In the darkness, we were waiting (Colossians 1:13)Without hope without light (Ephesians 2:12)Till from heaven, You came running (Luke 1:79)There was mercy in Your eyes (Matthew 9:36)To fulfill the law and prophets (Matthew 5:17-18)To a virgin came the Word (Matthew 1:18)From a throne of endless glory (Philippians 2:6-7)To a cradle in the dirt (Luke 2:6-7)Praise the Father (1 Peter 1:3-4)Praise the Son (Ephesians 1:3)Praise the Spirit three in one (2 Corinthians 13:14)God of glory (Psalm 24:10)Majesty (1 Chronicles 29:10-12)Praise forever to the King of Kings (Jude 1:25)To reveal the kingdom coming (Daniel 4:34-35 and 7:18)And to reconcile the lost (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)To redeem the whole creation (Romans 8:21-23)You did not despise the cross (2 Corinthians 8:9)For even in Your suffering (Luke 22:41-43)You saw to the other side (Hebrews 12:2)Knowing this was our salvation (Luke 4:43)Jesus for our sake You died (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)And the morning that You rose (Mark 16:9)All of heaven held its breath (1 Peter 1:11-12)Till that stone was moved for good (Matthew 28:2)For the Lamb had conquered death (Acts 2:24)And the dead rose from their tombs (Matthew 27:52)And the angels stood in awe (Psalm 89:7-8)For the souls of all who'd come (Matthew 27:51 and Hebrews 10:19-39)To the Father are restored (1 Peter 2:24)And the Church of Christ was born (Acts 2:42)Then the Spirit lit the flame (Acts 2:1-4)Now this gospel truth of old (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 22:8, Isaiah 53, Daniel 7:9-10) Shall not kneel shall not faint (Romans 1:16-17)By His blood and in His Name (Acts 4:12)In His freedom I am free (2 Corinthians 3:17)For the love of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1)Who has resurrected me (Colossians 3:1-4, John 11:25, Romans 6:5 and 8:11) Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. King Of Kings was written by Brooke Ligertwood, Scott Ligertwood, and Jason Ingram. *The Falls Church Anglican; by a church member, "King of Kings" Worship Article, Oct 5, 2019. www.tfcanglican.org/consider-this/2019/10/5/king-of-kings. Accessed March 6, 2021.
I woke up angry. Hurt, disappointed and angry. I also have a deadline. I am supposed to be writing about the love of God in Christ alone. So ironic. How do I connect to the love of God with the emotion of anger coursing through my veins? Today is a very human kind of day where no one filled the dishwasher or offered to help with the groceries. Someone borrowed the car and brought it home empty. The garbage cans are still sitting at the end of the driveway, and it was garbage day four days ago. Someone took the last bit of coffee cream, leaving me with skim milk. I could share this with someone. I could weave this tale with a friend or post something in an eerily passive way on social media. I would see those likes and comments of validation, knowing that others share or at least understand my emotions. Here's the thing. None of that would transform my hurt, soften my disappointment or soothe my anger. For a few moments, I would feel great. I'm sure one of my besties would come alongside me and say, "heck ya, that wasn't very respectful to you!" Or, "how dare they do that!! You sure do have a right to be mad! I would be mad too!" My chin would jut out, my shoulders would drop down, and I would stand taller, feeling vindicated and understood. ... for about ten minutes. And then, suppose there is no resolution to the initial hurt? Suppose I have to continue interacting with all of the "someones" who are a part of my irritation? I could so easily pick up my hurt and disappointment the moment I am in their presence. Sharing this pain for the world to hear will not clear the fog away to connect with the love of God, and it will not heal my heart. When I am wrestling internally, I know I need the perspective of someone who both loves me and loves me enough to tell me the truth. My end goal is to have authentic, meaningful, loving connections with my people. To see and be seen and to be accepted and supported. I have learned not to sit in emotional dark places alone. The darkness is where unresolved hurt festers. Instead, I go to my quiet place where Jesus waits with me. This is a loose transcript of a typical conversation: Me: I am pretty mad Jesus: I see thatMe: Ok, more than mad ... I am angry Jesus: I knowMe: I want them to know how hurt I am Jesus: Tell me ... I know them well ... they might not be able to hold your hurt, but I can.Me: I think it would feel better if they knew how they hurt me.Jesus: Because you want them to hurt too?Me: (busted) Maybe ... I am just so frustrated that my bones ache. I always have to be the first to make amends ... so, not this time. I am going to hold out.Jesus: OK, I will wait with you. (Pausing in His presence) How does a conversation like this continue for you? Does the voice of Jesus in your head condemn you for feeling this way? Does He quote some Bible verse about "not letting the sun go down on your anger" or forgiving your brother and "turning the other cheek?" Does Jesus sit and stare at you with judgment in His eyes? This is the real, rusty and relevant, rubber