Reigniting Hope: Burning Love

Moses might be the most known and respected man of all the Old Testament. Yet, the biblical hero who confronted Pharaoh, met with God, and led the Israelites to the Promised Land had a shady start. Murderous, in fact. You see, when he came of age as an adopted son of Pharaoh, Moses began to wrestle with his humble beginnings as a ‘hated’ Hebrew. The call to be the rescuer of his biological people began to burn within him (Acts 7:25), so he took walks among them, observing their enslaved state until anger arose at the injustice of it all. His temper flared – and he killed an abusive Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12).

Word got out. And Moses fled. Not just the scene but the entire land of Egypt. 

FORTY years later, God showed up, grabbing Moses’ attention by igniting a bush on Mount Sinai with flames that burned bright and hot yet did not consume the tiny tree (Exodus 3:2). And, the rest is history.

  • Moses, afraid and ashamed, knew what it was like to hit rock bottom. 
  • Moses, broken and bewildered, knew the sting of seeing the horrific treatment of others.
  • Moses, confused and conflicted, knew the depths of suffering and the agony of guilt.

Moses may have risen to the occasion, eventually, but his humble and hard beginnings reveal to us that there is hope for every single one of us as we seek the Lord by faith – first and most – and as we receive His healing, sustaining love.

Burning Bushes

Shifting our focus onto ourselves for a moment, can we just say the past few years have been brutal? Collectively, we have witnessed floods and fires, volcanoes that spew, hurricanes that slam, and viruses that shut the world down. We have watched with shock as divisions in the political arena have split and spiraled beyond the imaginable. We have wavered somewhere between horror and hostility as bully nations attack smaller ones and terrorists terrorize at new levels.

In our personal lives we face conflicts in marriage and struggles with mental health. Finances stress and health issues strain. Collectively, we’ve been dubbed the loneliest generations to ever live on earth, yet work-from-home is on the rise and many churches can’t fill their pews. We’re “spiritual, not religious.” We’re “tolerant,” but not loving. We’re angry. Confused. Sad.

And, we’re tempted to believe the mantra being shouted over us – there’s no hope. But. We know differently! After spending the better part of a year searching Scripture for what hope looks like and how to live in it, we know, for a fact, that for believers of the One True God there is always hope.

Even with the gift of hope, however, we have moments and seasons when we just need to lament. And despite the fact that the idea of lamenting has shown up more on this site in 2023 than all the other years added up, we (I) still struggle with how. to. lament. So, this week, we take a left turn and head to the Old Testament for help – to the book of Lamentations. 

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope (yachal):
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait (yachal) for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope (qavah) is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:19-26 NIV (additions mine)

This week’s passage is rooted in the lament of one who has been swallowed by the “utter lostness” of life and whose affliction is so consuming that it tastes like ashes and feels like poison (The Message, v.19). We witness the authentic and vulnerable state of the author as he has come before the Lord – to the degree that it might seem a little melodramatic to us, that is, until we recall the times we have felt the same.

After the pouring out and lamenting, the author speaks of hope. He remembers that because of God’s great love, he is not consumed (v.22). Which makes me think of the flames of Moses’ blazing bush, the fire that engulfed the leaves and limbs yet never devoured them. It burned but did not consume

In much the same way, our sufferings are like the flames of the burning bush – they’re hot and bothersome and even threatening, but when we receive God’s love, we have the means of not being burnt to a crisp. 

Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash

God’s love protects, sustains, and heals. His love surrounds us, becoming our shield. It fills us like oxygen, keeping us breathing and moving through the flames. Every fire we face might burn us, but the pouring out of God’s love becomes a salve that cools and restores. His love is our hope for all the ‘new’ that He’ll bring into being – beauty from the proverbial ashes.

Glowing Faces

The writer of Lamentations offers insight as to whom such hope is given. Did you catch it? To those who seek God (v.25). This idea becomes a great theme throughout Jesus’ teachings (ie: Matthew 6:33). In fact, every time we read phrases like “fix your eyes on Jesus,” it’s a reminder to us of where we’re meant to be.

Moses models for us what it looks like to get alone with God – and it’s an intentional time away from the bickering, begging people and the slugfest of life. Moses shows us that we are to draw near, be still, and know. He. is. God (Psalm 46:10). 

I can hear you – who has time? We all live the demands of life and know the stresses of full calendars and looming deadlines. We all fight the same temptations to escape and numb. But the truth is we’re called to slow down, get still, and sit in God’s presence – however that looks. Maybe as we’re being bathed by the warm waters of our early morning showers, we lift our hearts to Him. Maybe as we’re waiting in pickup lines, we forgo the playlist or latest podcast to sit in the silence with Him. Maybe we set our alarms earlier or skip the latest episode of yet another series in order to spend some time basking in the love of our Father.

