Hope through Heartbreak

Frustration. The word “frustrate” means; To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire. Let’s face it, frustration can be…well…frustrating. No one likes to be prevented from accomplishing a purpose. None of us want to be prevented from fulfilling a desire. Our desires, our purpose help define who we are and when we cannot achieve them we feel empty, hurt and broken. In short, frustration can break our hearts.

However, broken hearts can go far beyond just experiencing some level of frustration. What about great disappointments? We build up our expectations from one situation or another, maybe it’s a new job or opportunity; maybe it’s a move; maybe it’s something we feel God has called us to, and we dive in believing he has led us this way only to experience some great disappointment; now we are asking God why are we here? We thought we were following you.

What about relationships? We find that person we think is the ONE. We devote our time, our emotions, our very lives to that person for days, weeks, months, years, decades; then the relationship ends. Sometimes tragically in an unexpected death, sometimes violently in the case of abuse or addiction. Maybe we ignored the command not to be in an unequal relationship with an unbeliever, so we got romantically entangled anyway. Perhaps believing that faith didn’t matter, or believing that they would change or convert. Maybe ignored our friend who said that person drank too much, or that we met in a bar, and they turned out to be an alcoholic or addict. Maybe we knew they had a violent temper, but always treated us good, so that could never turn into abuse. Sometimes amicably agreeing we’re just not in love any more, but we are still brokenhearted from the loss.

We don’t like pain, we don’t like broken hearts and often we wonder why God would even allow such pain into our lives if he loves us. But the fact is that God is not as concerned about our comfort as much as he is concerned about our character. And our character is best shaped through the painful circumstances of life. C.S. Lewis once said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God loves us so much that he is willing to allow us to endure the pain of a broken heart in order that we might become more than we currently are.

In my own life, it was abuse, alcoholism, addiction, broken home, walking down a road of atheism, becoming the very evil that had hurt me in the first place, broken relationships, using people, leading me into a road of recovery and seeking after God, finding myself in a relationship but leading us down many dead-end roads, chasing after what I thought might be his will but having terrible discernment, on and on, but God using all of that to lead me into ministry where his impact on my life has planted seeds and born fruit in faith being born and nurtured in others, all for his glory.

I think about the story of Joseph, my namesake, whose brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Admittedly, it would seem Joseph was a bit of an entitled brat. He was daddy’s favorite. He was given special treatment. He was a tattle-tale. Then God blesses him with some visions of the future, and his brothers are belittled and jealous. But did he really deserve to be thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, marched to Egypt. He humbly does his best to glorify God, he manages his master’s household well, yet is falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison. He again glorifies God and serves the warden well, eventually brought before Pharoah and made second-in-command of all Egypt. Eventually, his brothers, who had sold him, end up in front of him and humbly beg forgiveness, confessing their wrong, and Joseph says this,

‘But Joseph answered them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. So now, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your little children.” Then he consoled them and spoke kindly to them.’

Genesis 50:19-21

In her song, Thy Will, Hillary Scott sings,

I’m so confused

I know I heard you loud and clear

So, I followed through

Somehow I ended up here

I don’t wanna think

I may never understand

That my broken heart is a part of your plan

When I try to pray

All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

I know you’re good

But this don’t feel good right now

And I know you think

Of things I could never think about

It’s hard to count it all joy

Distracted by the noise

Just trying to make sense

Of all your promises

Sometimes I gotta stop

Remember that you’re God

And I am not


Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Goodness you have in store

I know you hear me

I know you see me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

Songwriters: Bernie Herms / Emily Lynn Weisband / Hillary Scott

We’ve tried to be obedient, we’ve tried to follow his lead, and yet somewhere along the way, we ended up somewhere we never expected to be. Now all we can pray is Your will, not mine be done. Please redeem this situation and bring people into a closer relationship with you through my example. Let them learn from both the mistakes and the successes.

There are times we end up in these situations as a result of our own sin, or the sinful behavior of someone else. God gives us clear direction in many, many areas of our lives; including relationships, obedience, purpose, talents, finances, but somehow, we think we know better than God. Those rules don’t apply to us. There won’t be consequences for our negative behavior, our self-willed actions, or bad decisions. We were told not to buy that, or not to borrow that money, or that was a really bad investment idea, but pushed ahead anyway. Then ended up bankrupt and financial trouble, which is the number one stressor on marriages, led us into a divorce. An unplanned pregnancy led to an unwanted child or abortion. Abuse, neglect, all terrible, terrible circumstances; we didn’t ask for and don’t deserve. What about the child that never had any choice and ended up being beaten, abused, raped; how can there be any hope there?

