Finding Hope in Times of Transition

  • Going back to school
  • Going away to college
  • Moving across the country
  • Getting married
  • Losing a parent
  • Starting a new job
  • Having a baby

Transitions create opportunities for new routines, new relationships, and new ways of doing things. All those new shiny ventures have a flip side, endless goodbyes and letting go.

My husband and I are walking through a season of transition. In June we were called to leave a church community that we had done life with for almost two decades. We are journeying with the Gathering, a community on a mission to plant a church in Richmond, Texas. Seasons of transition involve many goodbyes and some amazing introductions.

And now, God, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.So those who planted their crops in despair will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalms 126:4-6 The Message

Psalm 126 is a psalm of ascent and was designed for traveling and transitions. Psalms of ascent were shared to encourage pilgrims on the yearly journey back to Jerusalem. While on a tour of Israel, our group read these psalms of ascent as our bus drove up the steep road to Jerusalem. Even our bus seemed to struggle slightly to make its way ever upward. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for families with young or older members.

This psalm focuses on the story of God’s faithfulness to his people. It tells a story of people reuniting after one group was taken captive and the other was left behind. Last week we looked at the joyful reunions in the first three verses. (https://antheakotlan.com/2021/08/04/am-i-watching-for-gods-wonderfulness/)The next three verses of Psalm 126 (verses 4-6) overflow with joyful celebration and speak about reversals of fortune. Weaved into these verses are some cautions for me to consider.

Verse 4 opens with a request to God, “do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.”
The idea of an encore performance proves that the author of the text knew that God was capable of fulfilling this request as He had done before. This was more than a simple request for rain. The psalmist begs for a remedy for drought-stricken lives because he knows what God can and will do.

Keep me reminded, Lord, of what you have done and will continue to do in times of transition.

Times of transition make God’s people particularly vulnerable to becoming soul parched. Drought-stricken lives can lose hope and become hardened by disappointment. The dry ground of my heart can’t germinate even the very best seed. A miraculous intervention is needed for two kinds of thirsty people.

1) Those who planted crops in despair stayed and found themselves surrounded by uncertainty.

2) Those who went off with heavy hearts when they were taken captive by the enemy. Now, they have returned to their homeland decades later. They are parched beyond measure.

I can relate to both kinds of people.

What does it mean to plant crops in despair?

• Is it the mother who continues to pray for an estranged child?

• Is it an adult child who continues to honor her elderly parent, even when it is emotionally costly?

• Is it the worker who works hard despite a lack of accolades?

How is God calling me to plant seeds in areas of my life that might feel hopeless? What harvest is He asking me to remain faithful to? Even before the rains come back.Is a harvest still good and abundant if it doesn’t come in on my timeline? What if the harvest is not what I expected? Could it be more of what I need and not so much what I want?

Keep me planting the seeds you have entrusted to me in this season. Even when I can’t see the harvest.

How about those captives “who went off with heavy hearts”? How will they come back?
Verse 6 says, “they will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

How about the times in my life when I am called to go out with a heavy heart? Departing with sadness may happen long before I return with the armloads of blessings. Sometimes I have to go, not knowing where I will land or what I will find when I get there. Sometimes I am called to go even when I don’t want to.

Keep me on track and in step with you even when the path takes me in another direction, and I’m not clear exactly where we are going.

What about those armloads of blessings? What do I need to put down so I have the armload space for those new blessings? If they are measured in armloads, could they be a burden in themselves? Do blessings sometimes take work on my part? Do blessings come in armloads and seem too much sometimes? Do blessings overflow and surprise us with the generosity of God?

Psalm 126 seems to point to the now and not yet. When I see the partial restoration, maybe it is a sign or reminder for what is yet to come. God is, in fact, going to do it again and again. He never grows weary of surprising me with abundance.

As a Christ-follower, I have a call on my life to be a hope giver, hope sharer, and a hope speaker. None of which comes naturally to me. In times of transition, can I choose to do just that?

Keep me open-handed and open-armed in times of transition.

Prayer

Lord, help me to offer hope for a future, fuller harvest. Can I be found pointing to you for a greater and more complete restoration? Can you help me in preparing in hope for those armloads of blessings? May they spill over to a broken world. Amen.

How do you see hope in Psalm 126? How could you share that hope today?

Does your parched soul need some drip irrigation?

