Women of Hope: Shiphrah, Puah, and Anna

The Midwives

My entire adult life these hands have held Hebrew babies, but now to carry my own child seems too good, too great. How faithful Yahweh is!

When Puah and I went before Pharaoh – afraid for our lives – I didn’t expect to leave his presence with my life, yet we not only lived but God has blessed us with families of our own! It’s all too much to believe.

I thank the Lord Almighty for His faithfulness and pray that my people’s* faith will ignite in light of what He’s done.

Shiphrah, one of two Hebrew midwives* during Israel’s final years of Egyptian enslavement. Two like-minded women of faith, Shiphrah and Puah choose to fear God more than Pharaoh when he commands them to murder each baby boy born to Hebrew women (Exodus 1:16). They choose to put their trust in God instead of pleasing man, giving themselves over to God’s plans instead of their own. 

Fear of God

Enslaved for more than 400 years, the generations of Israelites alive in the midwives’ day have only ever known captivity. Pharaoh’s cruelty knows no bounds (1:11,14), so their fear of Pharaoh is well-founded – and it is deeply rooted.

Scripture tells us less of their fear of God. We have no record if the Israelites heard from God for these four centuries,1 yet they cry out for His deliverance (3:7), demonstrating there remains an element of faith in Yahweh despite the silence, despite the slavery.

It’s easy to imagine how despondent these Hebrew slaves would have been, how hopeless for a future that looked like anything other than what they have known – that is, unless God were to send a deliverer.

There’s a recognizable glimmer of hope in the middle of the despairing description about these Hebrew slaves that hints of God’s presence – “but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers, and became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (1:7) – the familiar language of blessing from Genesis 1:28. In other words, God may seem absent, but the Creator’s hand has never left His people.

This is Shiphrah and Puah’s context. 

Whether alone in their faith or surrounded by a people who stubbornly cling to their belief in God, these two women make a vital choice in the face of legitimate, quake-in-your-boots terror. Their choice to fear God over Pharaoh is a turning point in this centuries-long subjugation – because this brand of ‘fear’ of God exudes more reverence and awe than apprehension, as differentiated by the use of the Hebrew word yare with a particular infinitive.2 

All that to say, our midwives confronted their fear of Pharaoh with faith in God.3 It stands out to me that this decision to go against the king was not one-and-done. The choice to overcome trepidation looked Shiphrah and Puah in the face each time a Hebrew woman went into labor.3 

And that gives me much hope. As a person who too easily falls into people-pleasing patterns, caring too much what people might think or say, I run into my fears more than I’d like to admit. Each time the fear raises its head, I flail – then I get mad at myself, thinking I should have conquered this by now. What Shiphrah and Puah show me is that this choice to put our hope in God instead of other people (or even ourselves) is a. daily. decision. 

They also demonstrate that we can do whatever God calls us to even when we’re afraid. Not because we are so strong but because God is.

The Prophetess

I knew it! This feeling of anticipation that awoke me has buzzed like bees in my belly all morning. And, now I know why. The Messiah! He has come! Immanuel is here!

The moment I laid eyes on that precious babe, my spiritual sight saw Him for who He is. Thank You, Father! Thank You for gifting me with this encounter with Messiah! Thank You for hearing our prayers!

I knew You could not be silent forever.

Now my belly burns with a fire I cannot contain. I’ll share this good news with everyone I meet!

Anna. Decades-long widow. Prophet of God. A woman of eighty-four who has spent her life in the Temple – never leaving, always praying (Luke 2:37). A woman whose heart and mind are not distracted but fully aligned with her Father’s. So, when the Spirit leads her to eight-day-old Jesus one day in the Temple, she is overcome with gratitude and exuberance to share Messiah’s arrival to “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Choosing Hope

So little is written about Anna, yet her place on the timeline of biblical history is no coincidence. Like her counterparts in Exodus, Anna steps into a life of faith-filled service during the final years of four centuries of oppression – and God’s apparent silence. 

Known as the “intertestamental period,” the four hundred years between Malachi’s encounters with God and the angel’s visitation of Zechariah (those centuries between the Old and New Testament) have no representation in the Holy Bible (Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:11-13). 