hitting the road of relationships. Relationships are messy and often reactive. Maybe you and your spouse always get along. Maybe your children are always respectable, obedient, and lovely -- both privately and publicly. Maybe you don't ever say something out loud you later regret? Maybe your family is free of awkward moments of discomfort and conflict? Maybe it is just us? Maybe my ordinary, messy life is not typical? I know that isn't true. I know I am not alone because I work with people whose lives are messy. Every day people are constantly falling into pits that they dug for themselves, and then they experience heartache and disappointment. I sit across from them while they tell me their stories of pain. I witness them telling of trauma histories that have turned my stomach in knots. Then, through empathy, I start to feel anger and deep sadness for the victims. I feel their pain. I know the ache of a human heart that lives with hurt, disappointment, and loss. I also know it is not enough to undo our aloneness or to feel understood -- we need to experience transformation. Healing and wholeness can so often feel just out of reach. We need to know the power of Christ in us. I can help others feel through the waves of their emotion and allow them to linger longer in the peace that comes when the waves cease. But Jesus is our Peace. He is the calm in our storms. He is so passionate about pursuing us to bring heaven to earth, so we experience the transformation of our hearts and minds. When I allow the power of His resurrection to course through my veins, something shifts inside me. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3) His power in us is the life-giving grace that floods our burdened hearts with peace, grace, and long-suffering. His power living in us allows our hurting hearts to lay down the pain and take up hope in restoration and repair. We have everything we need in Him. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me on the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16-19) Lean into this truth. Jesus offers us the gift of His presence for eternity. What is the end goal of Jesus? The restoration of all things and to have us near Him forever. He saves. He rescues us from our messy selves and places us in a safe space away from the darkness of our sin and pain. Our hope is in Christ Alone. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. In Christ Alone was written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.
Standing in a grocery store line up, the woman ahead of me told the cashier, "I sure hope this virus doesn't stop us from taking our trip south!" I gave a small smile, hidden behind my mask, acknowledging the collective loss of trips, plans, and how many have had their hopes dashed. Something about the phrase rattled around inside my brain. It had nothing to do with the pandemic but how we use the word 'hope.' Hope is a word that is overused, oversimplified, and watered down. We hope it doesn't rain on the weekend of our backyard party. We hope we make it to the gas station or the store before the mall closes. We hope our Amazon purchases arrive on time. There is zero confidence connected to this use of the word hope. Someone gets terrible news ... "Oh, I hope they are ok." What do we mean? Something about this feels hollow. These everyday uses of hope feel like pleas into thin air; this kind of hope lacks substance, becoming mere wishful thinking. It sounds a bit whiny, if I'm honest. We've heard and said it countless times. Merriam-Webster defines hope as follows: "to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true." That definition makes hope seem closer to a wish. We often use hope to indicate a wish or desire for something to change, improve, and suit us better. Compare that hope with the heavenly hope found in Jesus. Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. But those who hope in the Lord[a strong and confident expectation]will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles;they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) Sit and reflect on this for a moment. When we sing the verse "Jesus Christ, my living hope", I have to believe, this hope is something I can trust. Heavenly Hope was born in a barn, crucified and three days later, was resurrected. Heavenly Hope resides within us. His Hope rests on us like a weighted blanket. Our spirits groan inwardly knowing His presence is close by. We are renewed by this hope and in this hope, we can trust. Now faith is confidence in what we hope [a strong and confident expectation] for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) Worldly hope is wished for or comes by chance. Heavenly hope holds promise. The hope in scripture is strong, confident, and feeds our faith. Our watered-down uses of hope offer no guarantees. Biblical hope is a robust and confident expectation, resting with assurance in God's promises. