Many years ago, I started my love affair with peonies. They just appeared so perfect–delicate, wispy and at the same time so lush. Let’s not even get started on their heavenly scent…They also happen to be expensive. Very, very expensive.
My fresh out of college self had a great idea–I would GROW a peony bush and then I could have all the peonies I wanted. With great excitement, I went to the local nursery and learned some hard truths. Peonies are persnickety. After I planted the bush, it could take as many as 7 years to bloom. If I ever replanted it, it might take another three years. If conditions weren’t right, I could have a bush full of blooms that would never open. In other words, I could spend all of my birthday money on a bush that might end up being nothing.
That was the day the Lord really started teaching me a lesson in HOPE.
Hope is a pretty powerful thing. It’s not a wish. It is a belief, a knowledge that things will get better. It is a muscle that can be strengthened if exercised or can atrophy and die if neglected.
Hope is powerful. Dr. Dale Archer writes in Psychology Today that, “As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.”
It’s protective. A 2017 study from Chengdu, China looked at the fMRI scans of high school students and showed that HOPE protects the brain from anxiety.
It’s transformative. When people experience hope, it releases neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins into the brain which mimic the effects of morphine.
Hope can simply change everything.
Some of you are nodding in agreement right now while others are throwing your socks against the wall and yelling, “Yes! Hope is a great concept, but I can’t get any right now!” Ahhh, my friend, how I want to jump through this screen right now and gather you in my arms. Since I can’t do that, let’s break it down.
Step 1–Sing about it. Seriously, we could geek out on brain stuff here, but when you sing, things are rewired in the brain. Little Orphan Annie knew what she was doing when she belted out, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.”
Step 2–Write about it. Once again, brain stuff. Let’s get as many of your senses involved as possible here. See it. Write it. Speak it.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13
But those who hope in the LORD 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
Search the Word and write down God’s promises as they pertain to you and the situation you are currently in. It is so old school, but don’t just type them in your phone, or copy and paste. To get all of your body engaged, you must physically write them out. Write them on notecards. Then, daily look at them and speak them out loud. This is training your brain to get ready for the hardest part.
Step 3–Actively believe it. This means that when things are presented to you that don’t match up with HOPE, you call them for what they are–lies of the devil that don’t match up with the promises of God and then you start singing again. You start saying the promises out loud. You start engaging in spiritual warfare. You have to hold on to the words of Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
Let’s just soak that in. With God, ALL things are possible.
We know how the story ends. We know–or are learning–the promises of God. The biggest part of HOPE is learning to walk in it. We have to actively do our responsibilities, but we do those knowing those actions will have positive results.
I still had to water my peony bush. I had to fertilize it. I had to prune it year after year when I did not get any blooms. Then, I had to start all over again when I moved. And then when I moved again. Year after year, I did all the work and saw no results. However, I knew what was going on below the surface. Science told me that there was growth and that soon I would see the promise fulfilled.
For the last three years, the bush has been full of blooms. For two of the years, I was out of town and only the bugs got to enjoy those perfumed blossoms. This year was a different story. I celebrated the promise. I filled every room with peonies. White fluttery blossoms tinged with pink were everywhere you turned and I would dance and sing all around the house in celebration. It was HOPE personified.
Perhaps you are in a season where your HOPE muscles are fully developed and your home is filled with your proverbial peonies or perhaps not. September is a month where we are focusing on suicide prevention and perhaps you or someone you know needs to start developing their hope muscle. If so, we are here for you. You are worth so much more than those peonies and if God will grant me some showy blooms, how much more will he do for you–His child, chosen and dearly loved. You were set apart before the beginning of time to do great things for Him. You are the head and not the tail, part of a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation and SO, SO much more.
So please, share with all of us what we can do for you. Can we celebrate or do we need to pray? Either way, we are here. What has God done for you to help you build HOPE?
P.S.S. Need more thoughts on peonies, check it out here.