But, like the Hebrew enslavement in Egypt, God’s people in this second “silent” era remained fairly faithful to God. Extra biblical resources, namely the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, suggest that God’s people fought wars with the Greeks (aka: Seleucids) in order to win back the Temple in Jerusalem – and that miracles, though few, demonstrated God’s forever-presence with His people.1 

Even when He appears absent.

Anna, whose world came crashing down when her husband of seven years suddenly died, makes a choice to place her hope in God. Instead of giving into despair or cynicism, Anna turns toward the Temple and finds place and purpose. She gives God her heart and places all her hope in His deliverance from the Romans.4

Bookends of God’s Deliverance Story

Purchased on Canva

Our three women of hope span thousands of years – two on the front end of God’s redemptive plan and one who shows up on the eve of its culmination. They each exist in eras when God’s people cry out for salvation. And their faith in God lays the way for His deliverers.

When Shiphrah and Puah defy Pharaoh, he shifts gears to come up with another awful plan to eliminate baby Hebrew boys – drowning in the Nile (Exodus 1:22) – which sets the stage for a particular baby boy to be put in a miniature ark to float the Nile toward his rescue. A baby boy who grows to become Moses, God’s chosen rescuer of His people (Exodus 3:10).

When Anna gives nearly seventy years of her life to prayer and worship, her heart yearning for another miraculous saving of God’s people, she unknowingly places herself in the very location of the Christ child’s presentation. And God uses her presence and passion to join the shepherd’s voices in announcing Messiah’s arrival (Luke 2:17-18,38).

These bookends – Shiphrah/Puah and Anna – frame a larger narrative within the Bible, that of God’s Redemptive Plan. From the time sin enters the world and separates God from His creation, He has been laying out stepping stones that lead toward the ultimate Day of Redemption (Ephesians 4:30). 

In its early stage, deliverance comes from Moses, who liberates God’s people from Pharaoh and attempts to eliminate slavery in all its forms from within them.5 Of course, Moses is but a type for Christ because there is only one true Messiah – the ultimate Deliverer. Yet, both play a significant role in the grand scheme of redeeming God’s people back to Him.

So, it’s no happenstance that these women full of hope and faith are placed on the timeline of God’s Redemption Story – exactly where they are and when they are – for good reason. When these women of hope step into their stories with the holy fear of God, their faith illuminates the hope of God’s people that has carried them for hundreds of years. And their actions make way for God’s plans to move into the world – plans of redemption and reconnection with Himself.

Shiphrah, Puah, and Anna slip into the ageless accounts of history’s holiest of heroes with no fanfare. Instead, they quietly move forward with faith, finding courage in the hope they have in God. What models they are for us, women whose work often goes unnoticed and unappreciated, whose lives of faith look more like buying groceries than parting seas. We can learn from two midwives and one prophetess that when we’re faithful to put our hope in God, we are assured to become part of a greater redemptive story that will carry into future generations – no matter how small or insignificant we feel. God is always at work. And His plans always have purpose, which is why our hope in Him will always be well-placed.

Father God, You are our hope! You are never absent! In the dailiness of our lives, it’s easy to doubt or forget You – but the stories of these little known women ignite in us a hope that what we do matters. That what You give us to carry will be worth the discipline and devotion for today and for years to come. That what you ask of us – no matter how big or small – always has purpose in the midst of your plans. Praise to You, Father! Lord Jesus, your story begins long before your birth and extends well beyond your ascension to heaven. Thank You for inviting us into your narrative and for including the stories of these three women in Scripture so that we can look to them and mirror the hope and faith they demonstrate, so that we can trust your whole plan – not just the parts we see. Lead us, we pray, each day in the ways we should go, the words we should say, and the steps we should take in order to remain firmly on your path. Holy Spirit, we love seeing your invisible hand in the lives of Shiphrah, Puah, and Anna – the way You held, encouraged, emboldened, led, and blessed them. May we always and forever remember that You are constantly at work in us, through us, and around us so that we, too, can live lives of hope in the One we trust. Be our strength of spirit when our hearts panic and our minds flail. Equip us to fear God, not the people around us. Help us to always return our focus to Jesus so that our faith is the anchoring force in all we think and feel, speak and do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(inspired by Romans 15:13; Hebrews 13;5; Colossian 3:23-24; Joel 1:2-3; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Jeremiah 29:11; John 1:1-2; Hebrews 11:1; John 8:12; Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 2:13; Exodus 1:20-21; Luke 2:38; John 14:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; Isaiah 40:31; Galatians 1:10; Hebrews 12:1-2)

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.