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope [a strong and confident expectation] for what we do not see, with perseverance [persistence, determination, insistence, resolution, tenacity, purpose], we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:24-25, NIV) A hope that is this confident and assured changes our waiting, softens our disappointment, and strengthens us when we suffer trials. When we have tasted and seen the goodness, faithfulness, and love of the Father, we have a different kind of hope for the future. We have glimpsed the glory and promises to come. Our steadfast hope rests on His promises for our salvation, redemption, and restoration. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23, NIV) This hope is living in us. I can put all my eggs in this basket. I can drop my anchor here, ...in this, I can believe: The work is ﬁnished, the end is written, Jesus Christ, my living hope. We know that our lives before Him were lost and hopeless. Because we believe in His death and resurrection, we have a confident assurance that our life with Him will be forever. That's HOPE! Not because of anything we have done, but all because of what He accomplished. He humbled himself, became a servant, died a criminal's death for you and for me. He took our place, nailing our sin with Him to that cross. And now, because of this gift, we have eternal life. Hope allows us to hold fast and secure to the ending of the story. Our hope stands steady with the roar of the Lion who stepped out of the grave! It's not simply a hope that the future is going to get better one day, but it's a hope that starts coming alive in our actions and our words and our plans and our dreams. It starts forming everything we are, so it becomes a living thing in us ... This unfathomable, uncrossable chasm between our unholiness and God's holiness, and how Jesus bridges that gap, burst into our darkness." - Phil Wickham (worshipleader.com) He is our living Hope! Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Living Hope was written by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson.
Do you ever glance around the world searching for a reason to feel hopeful? Do you ever end up discouraged? Such a quest can feel like a flickering flame, threatening to extinguish in the slightest breeze. While driving through my hometown today, I passed by a row of small wooden crosses stationed along the side of the road, each adorned with toddler-sized dresses. My stomach churned, considering the horror represented by the roadside tribute to 215 children whose remains were found in an unmarked burial site. The unmarked graves discovered in multiple residential school grounds across Canada represent a generation of young people abducted from their homes who faced unknown horrors. If I'm honest, I feel angry and I'm unsure how to respond. Who holds our faith when fears arise? Who stands above the stormy trial? So what happens when in the face of human suffering, the fire of hope in eternity fades? What happens when the words of our worship songs sit like stones in our chest? A quiet hallelujah is barely uttered and the fiery darts of the enemy slide in behind our breastplate. Why do we endure and keep searching for some measure of hope? Because right there in the middle of our suffering is a promise: we will feast in endless joy. And what reward will heaven bring?Everlasting life with himAnd we will rise to meet the LordThen sin and death will be destroyed Maybe you face another kind of agony that is closer to home. Alzheimer's, dementia, ALS, Parkinson's, Cancer: these are the names of afflictions so distant for many and a real-life battlefield for others. When you are on the battlefield, it is easy to feel helpless, hopeless, and numb. Where is the hope in that? This is the plight of our human condition: everyone bleeds. Human suffering is unavoidable. No one escapes hardship -- in some form, at some time. We cannot look here for our hope. Earthly hope does not endure. It fades, disappoints, and dies. "Christ has been raised from the dead" (1 Cor 15:20). That is the only statement that can transform how we live each day and how we prepare for our earthly life to end. To find comfort in life, we must know how we can face death. Hope comes only in trusting the one who died to take the curse of death and who crushed the power of death by His resurrection. See Getty Music. We all experience suffering as our earthly bodies waste away, but we hold fast to a promise that is unfading, protected by the resurrection. One day, we will feast at His banqueting table. Can you feel that truth settling into your heart? Like a healing balm of comfort, God says, "take my gift and have endless joy." And the God of all grace, who called youto his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore youand make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10,11 Don't sit in silence. Tell yourself both sides of the story. We will have suffering and there is a promise. Worship through the grief and find the promised hope. Breakthroughs come when hearts break open. Tracey Dahl, M.A. is a writer and Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in Langley, BC (Canada). She is married to Ryan Dahl (Founder of PraiseCharts) and the mother of four grown children. Christ Our Hope in Life and Death is a modern hymn written by Keith Getty, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Papa, Matt Boswell, and Matthew Merker (Getty Music). Words inspired by the Heidelberg Catechism.