Listen to the words of Hebrews 12:1-13,

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.’

Hebrews 12:1-13

There is hope! God can use any situation and circumstance to bring glory to himself and for our good and the good of multitudes of others. God never wastes a hurt, never delights in our suffering, but instead uses everything in ways that we can never imagine.

Romans 8:28 says, ‘And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,’

His purpose is always to conform us into the image of his Son, Jesus, and bring glory to himself.

James the half-brother of Jesus writes,

‘My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. ‘

James 1:2-4

We can have hope in any situation when we pray for God to bring glory to himself through us. He will use it for good. He will use our example to draw others closer to himself. He will use our suffering to help us learn to be more dependent upon him. And when we turn to him in confession, repentance, and submit to his will; he has promise upon promise he heaps upon us in fulfillment of his good and loving nature.

When we rejoice in him, when we trust in him, when we rely on his strength, when we submit to his will, when we confess our sins, when we turn to him in humility, when we earnestly pray with gratitude for all he has done for us, even through the pain of our current heartache, he blesses us and grows within us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; all the fruit of the Spirit that flowers, blooms, and bears a harvest when we live in accordance with the Indwelling Holy Spirit and not our own self-will. See Galatians chapter five.

Let us come before God in humility and pray turning our heartbreaks over to God.

Hope through Anxiety

We have been talking about hope for the last several weeks and at how we can have a hope in Christ that can carry us through anything. At least for the next few minutes, cast your cares aside and let go of your worries, because we are talking about having hope through our anxiety this morning.Did you know that in 2018, and I am sure these numbers have risen, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting over 40 million adults. That’s roughly 18% of the population, including Christians, but only about a 1/3 of those suffering are receiving treatment.” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America?

Studies show that many of the people who struggle with anxiety, worry, or fear, and I have been one, learned to have those feelings from either a very traumatic event in their past or from parents or caregivers who modeled this way of thinking and feeling. Living with constant worry and even paralyzing anxiety is a learned response, not something we are born with like a genetic disorder.

I said before, I am not one to dismiss properly prescribed medications, but many Christians, and certainly those without God in their lives, try to fight anxiety and worry about an unknown future or feelings they project into others without first turning to the author and creator of life itself. This is an issue as old as time, an issue that even Jesus and the New Testament writers referred to on several occasions. So although these feelings may be all in our heads, jokingly and literally at the same time, they are also very real and can disrupt not only our material lives, but also wound our spiritual lives deeply as well.

Listen to the heart of David, a thousand years before Christ, and see if you can relate to some of his struggle…

‘O Lord , hear my prayer! Pay attention to my plea for help! Because of your faithfulness and justice, answer me! Do not sit in judgment on your servant, for no one alive is innocent before you. Certainly my enemies chase me. They smash me into the ground. They force me to live in dark regions, like those who have been dead for ages. My strength leaves me; I am absolutely shocked. I recall the old days; I meditate on all you have done; I reflect on your accomplishments. I spread my hands out to you in prayer; my soul thirsts for you in a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord ! My strength is fading. Do not reject me, or I will join those descending into the grave. May I hear about your loyal love in the morning, for I trust in you. Show me the way I should go, because I long for you. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord ! I run to you for protection. Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God. May your kind presence lead me into a level land. O Lord , for the sake of your reputation, revive me! Because of your justice, rescue me from trouble! As a demonstration of your loyal love, destroy my enemies! Annihilate all who threaten my life, for I am your servant.’

Psalms 143:1-12

It’s true that David was being pursued by very real, physical enemies; who were trying to take his life. I would say, the vast majority of the time we are worried about something, our lives are not literally on the line. Although in our distress, especially a panic attack, it can feel that way. But listen how David goes through several stages working through his feelings and crying out to God. Allow me to paraphrase for you…

         God hear me. God pay attention to me. Because of who you are God, faithful and just, answer me. (Petition and praise) I know I’m not innocent, but please don’t hold that against me. (Confession) I am losing all hope, help me. (Asking) I remember everything you’ve done for me in the past and I trust you to help me as you have before. I want to follow you and live how you want me to live. (Repentance) Please get me through this. (Asking again)

Paul says,

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6 NET

This is a command, not a statement, and not a suggestion. Don’t be anxious. Or don’t worry. But instead reach out to God in humility, be grateful for everything he has done for you, and ask God for what you need. As the result of reaching out to God like this Paul says,

‘And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

Philippians 4:7

When we are anxious, frightened, and worried, isn’t that what we most need, beyond any solution of bandaid fix, God to reach into the situation and give us PEACE. Freedom from the worry. Contentment to continue on. Listen to what Jesus said,

‘“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.’