*There is great debate over whether Shiphrah and Puah were Hebrew or Egyptian… Either way, their ‘fear of God’ is duly noted in Exodus and their faithfulness rewarded!

  • I wonder what you think of this week’s featured portrait!? I found the artist, Sara Beth Baca one day while searching for a public domain portrait of another Women of Hope. I fell in love! I promised myself I’d come back and purchase one of her “Women of the Bible” portraits ($25 to download). I’m so glad I happened to see Sara’s Puah-picture as I searched the web this week — because hers is the one with POMEGRANATES!!! You for sure want to check out her site! Here’s the link to her Women of the Bible series (y’all she sells them individually, as a flash card set — I’m so tempted — and as downloadables). She also has other series.
  • 1 – I found this article so interesting about the two biblical eras of 400 years where God seems so silent. Michelle Van Loon makes a great case that the 400 years of enslavement were much more ‘silent’ than the 400 “intertestamental years.”
  • 2 – Biblehub.com to the rescue! I am not trained in biblical languages, but it’s great to have tools like Strong’s Concordance available for clarification and greater understanding!
  • 3 – Lynn Cowell’s book, Make Your Move,^ is the first study that opened the door on these two amazing women for me.
  • 4 – The Women in Christian History Devotional,^ December 26th, emphasizes that Anna waited a long time to see the redemption of God’s people.
  • 5 – This article, “Getting Egypt Out of Us,” captures what I’ve heard taught by several trusted teachers – that too often when we’ve been freed out of some sort of captivity, it takes longer to get its grips and habits out of us
  • The song on our “Women of Hope” playlist that represents Shiphrah and Puah is “Defender” by Francesca Battistelli and Steffany Gretzinger. God was certainly their defender as they went before Pharaoh to “break the news” that the Hebrew baby boys live because the Hebrew women are so strong. 🙂 The songs I chose for Anna reflect her passion for the coming Messiah, “Even Unto Death,” and her unending faithfulness to God — she certainly “Kept the Candle Burning.”
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Do you see how our three women lived by the truths of faith — how they were sure of what they hoped for even though they couldn’t see God at work? Until they did! LOL. We’ll continue to soak in the New Century Version translation this week:

      “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.”
  • 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 portrait: “Puah” by Sara Beth Baca — purchased from her site. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Women of Hope: Esther

Almighty God, You have guided my steps for all my years, leading me into my cousin’s loving home after my parents’ death, placing me – an orphan exile –  in the palace as part of the king’s harem, and granting me favor with so many. So, I choose to trust You now, Father in Heaven, as the One whose hand will be on me as I step into this call on my life.

I believe You know my fear is great – that I face death if the king’s favor is not extended toward me. But, I remember that You are the God of all grace and loving-kindness, so I humbly offer myself as your vessel in this errand of standing in for your people. Still my heart, Lord Over All. Help me set my mind on You alone. 

I ask your divine favor to be on my husband – that he might welcome me into his presence and give ear to my invitation. My only desire is to carry out your will, so I pray that my voice may speak your words before the king. And that my people might be spared annihilation. 

I feel my people’s prayers surrounding me. My confidence grows because I know You, Holy One of Israel, go with me. May your plan prevail. May your name be praised. May all glory be yours. You have my allegiance, my heart, and my body. I go now to speak for your people – if I perish, I perish. Either way, I will have stood for You and with You. Amen. 

Esther. Orphan and Jewish exile. As a homeless young girl, Esther finds a place of belonging in her cousin Mordecai’s home at a time when the exiled Jews live as sojourners in Persia. 

Let’s pause to get our bearings. It’s easy for us to blur all these stories of “Women of Hope” together, as though they happen back-to-back-to-back in biblical history. And that is just not the case! 

About 1590 BC – Judah and Tamar’s twins are born
About 1400 BC – Jericho falls to Joshua and the Israelites with Rahab’s help
About 1280 BC – Boaz and Ruth marry and have their son, Obed
1040 BC – David’s birth
About 597 BC – the northern kingdom of Israel (aka: Judah) is exiled by Babylon
About 538 BC – Persian King Cyrus “ends” Israel’s exile, allowing them to go back to Jerusalem
About 426 BC – Queen Esther calls on all Jews in Persia to pray and fast

Dating events in ancient history is beyond difficult, but these general dates give us some context. Over 150 years between Tamar and Rahab. Maybe over a 100 years between Rahab and Ruth (I know…Boaz is Rahab’s son…people lived longer then. And Boaz is thought to have been about 80 when he met Ruth…).

