Seven Days of Hope in Advent
by Sally Witmer and Kimberly Badam
In Advent, we celebrate God sending Jesus to rescue us. When things are going well, we often forget the power of what that rescue looks like on a daily basis. When troubles surround us, we can lose hope that Jesus’ rescue extends to every inch of our lives. For this week in Advent, join us in inviting Jesus to open our eyes to see all the ways He is our source of confident hope, in good times and bad.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope. — Romans 15:13 (NLT)
Sunday, December 8
Ingrid Betancourt, a Columbian citizen, was working to make her country a safer place when terrorists kidnapped and dragged her to a jungle prison. Chained to a tree, with no shelter from the driving rain, mocked and abused for six-and-a-half years, she didn’t know if she’d ever see her husband and children again. But in her long wait, God helped her hold on to hope, sometimes through very strange ways:
“Many of the guerillas who were acting as my guards and officially were not supposed to believe in God would come to me with words that were very astonishing. They would whisper things like ‘I’m praying for you. I can’t publicly admit belief, but I truly believe in God and know that one day you’ll be free.'” Six-and-a-half years later, Ingrid was set free as dramatically as she’d been captured.
While waiting for rescue, Ingrid turned to God with hope that grew strong and confident. She says, “Fear is contagious. But faith is, too… It’s what allows us to transform everything we are — our weaknesses and frailties, into strength and power… It’s what gives us strength to stand in the face of fear, look above it, and see beyond it… we all need to connect with that Strength we have inside us for the times when there’s a storm raging around our boat.”
Most of us haven’t lived Ingrid’s level of drama. But we’ve all had moments of fear and anguish. Some of us have wondered if it would ever end. Jesus promises he is near to us when we call on him — especially when we’re brokenhearted and hope seems lost.
PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for how you paid to rescue me. Thank you that I can trust you to deliver me through each hardship. Please show me places I haven’t trusted fully in you. Help me give you my control, my worries, and receive your perfect peace that transcends scary facts. Show me a deeper revelation of how you are my Defender, my Deliverer, and my Confident Hope.
SCRIPTURE: The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. — Psalm 18:2
Monday, December 9
THE VOICE OF HOPE
Margaret Nagib in her book “Souls like Stars” describes the sound of hope this way: “The Voice of Hope echoes that he has so much more for us.”
We live in a busy, rustling world with many conflicting and competing voices, including negative messages that are not from God, but that we’ve owned. Thankfully, the Spirit is at work within us, calling out the truth of what Jesus has done – and continues to do – for his beloved.
What voices are competing for his attention?
Take some time today to be still, to seek beauty, to clear out space for his voice of hope. His voice is your spiritual lifeline. Any opposed messages can be laid at the foot of the cross.
PRAYER: Ask Jesus: What messages of hope and joy do you have for me? What do you want me to be open to about my future and destiny?
SCRIPTURE: God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. — Ephesians 3:20-21 (The Message)
Tuesday, December 10
THE TENSION OF HOPE
We found we were pregnant right after my father died of brain cancer and our toddler was healed of a deadly blood disease. As we grappled with two battles for life –one tragic and one miraculous– this new baby symbolized Hope. Then life took another hard turn. Premature labor, 3-month bedrest, husband sent overseas on emergency business. I couldn’t move, had two small kids to care for, and we didn’t know if this baby would survive. I still had it easy compared to many in the world, but as I faced anxiety, I thought of Mary and the tension she carried while pregnant with Jesus. The worries of her situation assaulted her every step of the way. Yet she’d seen the glory of God and held on to his promises until they came true.
Mary’s words of praise in Luke 1 renewed hope and reminded me to worship God regardless of outcome. In the end, we held a healthy newborn, but we also held a new sense of peace. In uncertain battles, God helped us hand him our worries in exchange for trust, until his presence freed our hearts from fear.
PRAYER: Father, when I’m facing hard realities in life, help my heart know that YOU ARE GOOD; that you’re on my side; that you paid for my rescue. When I get bad news, help me stay anchored in your constant nearness. Keep my heart steady and show me where your higher realities override mine. Help me place full trust in you to pull me through. Even in uncertainty, fill me with the peace of your Presence until all I want to do is worship you.
SCRIPTURE: The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs… yearning for full deliverance…The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. — Romans 8:22-28 (Message)
Wednesday, December 11
THE PERSPECTIVE OF HOPE
I loved View-Masters as a kid. You’d put a reel of photos in the stereoviewer and everything would stand out in 3-D. Recently God gave me the word/picture of a View-Master. It struck me that each frame on the reel is a complete picture, but it’s only a piece of the whole. A single frame can look like the whole or truest part of the story. But without every frame on the reel, you really miss the full narrative. All the frames viewed together express an entirely different narrative. It’s the same in life. Some frames on our reels are really hard realities where hope may not be in view. For some of us, it may feel like we’ve been stuck in the same hopeless frame for a while. It’s okay to acknowledge this reality. God doesn’t put a timer on our handing up heavy emotions or hard realities to him. But he does challenge our human conclusions and remind us that our life reels aren’t over yet. He invites us to seek out his Kingdom realities in our stories.