Matthew 6:25-34 NET

Jesus lived life through hardship just as we must. Jesus needed shelter. Jesus had real enemies. Jesus had real people that relied on him. Jesus constantly had people asking him for stuff. Jesus certainly had enough he could be worried about, I mean seriously, the souls of the entire planet, with death and betrayal already written into his future hundreds of years in the past. If anyone had something to get anxious about, he did.

Jesus gives the same command, not a suggestion, don’t worry about tomorrow. Trust God for today, live in today, let tomorrow go, because God knows your tomorrow and will still be here to live through it with you.

Paul tells us to rewrite the script in our minds. Replace what worries us with other thoughts. He says,

‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.’

Philippians 4:8-9

If we look at practical steps even non-believers use to work through their anxiety, this idea of replacement is there. But for those of us who are believers in the salvation and hope that Jesus brings to us. Those of us who are in a relationship with God the Creator of everything. Those of us who should have the indwelling Holy Spirit residing in us and guiding us through every situation and circumstance. The truth that we have nothing to fear should be foundational. Here are some other practical steps we can take.

  1. Identify the source of your anxiety- what is it that you are really worried about?
  2. Understand that feelings are not truth- remember that although what you are feeling is real, that the feelings you have may not be based on the truth.
  3. Evaluate your feelings- Evaluate whether your feelings are based on beliefs that make sense, or are realistic, when you say them out loud. What real evidence is there for them?
  4. Make sure your feelings are really yours- Can you really trust your feelings are from you? Are you just repeating the thoughts and beliefs of your parents, an ex-lover, or someone else in your life because they impressed it upon you, or are these thoughts and feelings actually your own? If you come from a Christian worldview, how do you know your true thoughts and feelings are not being manipulated by your enemy – Satan, the world, and your own sinful desires?
  5. Separate lies from truth- Take what you feel and compare it to the truth of who God is, who God says you are, and what purpose God really has for us here.
  6. Recall the times you made it through- God is faithful. For those who are his, he will always walk us through when we turn to him.
  7. Replace your thoughts
  8. Read Scripture
  9. Observe yourself- Learn to sit with your emotions and thoughts. Imagine watching yourself as an observer would watch a play. No need to react to them; you are just observing. See them as random thoughts, impressions, passing feelings. If these were actually narratives in a play or movie, what would the author be telling the audience? What can you learn from them? Instead of internally saying something like, “Oh, no, I can’t stand this,” try “This is really fascinating, I wonder why this theme always emerges, or why these people are always in the play?”
  10. Lay your burdens down- Cast your cares on the one who cares more for you than anyone else in your life.
  11. Relax- No one can just turn off their feelings, and it is not always as simple as “throwing your cares on God because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Many people need time, practice, support from others, and knowledge on how to truly do this. There are literally thousands of various websites and books on relaxation. But learn to chill, do what you enjoy (within the bounds of godly living), exercise, eat right, read, etc…

Above all, remember, anything you are going through is not too big for God. A great lie I hear all the time is that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Read scripture, God constantly gives people more than they can handle. Because he wants us to rely completely on him and through him, overcome, and though overcoming, he receives the glory because it’s something we never could have done on our own.

Hope in Hopelessness

Well, we’ve started a series on Hope. One popular song says, “Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness.” God has proven himself to be faithful to both the nation of Israel and the Church time and time again. God continues to keep all his promises. There are times we don’t feel like he is with us. There are times we feel our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. There are times when, because of our disobedience, just like Israel, we find ourselves walking through a desert. For those who have yet to believe, life is even worse, because on their bad days, they have nothing and no one to turn to for hope. Our world is filled with false hopes and Band-Aid fixes. I am not one to tell anyone to avoid all medications, some medication, including for mental illness, is beneficial. But many doctors would rather pump a person full of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety meds, and sleeping pills than offer a person real hope in the Savior of the world. There is hope in our hopelessness, our despair, and in our depression far beyond just what the doctors can prescribe.