But then about 850 years between Ruth and Esther – and a WHOLE LOT of Israelite history, including an entire era of Israelite kings. Then exile. Even the end of exile – yet thousands of Jews remain in Persia, their home for over 150 years.

Enter Esther. A woman of hope who endures a Persian king’s edict to become his concubine – then wife. And queen! Before we romanticize this parent-less, foreign woman’s rise to the highest seat in all the kingdom, let’s get some perspective. Esther’s entire life journey holds very little choice. Not only does she not choose to be an orphan, but she has no real choice to decline King Xerxes’ “invitation” to enter this ancient version of a beauty pageant on steroids. A mere pawn in the game, even as queen, Esther has no power, no influence over her husband-king’s responses or behaviors. 

Her only true choice – how to respond to each challenge.

When she’s called upon by her cousin to stand in the gap for their people when the awful Haman has ordered genocide for all Jews in Persia, Esther steps into her “such a time as this” role (4:14). She breaks all protocol and law by going before her husband unannounced to plead her people’s case (4:11). Knowing he could have her head for such an act, Esther chooses faith over fear. 

But, she enters the king’s court knowing she has the power of her people’s prayers behind her and God beside her. In other words, she chooses to move forward with hope.


Formulaic Structure

While God is never mentioned by name once in the entire book of Esther, His fingerprints are all it. Despite the fact that some theologians would label the Book of Esther as “secular” because God appears to be missing, others would hail Esther as a literary feat of epic proportions – written with a design that intentionally reveals God’s presence.2

The formulaic structure known as chiasm is what gives Esther a configuration of purpose and redemption. For every catastrophe, flaw, and frustration in the first five books of Esther, a reversal occurs in the second half of the book to bring about God’s redemptive plan.2 

Such intentionality demonstrates God’s hand working behind the scenes throughout the narrative of Esther – even when it is visibly unseen. Thus, the writer chooses not to mention God in order to push his readers to seek Him out in the lines of Esther’s story. In doing so, he invites his readers to develop a technique to always look for God at work in the pages of history.2 As we do so, we can “see how God can and does work in the real mess and moral ambiguity of human history to accomplish his divine purposes.”2

Take it a step further – Michael V. Fox, author of Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther, points out that the writer of Esther desires that we would apply this same “theology of possibility” to our own lives.Wait. “Theology of possibility” – that sounds a lot like hope!

So, when we read Esther’s story where all the worst possible scenarios occur in her life and in the lives of the Jews, we can lean-in to see God’s hand redeem each and every one of them – all to His glory and for His purposes. And, when we do the same in our lives – digging into the darkness to find His presence, power, and purpose – we land on divine possibility. A.k.a.: hope.

Finding Favor

In addition, the author deliberately uses particular words to allude to God – words like grace, mercy, and favor. Eight times in ten chapters the word favor serves as both a window into Esther’s story and God’s heart.

Six of those eight ‘favors’ derive from the Hebrew word, chen, which not only means favor but mercy, affection, and beauty. Six times Esther finds favor and receives mercy from varying people in her life (2:15,17; 5:2,8; 7:3; 8:5), at one point winning “the favor of everyone who saw her” (2:15).

The other two ‘favors’ come from a word we might be more familiar with, hesed – most often referring to the loving kindness of God that is sourced by His covenantal love. But it can also mean finding favor with people, which is the case in Esther (2:9,17). Two men who had the most power to influence the track of her life in the palace, Hegai the eunuch and King Xerxes, honor Esther with great favor, ultimately elevating her to the role of queen.

All this ‘favor’ has something to do with Esther’s outward beauty, but it has even more to do with her inner spirit (2:15). And by the end of her story, it becomes clear why such favor has been given to her – because they pave the way for Esther’s “for such a time as this” moment (4:14), the ultimate purpose for her journey. This revelation casts light on God’s plans, which have been the underlying force all along.