PRAYER:God, you say things like, “Come”, “Fix your eyes on me”, “When you seek me wholeheartedly you’ll be found by me.” Help me to come to you, to fix my eyes on you, to seek you wholeheartedly. Help me to hand up any burdens blocking my connection with you. Jesus, as I hand you the disappointing frames on my life reel, will you show me the bigger picture? What is the larger narrative of my life that you are helping me write?
SCRIPTURE: Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. — Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Thursday, December 12
On Day one, we read about Ingrid Betancourt, waiting years to be rescued from her captors. In her long wait, she learned to trust God and draw near to his presence. In exchange for anger, hatred, desire to kill her abusers, God gave her forgiveness, patience, and the powerful peace of His presence. As she learned to rely on him, she found hope and peace that didn’t depend on her circumstances being made right. She trusted God before she could see the signs of his physical rescue.
“One of my biggest conquests in the jungle and here, in freedom, is a new definition of happiness. It’s inner peace. I remember reading in the Bible that you go through this valley of tears, and you have to force yourself to be brave and continue to get to the oasis. The reward when you get there is not fame or money or success or power. The reward God offers you when you have gone through the valley of tears is [inner] rest. I feel I have come to a moment in my life where I have been blessed with rest.”
PRAYER: Ask Jesus today: What longings are making my heart sick? What deferred needs and dreams can I entrust to your safekeeping, Jesus? If I can hand you these longings, what do you have for me while I wait? Please fill me with new levels of the peace and confident hope of your presence.
SCRIPTURE: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. — Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Friday, December 13
HOPE IS RISING
Several years ago, I was parking at Grossmont Center to go about some ordinary errands. Before getting out of the car, I heard God’s still small voice speak, “Hope is Rising”. I almost ran right into someone I barely knew. We exchanged typical polite greetings, but then within moments that conversation took a dive for the deep and huge struggles were unloaded. We made plans to intentionally meet up soon after, but before leaving she turned around and said to me, “I was just crying out to God that I needed more hope today”.
Since that encounter I’ve seen many more stories – ranging from heavy loss to countless miracles — that would fill many pages testifying to the goodness of God. When we cry out to him, he answers with hope.
PRAYER: Spend time with God today asking: Will you bring to mind where I’ve seen hope rise in my own life? (Pause in gratitude. Thank him for his goodness. Praise him for who he is.) God, where do I need to see Hope rise in my life? (Hand him what comes, release burdens to him, and let him meet you here)
SCRIPTURE: We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us… — Hebrews 6:18-20 (The Message)
Saturday, December 14
THE PRESENCE OF HOPE
Hope is more than a thing. Hope is the Person of Jesus. All the love and hope we crave is met in his beautful presence. We are made to worship him. When we do, the Presence of God, our Living Hope surrounds us.
Tommy Walker, a songwriter, once said “I can’t remember how many times I’ve felt like God was a million miles away and then, in an instant, I recognized He was closer than the air I breathe. Psalm 22:3 says, He actually lives and dwells in our praises. This is the mystery and miracle of the breakthrough presence and power of God!… When we worship, the invisible God is at work doing invisible, powerful things. We get realigned, refreshed and refueled; we find unspeakable joy and indescribable peace.”
Worship is called a “sacrifice” of praise because it isn’t always easy. But here on Earth is our only opportunity to give the gift of praise in the midst of pain. In worship we get out of the way for God to fight our battles. When worship becomes a way of life and we live for blessing God’s heart through worship, we become transformed.
PRAYER: God, help me to begin this day by coming to you without agenda. Help me to love you and to fully receive your love. Open my eyes to the signs of your hope all around me. May we become worshipers on a new level, people who stand and declare your goodness, even when tears of pain may be rolling down our faces. May we give thanks and praise every day of our lives, not just for ourselves, but on behalf of a hurting world that doesn’t yet know how to thank or praise you. Let our worship fill the earth and flood the world with the hope of your presence.
SCRIPTURE: One thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfection and meditating in his Temple. — Psalm 27:4 (NLT)
Here are a few songs on Hope… Listen, add to, or create your own “Hope Playlist”:
Hope Has a Name (River Valley)
You Never Let Me Down (Mosaic MSC)
Hope’s Anthem (William Matthews)
Get Your Hopes Up (Josh Baldwin)
Living Hope (Phil Wickham)
Hope is Alive (Kristene DiMarco)
All My Hope (Hillsong Worship)