In his book This is Your Brain on Joy, Dr. Earl Henslin says,

All our brains are uniquely wired. Some of our wiring gifts us with a basic emotional set point that includes mostly though and feelings of happiness and peace and basic sanity. Sadly, however, some of us are wired to experience more anxiety, anger, or depression. Some have mental predispositions for psychological imbalances or illnesses. And many of us are wired with a mixture of everything in between.

There are disorders that are genetic. There are disorders that can be identified by specific brain imaging. But there are also issues that have specifically to do with ungodly behaviors and sin. Some issues can be both. For instance, I have the genetic predisposition for alcoholism that does not give me license nor an excuse for alcoholic behavior. To consume alcohol is not necessarily sinful, but for me, to consume alcohol leads to drunkenness and other destructive behaviors and attitudes. Once alcohol was out of my life, alcoholism and drunkenness no longer dominated it. But if I ever choose to drink again, the cycle starts all over.

Nicky Gumbel has interviewed hundreds of people around the world who have come to faith in Jesus. The question he asks over and over again is, ‘What difference has Jesus made?’ and the genuine answers given by the people I have quoted are typical. – ‘My life has completely changed. I now look at the world through different eyes… I feel love for everyone and an inner peace that I never imagined could exist.’ – ‘I had been living my life in a dark hole, I was carrying a great weight on my shoulders… that burden has gone… and I am filled with great hope, joy, excitement and love, and all I want to do is to serve Christ in whatever form he chooses.’ – ‘I feel like I have found love and conquered death in one day.’ The difference Jesus makes is massive, eternal, and impossible to fully comprehend.

The hope we find through a relationship with the one true and living God through the forgiveness and sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, and the comfort of the Indwelling Holy Spirit is far better and more beneficial than anything that can be found in a pharmacy, a liquor store, a bar, a dispensary, or a back-alley deal. The hope we have in Jesus is better by far than any relationship or number of relationships we could ever have. But our relationship with God is one relationship that can make all the rest that much better.

Dr. Charles Hodges, an old friend of mine, wrote a book called; Good Mood, Bad Mood, many years ago. At one point in this book on depression and bipolar disorders and the role of faith and hope he says,

Our label-oriented society is struggling under the medical impression that once we are diagnosed with a mood disorder, our brains (and our lives) will never change unless medically altered. It is good to know from recent science that our brains can change in response to our thoughts and actions… The Bible has many passages to support the idea. As Paul said to the church at Corinth, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). The idea that believers could “put off” old bad habits (sins) and “put on” godly behavior (Eph. 4:22-24) is so vital to Christian theology that denying it leaves the gospel impotent.

God has gifted the human race with skilled doctors. However, the idea that when dealing with the mind and moods that drugs can fix people better than the “Great Physician” while leaving him out of the treatment process is utter foolishness. Romans 12:1-2 says,

‘Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.’

Our circumstances and our moods should not determine our attitudes and actions. However, our godly attitudes and acting out in God’s will can certainly change our moods affect our circumstances and give us a sense of peace, contentment, and joy.

            No one recorded in the New Testament went through more hardship and persecution than Paul. Paul was arrested, stoned, flogged, beaten, and shipwrecked multiple times each. He had a long-term illness (thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7) that God chose not to remove even though Paul had prayed for its removal several times. There were times and circumstances where Paul had everything he needed and more, but there were also times when Paul had nothing but the clothes, tattered though they may be, on his back. He went hungry at times, but he also had plenty at other times. In Philippians chapter one Paul says,

‘For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. ‘

Philippians 1:21-24

In the Pastor Joe paraphrase edition, we could say, “I’d rather be dead and in heaven with Christ, but God has work for me to do still so I need to be productive.” He goes on to say the reason he needs to stay is so the Philippians will make continue to make progress and have joy in the faith.

            Although Paul longs to leave the physical world to go be with Jesus in heaven, he continues on and in chapter 4 he tells the Philippians a big secret…the secret to living a life honoring God through each and every circumstance he has faced or will face. Dr. Henslin in the book mentioned earlier has also discovered this secret has a profound impact of brain imaging when addressing mood and behavior. The secret is how to have joy and contentment. Joy and contentment are some of those things that philosophers, religions, and psychologists have sought for millennia. Eastern gurus may describe it as bliss. Hindus and Buddhists among others also build this into the idea of nirvana, not smells like teen spirit… Psychologists may call it self-actualization. But in Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization comes at the top of the pyramid after all other needs are met. For Paul and as many Christians, POWs, and others have discovered over the years, this idea is foundational. With contentment and joy, all trials and tribulations can be faced with a godly attitude and God-honoring actions.