Fasting and Prayer

I was made aware at a young age that God was “nowhere to be found” in Esther’s story, yet something in me knew He was there. It’s only as I’ve researched for this post that I’ve more fully explored how we can ‘see’ God in this bit of history. But, in earlier years when I scoured Esther’s chapters for hints of God (ha – doing exactly what the writer of Esther hoped I’d do), I kept landing on her call to her people to fast and pray.

Who do they pray to? Who do they fast for? God! 

Esther and her people are faithful to turn to Yahweh, beseeching His mercy and favor over Esther as she approaches the king on the Jews’ behalf (4:16). And He hears them, making a way for Esther to succeed and His people to survive (8:16-17; 9:20-22)!

The three days of fasting were a “rallying cry for salvation” to God in heaven that united all the Jews of Persia and brought them hope in the midst of despair.3 Jewish scholars would pose that it was this ‘togetherness’ of the people that helped them reclaim their identity as well as their redemption.3 To commemorate such victory, Mordecai and Queen Esther establish a new festival, Purim, so Jews everywhere can celebrate the way God delivered them from the hand of Haman every year (9:28).

One more layer of hope can be discovered through Esther’s call to pray and fast – the truth that “an individual can find redemption even in the face of terrible, threatening circumstances.”3 

Where can we find God in Esther’s story? In each of the prayers — theirs and ours — for deliverance. And in each of His responses. WHAT HOPE!

Esther overcomes much in her life, but she’s faithful to look for God’s hand in it all. As a result, her faith is woven deeply into the fabric of her identity and spirit – so much so that with each debilitating blow in her life and against her people, Esther continuously chooses faith and trust in the only One who can see her through. Esther teaches us what it looks like to truly put our hope in God.

Father God, You have guided our steps for all our years, leading us into a future full of goodness and hope. Because You have granted us favor with so many, we choose to trust You now as the One whose hand will be on us as we step into the call on our lives. We ask that You would meet us in our fear, helping us to remember that You are the God of all grace and loving-kindness. We humbly offer ourselves as your vessels in this world. Still our hearts, Lord Over All. Help us set our minds on You alone. Lord Jesus, we ask your divine favor to be on our families so that they will seek your presence and heed your invitation to be their Lord. Our will is to do your will, so lead us in the ways that we should speak and act on your behalf. We surrender our bodies to You as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to You. Holy Spirit, we feel your presence and sense the prayers of believers surrounding us. Our confidence grows because we know You – and we know that You always go with us. May God’s plans prevail no matter what the world says or does. May God’s name be praised in streets, from mountains, and across oceans. Because we have hope in Christ, we are very bold, proclaiming the praises and glory of the One True God in all we say and do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Psalm 37:23-24; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 90:17; Ecclesiastes 9:1; Psalm 103:11; Romans 12;1-2; John 3:16; Jeremiah 24:7; 1 Peter 4:11; Ephesians 6:18; John 16:13; Proverbs 19:21; 2 Corinthians 3:12)

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.

*Note that King ‘Xerxes’ is the Persian version of his name. The Hebrew name for the king Esther marries is ‘Ahasuerus.’

  • 1 – For dating the women in our series and some key points in Jewish history, I sought out multiple resources — most of which do not agree on dates. Lol. But, for the most part, I could get close enough for our purposes.
    • Judah’s birth, as well as his twin sons’ birth (to mother, Tamar).
    • Finding when Rahab lived is difficult, but when I searched for dates that Jericho fell to Joshua, all kinds of articles appeared, including this in-depth look at how archaeology aligns with the biblical narrative.
    • An incredibly detailed timeline from the time of Joshua’s death through Ruth’s life.
    • A much simpler timeline that includes Ruth and David.
    • After David, more historical data has been kept, so it’s easier to pinpoint things like when the Babylonian captivity occurred.
    • This particular article contains an incredible little timeline to help us see how the Persian era (Esther’s era) looked in history.
  • 2 – Bible Project blog on Esther’s structure and God’s non-presence. Here’s an outline they offer of the chiasmic structure of Esther:

    A The splendor of the Persian king + Two banquets [1:1-8] 
    B Esther becomes Queen + Mordecai saves the king [1:9-2:20 + 2:21-23] 
    C Haman elevated to power [3:1-6] 
    D Haman’s decree to destroy the Jewish people [3:7-15] 
    E Esther and Mordecai’s plan to reverse the decree [4:1-17] 
    F Esther’s 1st banquet + Haman plans Mordecai’s execution [5:1-8 + 5:9-14] 