(a photo of pink roses)

In the middle of the 1970s, my Welsh-born father brought our family from England to Texas. After purchasing a modest home in the Spring Branch area, he created an English Rose Garden. Popular gardening wisdom warned him that this might be impossible, but he took the challenge in stride. Clad in his favorite bicentennial shorts, he set out to create the perfect place for delicate roses to thrive in the harsh Texas climate.
He built a raised flower bed with railroad ties to provide proper drainage. He filled it with premium soil. Before planting those rose bushes, he added a drip irrigation system. This form of steady watering was truly the best kept rose growing secret. Roses love moist soil. If you know Texas summers, you know the two kinds of weather: monsoon and drought. None of those gentle, soaking rains around here. It is all or nothing. My father’s efforts were rewarded with the most spectacular display of rose blooms that wrapped our entire front garden in a rainbow of colors.
Gardeners must provide all that is need for plants to thrive. Because God is a faithful tender of my soul, he provides the Bible to give practical guidance on soul care and to keep. The book of Psalms is one of my favorite places to find this kind of wisdom.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

(Psalm 19:7-9 ESV)

We all need a drip irrigation system of daily exposure to God’s word. A once-weekly reading of the Bible at church might last for a day or two, but it is the daily infusion to revive us and keep us thriving.
Verses 7-9 of Psalm 19 identify three soul care essentials.

  • law, commandments, precepts
  • testimonies
  • fear or proper reverence or respect

The Law – we have to know the law or the commandments to follow them. God is our designer, and he knows all about our design capacity. Can someone function well without sleep? No. Did you know that God actually directs us to rest in His word? Can someone lie or steal and suffer zero consequences? No. God’s guidance is always for our good, and we need daily reminders less we wander off course.

Testimonies—God directs his people to share with one another about what He is doing in each of our lives. (1 Chronicles 16:8) He knows we need the reminder, and sharing testimonies is a powerful way to encourage others.

Fear- God wants us to remember to show respect for Him and for all He has created. When we lose touch with this principle, suffering follows quickly.

How can we make daily Bible reading a part of our lives? How do we make that drip irrigation of Bible verses an essential part of each day?

First, figure out your best learning style. Are you a visual learner, an audio learner, or a tactile-kinesthetic learner (someone who learns best through movement or touch)?

Second, test-drive some different ways to take in scripture daily. Since I am an audio learner, I listen to a podcast that reads scripture daily, and it takes me through the whole Bible in one year. So it’s a daily 15-20 minute investment that really makes a difference for me.What could a visual learner do? First, find a daily scripture reading program that would give you daily doses of scripture that could be read in less than 15-20 minutes. What about tactile-kinesthetic learners? Try moving as you listen to scripture. I actually walk while listening, and this helps my focus.

Thank you, Lord that your law is perfect. Thank you, that it has the power to revive my parched soul today and always. Thank you that testimonies about what you have done for me and others are sure certain and and daily reminders of your kindness. Thank that your guidance makes wise the simple. I could really use an extra measure of your wisdom today. Thank you that your precepts are right, and they bring joy to my battered heart. Your commandment is pure, and enlightening to my eyes when I don’t know what to do or where to go. Help me to recognize and respect you and be cleansed by drawing near to you. Thank you that in an ever-changing world, all of this is enduring forever; your rules are true, and righteous altogether. When I cry out to you, I am restored. AMEN

How about you? How will you take in your daily dose of scripture?

Psalm 16: A Remedy for Soul Weary Days

Are you tired? Are you worn out?

God’s guidance continues to challenge me to dismantle the influence of hustle culture on my life.  For decades I’ve been immersed in the need to do more, work harder, and keep going. My type A personality struggles to avoid the trap that hems me in on all sides with chaos of competing calls to never stop. I will never arrive or complete what is most essential according to the world. Choosing the narrow way, and daily exposure to God’s directive for time management realigns my priorities.

The second half of Psalm 16 gives special direction for finding a place of refuge that refuels me on my journey. The ever forward motion can cease when I pause and rest with God. (See last week’s blog post for the first half of Psalm 16 https://antheakotlan.com/2021/06/02/psalm-16-gods-prescription-for-rest/.)

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

When the dark of the night surrounds me it is easy to become disoriented and discouraged. How often has sleep been stolen by anxiety’s grip in the middle of the night, pulling back the covers and causing fears to loom larger? The worst dilemma is not facing a difficult decision, but it is actually the lack of clarity. In the night God will show up and give guidance. Perhaps it is in the night, when I finally get still, I can hear His voice above the hustle of this world.   

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

My rest is even found in celebrating in the security of my now and not yet. In a world full of anxiety and threats, I can rest assured in soul security found only in the Lord. I can know my eternal soul is safe forever in the company of God.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

True soul tending rest delivers gladness and thankfulness. I know where I am going with God. He will never leave me or forsake me. He has revealed a way to live in His presence, and I can escape an exhausting cycle of second guessing, criticizing myself, and striving to do more and more. The joy found in the presence of God is soul sustaining for the ongoing journey of life this side of heaven.

Lord, teach me to take time away with you to restore my soul in the rest. I choose to listen to the faithful counsel of your word and sit with you and rejoice. All I need is right here with you. Amen.

How do you find rest?