            Paul says in Philippians chapter 4,

‘I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. ‘

Philippians 4:12-13    

The secret to having contentment is the strength we receive through our relationship with Jesus Christ. We are commanded to Rejoice always in Philippians 4:3. We are commanded not to worry in Philippians 4:6-7, but instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving to tell our requests to God and he will give us peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

            Dr. Henslin phrases laid-back joy in this way:

            Contentment is a wonderful word, related to joy and happiness. By the way, in the scripture, joy usually means a sense of internal delight; happiness is the recognition of how blessed we are…Both bring a smile and are related to feelings that are connected to an inner attitude of gratitude…Contentment contains the habit of being grateful for every possible thing there is to be thankful for, in any and every situation.

Gratitude, thankfulness, praise, worship, rejoicing are all actions and attitudes we keep that all lead to a contented heart that can bring hope and faith into the darkest despair or depression. We have the gift of an eternal relationship with the Creator of all and his power to live through the trials and circumstances we face.

            Looking through Philippians, Dr. Henslin suggests there are six keys to creating joy in our lives.

  1. Reframe your chains- God doesn’t always remove our trials, but he can always use them for his glory. How can you bring glory to God in your circumstance?
  2. Shrink irritants- You get to choose which voices to listen and pay attention to. If there is a negative influence in your life that only makes things seem worse, limit their time and influence in your life.
  3. Letting go, looking ahead- Dory, in Finding Nemo, said frequently, “Just keep swimming,” we can let go of past hurts and hang-ups and push forward into the new life that Jesus has in-store for us.
  4. The remedy for high anxiety- Pray with gratitude and thanksgiving trusting God to work his will in your life.
  5. A richly stored mind- Paul says, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.’ Philippians 4:8
  6. Be deep-spirited friends-You need at least one friend who you can be authentic and transparent with, a friend who will also be honest and encouraging toward you that isn’t afraid to correct you when you are wrong. Can you also be this kind of friend for someone else?

Framing our lives in the hope we have through faith in Jesus Christ is the first and most profound step in dealing with depression, despair, and hopelessness. We can find some help through medication, counseling, friends; but without an eternal relationship with our Creator, we are a train running full speed down a dead-end track. The only real hope for the hopeless is found in Jesus.

Hope in Brokenness

Hope in Brokenness 9/25/22

It always amazes me how fast time seems to fly by. Every one of us gets 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 168 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Yes, each of us gets the exact same amount of time, but we never know when our time is up. We never know when we will breathe our last breath. We never know when we will find ourselves before the Lord to receive judgment and our choices in life are laid out before us. Did we accept his gift and grace, or did we deny it? Did we make the most of each moment to live effectively for his glory, or did we squander the time we had? We have the hope of God’s mercy, forgiveness, grace, love, justice, and eternal life. Jesus said,

Now this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.

John 17:3

We are going to carry the theme of hope with us through the month of October. We all need a little hope. We all need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially as the days grow darker and it seems like the world is falling apart. We need hope that this is not the end of the journey, but really it is just the beginning.

         Today, we need to find hope in brokenness. For some, they may have never reached the point of absolute brokenness. Others of us have, and it’s highly likely you also know someone who has been or is broken. Do you know what it’s like to be broken? Do you know what it’s like to be unmade?

         When I think of brokenness, and I look into the scriptures; I think of one person more than any other. Let me give you some hints, and I am sure you’ll figure it out fairly quickly. Once you figure it out, don’t say anything until I ask you to, okay?

This person started life as a shepherd.

Was the youngest of the family.

Inexplicably was chosen to succeed the leader of the people.

Was a musician.

Was indignant on the behalf of God when an enemy jeered the armies of Israel.

Singlehandedly defeated an enemy almost twice his size.

He was promised the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage.

By a show of hands, how many of you think you know who I am talking about? Don’t say anything yet. Here are a few more highlights.

His best friend was the king’s son.

Although the king loved him, the king suffered from paranoia and tried to kill him over and over again.

He was known as the apple of God’s eye, and a man after God’s own heart. Although, in the original language, neither of these titles had anything to do with actions he took, but being chosen by God himself.

Finally, after the king’s death, he became king of Israel.

Okay, who is it? That’s right. King David. Who is known as the greatest king in the history of the nation of Israel.