Stillness in the peace of God’s presence doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does require sacrifice and intentionality – not in a legalistic sort of way, but in God’s loving way. Devotion over duty. Desire over demand. And, like Moses, after we’ve spent time engulfed in the glory of God’s presence, we’ll come away with a glow (Exodus 34:29-30) – maybe not of face, but for sure of soul. And the glow of the peace that comes from time with the Lord is proof that we are infused by God’s love, which becomes our way through the fires of life.

Gretchen Saffles, of Well-Watered Women, recently described her own moment of stepping outside of the chaos in order to spend some time with the Lord:

I “open my Bible to Psalm 1. And the tears begin to flow—tears of weariness mingle with tears of relief. God’s Word rushes into my parched soul and waters it once more. His presence wraps around me, his hope infuses me with peace that surpasses all understanding. His Word is a defibrillator that shocks my staggering soul out of its slumber and makes my heart beat again for him.”1  

Friends, the answer to all our suffering, questioning, and wrestling is and always will be getting in the presence of our Father. So, whatever you face and however you feel, know that you will not be consumed – because the love of God won’t let you. Cling to the enduring power of hope by the faith you have in the Father and the love He has for you.

Father God, we come to You with heavy and honest hearts, knowing we need You. We see so much misery and pain – yet You see so much more. We feel so many emotions – and You feel it all with us but with strength and constancy. We face so many trials – and You offer yourself to us to be our shelter, our wisdom, our strength. We offer our thanks that all the suffering will never consume us because You are always with us. We rest in the knowledge that You are higher and greater and stronger than anything on earth or in heaven. And, we trust You are present and sovereign – a faith that becomes the foundation for our hope that You are working all things out for the good of those who believe in You. Lord Jesus, what a relief it is to know that You dwell in our hearts and minds and souls because of our faith in You. What a gift it is to be rooted and established in your love! We recognize there’s no way to have hope in this life without your presence and stabilizing love. We know that it’s only by the power of your love that we can endure suffering without becoming heaps of ashes. Instead, your love fuels us to keep moving forward with faith and hope. Your love covers us and heals us. So, our gratitude runs deep – because nothing can ever separate us from your love! Holy Spirit, thank You for being the conduit of Christ’s love in us. We ask that You would keep reminding us that we stand together with all the Lord’s holy people – we are not alone! Keep helping us to grasp just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – and to receive it everyday. And, keep showing us how this love that surpasses knowledge fills us to the measure of all the fullness of God, which is a truth we long to fathom. Together, we set our minds on Christ. We fix our eyes on the One whose love is so pure that it strengthens our faith and hope. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
(inspired by Hebrews 4:13; Mark 6:34; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 113:4-5; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:17-19; Lamentations 3:22; 1 Peter 4:8; John 3:16-17; Isaiah 26:3; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Corinthians 13:7)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – Quoted from the Well-Watered Women email, October 18, 2023.
  • Here’s another great nugget that fits within our context: Lysa TerKeurst says, “as Lamentations 3:21-23 reminds us, we are to call in the hope by recalling the truth” (It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, p.189).
  • Did you notice I put the Hebrew words within the Lamentations passage? I had a bit of a word-nerd moment as I unpacked the meanings of each use of ‘wait’ and ‘hope’ for this post. And words we used a lot at the beginning of the year came rolling back in full force. It was fun to see how the words ‘wait’ and ‘hope’ interchanged because, depending on their context and usage, qavah and yachal can mean both! And, they both have added connotations of waiting or hoping within the tensions – yet with high expectancy for God’s help. SO GOOD! If you want to do some unpacking of the Hebrew on your own, here’s the website.
  • Our Flames of Faith, Hope, and Love playlist is full of songs charged with truths the flow like electric currents to our hearts. I’d love to hear which songs on our playlist have reignited your hope!
  • On Wednesdays I’ve begun posting 5-7 minute teaching videos on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram (@shelleylinnjohnson).
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • Stillness. I really had no idea just how KEY the spiritual practice of stillness would be as we embarked our Reigniting Hope journey. But God obviously did. 😉 How have you been able to work in moments of stillness into your life? How has God met you there? If you haven’t gotten still before the Lord yet, maybe try one of the ideas I listed in the post!
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash. Bits & Pieces Photo by Arjun Kapoor on Unsplash

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Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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