Tomorrow, my dearest friend in the world goes for infertility treatments. Receiving treatment is not her first time around this mountain. She has circled it many times before. My heart has broken with her as she has experienced negative pregnancy tests month after month. The pain of another loss through miscarriage or failed treatments feels like too much to bear.
If this is your story as you are reading these words, I want you to know that I am praying for you as I am typing. My heart is hurting for you. During my friend’s journey, we have had many discussions about the burden of hope. Hope can be a terrifying thing. If we do not hope, we do not have to bear the weight and brokenness of disappointment.
Hope can feel like it is setting us up for a hard fall.
I told my friend that I want to continue to hold on to hope with her and for her when it may feel too hard and scary for her to hold it herself. I want these words to do the same for you.
Let me introduce you to a woman in Joshua 2. You may or may not have heard of her, but I think it is important to note that she makes the Jesus family genealogy in Matthew 1, so she is a pretty significant person. Rahab lived in the town of Jericho, and you’ll remember that Joshua sent the spies to “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” They “came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there” (vv. 1–2).
Rahab may not have seemed like the likely choice for a model of faith. Her profession in town—a prostitute. The people of the city heard that there were spies in town, and they came looking at Rahab’s house. Rahab took a bold step of faith by hiding the men. She told the spies that she had heard of the God of Israel. She had some bold faith in a God who was unfamiliar. “I know that the Lord has given you the land,” she told the spies, adding, “and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you” (Josh. 2:9). She reviewed for the spies what she and all of Jericho had already heard: of the drying up of the Red Sea and how they defeated the kings of the Amorites. In other words, they knew the Israelites were on the march.
“Hope can feel like it is setting us up for a hard fall.”
As a result, “our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (v. 11).
There was some fear in that faith. She moved from that fear stop and took a shaky faith step when she stepped out in faith and made a request.
“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (vv. 12–13)
I love that she asked for a sure sign. I think we go through those moments when we are in desperate need of a sign of hope. When I want a sign of hope, I want it to be big. Big enough that I can cling to it and know for sure that my life can depend on it.
During one of my stints as a camp counselor, we were supposed to do the rock climbing/rappelling activity. I’ll be honest; hand-eye coordination is not always my best game. Climbing attached to what felt like a way too small string up way smaller rocks, I would not be winning any Olympic competition here. It didn’t help that when I get nervous, I laugh uncontrollably—and I was super nervous. When I laugh uncontrollably, I also have a hard time controlling other bodily functions (trying to be discreet here), so the whole thing could be—well, a disaster.
Then, there was the rappelling part. As the counselor, I was to be in charge at the bottom holding the rope: staying grounded and belaying (that’s the fancy word for having a person’s life in your hands by a string) the person who is hanging and coming down from the top. My holding a rope for someone else sounded like a terrible idea. Thin thread—a lot of risk—and the person was leaning back, trusting in my strength. That can be what hope feels like at times. Thin thread. A great deal of risk. Me leaning back and trying to trust in God’s strength.
One of our biggest fears in saying yes to God can be holding on to hope in the outcomes of God.
Rahab decided to hold on to hope on a scarlet thread. The spies instructed her to “tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household.” But she and her family had a responsibility too: “If anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless.” The spies would guarantee their safety if they stayed inside and as long as they did not reveal the plans of the Israelites. Rahab promised to follow instructions and said, “According to your words, so be it.” Take a moment to read this interesting account in Joshua 2:18 21.
It is comforting to me that Rahab asked for a sure sign. I think God put that in there to remind us that He knows that there are times we will find ourselves desperate for hope and need an assurance of the One we are hoping in. I can see myself trying to lean back on the wrong rope of hope, hoping that it will carry the weight of me.
I can find myself having a hard time leaning my weight back on hope. I want to control hope. I want to control my expectations so I can control the outcome or control the disappointments. But when I lean back and risk hope in the character and compassion of God, He can bear the weight of me.
Rahab trusted her life and the life of her family to a scarlet thread of hope. What is your scarlet thread of hope? Don’t just give the church answer here. What can you find yourself putting your hope in when you are not placing it in the One we can lean back on?
Is it hope in a wedding ring and the man of your dreams? Hope in your children’s behavior? That they will turn out to be fine upstanding citizens who love God, make their beds, and make a difference in the world?
Hope in your job performance and that you will finally hear your supervisor say, “Job well done”? Hope in good grades? Hope in that friendship? Hope that this small group experience will turn out differently this time, and you will finally find your people? None of these things are bad things. They just aren’t meant to be our hope-holder things.
I do not want to be afraid to hold hope. To lean back on hope. To trust my life to hope. Hope in the character, compassion, and promises of a God who is leading me to my promised land. Even when it seems like just a scarlet thread.
Today, I am committing to letting go of the hope thread that tells me if people like me and think I am doing an excellent job in ministry that I am successful. I am grabbing on to the rope of hope that God sees me, designed me, and has a plan to use me for His glory in my story.
by Jennifer Hand
Isn’t it time you said yes to God? What’s holding you back? The risk? The unknown? The unwillingness to shake up the comfortable...
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