King David has a list of some serious highlights in his life. The 2nd king of Israel, he expanded Israel’s influence throughout the region creating political alliances and defeating enemies. He is known as Israel’s greatest king. He received God’s personal promise that his line will rule the nation forever. A promised that is fulfilled in the person of Jesus, not only LORD of lords, and KING of kings, but Savior of the world and eternal king of not only Israel but also the whole world. David united a kingdom, created Jerusalem as the capital city that is still there today although it has been sacked and destroyed several times. Gathered all the materials to build the first temple to God. David was a skilled battle commander, skilled warrior, and a good king.

         David also gives a picture of what brokenness and restoration look like. In addition to the highlights, he has some real low points too.

Saul, the king before David, became extremely paranoid and feared David’s popularity and tried to kill David many times. While on the run from Saul, he lied to the priest in Nob taking the sacramental bread and taking Goliath’s sword from the synagogue where it was kept. Saul found out and murdered the entire town of priests and their families. David hid in caves multiple times. He pretended to be insane, drooling on himself and commanded armies for his nation’s enemies, although he didn’t lead troops against Israel. David took for himself many wives and had many children. One son raped his half-sister and was then killed in vengeance by his half-brother. David had an affair with another man’s wife, then learning Bathsheba she was pregnant; he tried to bring the Uriah back from the battle lines to have him sleep with his own wife to cover up the child being David’s. When Uriah didn’t, he arranged for him to be killed in battle, in all truth murdering him. David’s first child with Bathsheba ends up dying shortly after birth. Later in life, in David’s passivity, his son Absalom, seizes the throne from him but ends up dead. David sinned and was confronted by his own brokenness several times.

         Roy Hession says this about brokenness, “To be broken is the beginning of revival. It is painful, it is humiliating, but it is the only way.”

         In AA there is a saying, “We can either go to our knees before God in humility, or we will be brought to our knees in humiliation.” To be truly broken, it is only in understanding the depth of our depravity, that we truly understand the depths of grace. Understanding just how bad we could be doesn’t mean we need to have acted out in all those ways. To understand that given the right circumstances that we have that potential is to also understand how broken we really are. Whether we have lived it out or not.

         The biggest danger for ‘Church people’ that have grown up in the church. Lived life following the ‘rules’ and checked all the boxes, is self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. Thinking somehow, we are the ones who have lived the good life and forgetting that the power of Christ is what makes all things possible. The Pharisees and Sadducees fell into this trap of pride. The Pharisees were the seminary grads, the devout, the pastors and teachers, the Bible scholars, and spiritual leaders, but Jesus’s harshest words were against them. Jesus probed past their external appearance and acts of apparent devotion. Over and over, he exposed the proud, self-righteous attitudes and motives. He insisted that the ones with broken, repentant hearts were the ones he came to save, that God rejects the proud, self-righteousness shown by the ‘church people.’

         Brokenness goes far beyond our feelings or the sins we have lived in. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says in her book entitled Brokenness,

“Brokenness is not a feeling or emotion. Rather, it requires a choice, an act of will…True brokenness is an ongoing, constant way of life…Brokenness is the shattering of my self-will-the absolute surrender of my will to the will of God…The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he has cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him.”

David’s brokenness and hope in restoration can be found over and over in the Psalms. Listen to Psalm 32,

‘Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord .” And then you forgave my sins. (Selah) How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned! How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the Lord does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. (Selah) For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity. Certainly when the surging water rises, it will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance. (Selah) I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye. Do not be like an unintelligent horse or mule, which will not obey you unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit. An evil person suffers much pain, but the Lord ’s faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright!’

Psalms 32:1-11

David is humbling himself before God confessing and repentant toward his sin and humbling himself before countless future believers, like us, who would read his confession and learn of his failure.

         Listen to Psalm 51 this time,

‘Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin! For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you – you above all – I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me. Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom. Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven! May the bones you crushed rejoice! Hide your face from my sins! Wipe away all my guilt! Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me! Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me! Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance! Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to you. Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me! Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance. O Lord, give me the words! Then my mouth will praise you. Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit – O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. Because you favor Zion, do what is good for her! Fortify the walls of Jerusalem! Then you will accept the proper sacrifices, burnt sacrifices and whole offerings; then bulls will be sacrificed on your altar.’

Psalms 51:1-19

In our brokenness, just like David, we find hope in the faithfulness of God. We find hope in the forgiveness found through our relationship with the Father through Jesus, his Son, and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. All our hope is found in seeing ourselves as we really are, broken in a broken world, and turning our will and our lives complete over to God in humility.

Hope Happens Here, National Back to Church Sunday

Hope Happens Here

This message is from National Back to Church Sunday, September 18th, 2022.

This church, and every Bible-believing church, is here to help support you and your family’s spiritual needs. We are here to help you discover what the Bible says about God and His plan for your life. But honestly, the church is not a building; it is made up of the people inside—people like you—who are looking for purpose, authentic relationships, support, and hope.

The basis of the Christian faith is an audacious hope that God is at work in our lives. A hope that things don’t have to remain the same tomorrow as they are today. A hope that broken things can be mended. A hope that we are loved by our Creator. Maybe this morning you have come here in need of some hope. Perhaps the weight of the world is more than you can bear. Or maybe you have come here today because you feel there is nowhere else to turn. May I reiterate: hope happens here.

Pastor Timothy George, in his sermon “Unseen Footprints,” recounts a story told to him by a professor during his time at Harvard Divinity School. He recalls the professor telling a story from when he was preaching in Louisiana during the Depression. Electricity was just coming into that part of the country. He was out in a rural church that had just one little lightbulb hanging from the ceiling to light up the whole sanctuary. He was preaching away when, in the middle of his sermon, the electricity went out. The building went pitch black and, being a young preacher, Dr. Taylor didn’t know what to say. So he stumbled around until one of the elderly deacons sitting in the back of the church cried out, “Preach on, preacher! We can still see Jesus in the dark.” Sometimes that’s the only time we can see Jesus—in the dark.

In the gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12). And it is Jesus who both illuminates our lives and exposes all that needs to be restored. The illuminating and healing hope of Jesus can be found all throughout scripture. But today we’re going to look at three specific points together. First, God has a plan for your life. Second, He loves you with a never-ending love. And third, you can do anything through His strength.

For these three reasons, and so many more, we have hope for an illuminated and restored life.

First, God has a plan for your life.

You were created by God. He made you with a purpose and an intention. He placed you uniquely in the family you have and equipped you with the gifts that you possess. The greatest questions in human history has always been: who am I, and why am I here? God offers us the answer to those questions, which give us hope.

One of the most famous verses in all of scripture is found in the book of Jeremiah. The backdrop to this passage is that Israel had been conquered by Babylon, and many people were going to be taken into captivity. This was known as the Exile. It was a very dark time in Israel’s history. Many of God’s people had lost hope and believed that God had forgotten them. I would argue that many of us today may feel the same way. After years of a pandemic, perhaps relational conflict or a devastating diagnosis, we may wonder if God has forgotten about us and be tempted to lose hope. However, the writer makes a profound statement as he writes to God’s people in the midst of their exile.

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NET

This is not a promise made to us today as so many try to make it, but God places hope in the hearts of the people of Israel. He tells them that, though they were now living in a land that was not their own and though Jerusalem had been destroyed, God was not done with them yet. He still had a plan to prosper them and not to harm them. God was working for a better future for Israel, and he had not forgotten about them.

He goes on to explain to them, in chapter 31, the hope of the New Covenant he will make with them through Jesus. Although they have been unfaithful to him over and over again, he sends his Son as the promised Messiah, to bring not only them but the whole world into a relationship with him.

A few verses later in chapter 32, God tells Jeremiah to purchase a piece of land. This instruction would hardly make sense since Israel was under siege. But God reminds Jeremiah that he is not done yet. There was hope for Israel’s return to its home because God had a plan.

It’s like planting fruit trees. There are many farmers in our community and some of you have fruit trees on your property. We all know that trees don’t produce fruit overnight. In fact, it can take years of growth before you harvest any fruit. Many trees begin as tiny twigs that look like they have zero chance of survival. But you plant that twig in the ground and faithfully water it year after year, hoping one day you’ll enjoy the fruit of your labors. 

God was asking Jeremiah to be faithful and plant himself even though there seemed to be zero chance of survival. God was working an even greater plan for the good of His people. 

Wherever you find yourself today, I want to encourage you that God has a plan for your life. When you continually do the next right thing and live in obedience to God, you can rest assured that you will live into God’s purpose for your life and he will produce wonderful fruit in and through you.

God has a plan for your life, and you can put your hope in Him. His love and care for His creation is unfailing and never ending.

Paul says,

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:28-29 NET

God wants a relationship with us and has a purpose for us, to look and act like his Son, Jesus.

Second, He loves you with a never-ending love.

The truest thing about you is that you are loved by God. Love is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. The Apostle Paul appeals to the powerful love of God as he writes to the early Church in Rome. Similar to Israel living in the foreign land of Babylon, God’s people were in the midst of a sinful and foreign culture in Rome. It was a difficult place to be—complete with persecution and suffering—but Paul wanted to instill hope into the lives of the believers there.

No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39 NET

Paul tells them: you are conquerors. You are not defeated. No matter how bad things may seem or how hopeless your situation may appear, you are overcomers.

But why? Why does Paul make this claim? It is because of God’s love for them. He is convinced that nothing can separate God’s people from God’s love. Death can’t do it. Demons can’t do it. The depths of despair can’t do it. God’s love is so prevailing and so potent that it is ever present and never ending. God loves us no matter what. He loves us when we love him back, but He also loves us when we fail to love him in return.

Roger Zerbe, who was succumbing to early onset Alzheimer’s disease, journaled this to his wife after a particularly troubling bout of forgetfulness.


Today fear is taking over. The day is coming when all my memories of this life we share will be gone. You and the boys will be gone from me. I will lose you even as I am surrounded by you and your love. I don’t want to leave you. I want to grow old in the warmth of memories. Forgive me for leaving so slowly and painfully.

Blinking back tears, his wife, Becky, wrote:

My sweet husband,

 I will continue to go on loving you and caring for you, not because you know me or remember our life, but because I remember you. I will remember the man who proposed to me and told me he loved me, the look on his face when his children were born, the father he was, the way he loved our extended family. I’ll recall his love for riding, hiking, and reading; his tears at sentimental movies; the unexpected witty remarks; and how he held my hand while he prayed. I cherish the pleasure, obligation, commitment, and opportunity to care for you because I remember you.

(Becky Zerbe, “Penning a Marriage,” Marriage Partnership – spring 2008)

This is the kind of sacrificial and pervasive love that Paul was referring to in Romans.

The Greek word used in the passage from Romans for the word love is the word agape. Agape literally means a selfless and sacrificial kind of love—the kind of love that gives without needing anything in return. God’s agape love for his people caused him to offer his one and only son on a cross as a sacrifice for our sin so that we might have new life. This sacrifice was once and for all and is available to everyone.

Our hope is found not only in His plan for us but also in his love for us. There is nothing that can separate us from the love that God has for us through Jesus. And that truth empowers us to face any challenge life may serve up.

 Third, you can do anything through His strength

Living the Christian life is no easy task. Living counter culturally, loving our enemies, giving generously, serving faithfully, and avoiding sin obediently are all costly endeavors. The way of Jesus is not something we can do on our own. If we try, it will leave us exhausted and burned out. We must rely on God’s strength to do it.

Paul speaks to this hope we have when writing to the early church in Philippi. Again, the surrounding context of this passage is persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and the like. In fact, as Paul pens this letter, he sits in chains because of his faith in Jesus. You would think he feels hopeless; however, it is quite the opposite. He is overflowing with hope.

I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NET

When we become followers of Jesus, the spirit of God actually takes up residence inside of us. The spirit dwells in us, and it becomes the engine behind our faithful obedience. So when we feel like we can’t forgive that person who hurt us, the spirit of God gives us strength to set them free. In doing so, we set ourselves free from bitterness and anger. When we want to defeat a sinful pattern in our lives, we don’t have to do it alone; we can rely on God’s strength. When we want to make a difference in the world by serving those around us, we can accomplish much, not because of our hard work, but because of the work God has done in and through us.

There was middle school boy who recently defeated a rare form of cancer. After his diagnosis, his church rallied around the family by providing meals and mowing the family’s yard. Their pastor went to the house one day to pray with Adam, and he was blown away by his calm nature and confidence. When he asked him how he was handling the news, he smiled and handed the pastor a rubber bracelet to put on his wrist. He looked down and read the writing on the bracelet: “I can do all things – Philippians 4:13.” He told his pastor he was not afraid. He told him he had hope because God was with him every step of the way. His faith carried him for the eight months of chemo and radiation he had to endure. In the end, Jesus was the strength he needed to do something hard.

Oh, that we all might have the kind of hope that Adam had when we face troubles in this world. Hope happens when we come to realize that we don’t have the strength in and of ourselves to live the way of Jesus. Hope happens when we submit our lives to his leadership and allow him to empower us for his glory.

My prayer for each of us today is that we would be bursting with hope as we become more aware of God’s plan, love, and strength that is ours in Christ. I invite you to pray with me and ask God to fill you up with hope.