    X – PIVOT: Haman humiliated & Mordecai exalted [6:1-14] 

    F’ Esther’s 2nd banquet + Haman executed instead of Mordecai [7:1-10] 
    E’ Esther and Mordecai plan to reverse the decree [8:1-8] 
    D’ Mordecai’s counter-decree to save the Jewish people [8:9-14] 
    C’ Mordecai elevated to power [8:15-17] 
    B’ Queen Esther and Mordecai save the Jewish people [9:1-19]
    A’ Two feasts + The splendor of Mordecai [9:20-32 + 10:1-3]
  • 3 – Quoted or referenced from an article about Esther’s fast and the festival of Purim.
  • The Faithful^ chapter about Esther is authored by Raechel Myers. Her way of pointing out all the ‘favor’ in Esther opened new doors of understanding for me!
  • There’s a song on our “Women of Hope” playlist that beautifully connects the story of Esther to Christ’s story. Also by the Faithful project, “Rise Up” is a song that starts off:

    Tell me the story of the girl without a mother
    Of the girl without a father who found favor with the King
    Tell me again about how He beheld her beauty
    About the way she stepped out bravely, all her life an offering
    She fell to her knees, while she begged Him “Please
    Spare my people, oh, set them free, oh King!”

    Then through sheer genius, the writers demonstrate the parallels in their stories:

    Tell me the story of the God-man come from glory
    While they said He had no beauty, He was the favor of the King
    Tell me again about the way He loved the lonely
    Healed the sick and fed the hungry, all His life an offering
    He hung on a tree, He cried “Oh, Father, please
    Spare Your people, oh, set them free!”

    Do you see the language of Esther woven throughout the lyrics? Do you see the way an orphaned, exiled Jewish woman can become a foreshadow of Christ? Just wow!

    The second song I attributed to Esther is “Belovedness” by Sarah Kroger — and it’s a lot less obvious why I would do so. I think it’s because I can imagine all the ways and times Esther must have been tempted to let her past pile on the shame — instead, she embodies the truths in the song. God sees her (and us!) as none of the yucky feelings we have or the ugly words that are spoken over us but as His beloved!!! Let it be so of us, Lord!
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. It’s my sincerest hope that the truths of this verse are weaving themselves into the fabric of our being (much like Esther!). To help us keep ruminating on this verse, let’s switch to the New Century Version translation this week (it’s incredibly fitting for our week on Esther):

      “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.”
  • 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: “Esther.” Attributed to Kate Gardiner Hastings (British, 1837-1925). Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 


Women of Hope: Ruth

I knew that crossing the Jordan River to leave Moab behind would label me as “foreigner” and “dreaded Moabite.” I knew I’d have much to learn in this new place and that as widows our lives would be hard. But I never expected the people of Bethlehem to be so distant and… dangerous. I feel their stares. Their animosity. If Naomi and I weren’t so hungry, I might have pulled the shawl over my head and stayed in the shadows.

But I could not return to her empty-handed. So, I spoke a silent prayer to Yahweh, asking for His provision, His protection.

He must have heard! Because the very field I unknowingly walked to is owned by Boaz, an honorable man who comes from my husband’s clan. For hours I gleaned barley, constantly keeping watch for men who might try to harm me. My heart pounded with fear when Boaz pulled me aside. But, then he instructed me to work behind the women he’d hired for the harvest. Peace enveloped me. 

For the first time in many days, I have hope that Naomi and I will make it through the winter. And my hope in God increases with each step because I know I am in the shelter of the Most High.

Ruth the Moabite. Widow of Mahlon the Israelite. Devoted daughter-in-law to Bethlehem-born widow, Naomi. In a moment of life-changing choices, Ruth speaks the famous promise to go where Naomi will go, making Naomi’s people her people and Naomi’s God her God (Ruth 1:16).

Ruth the Moabite. A woman known not by her reputation or personality or deeds, Ruth is defined by her nationality. She’s a “proud Moabite” (Jeremiah 48:29), historically despised by God and his people.1

Yet, instead of hiding from the world with shame, Ruth steps up to find a way forward for Naomi and herself. Knowing that two women alone in a tribal, patriarchal world have much to fear and everything to lose, Ruth defiantly sets out for the barley fields to collect grain, aware that Israelite law establishes gleaning as a means for widows to make ends meet. Armed with hope, she counts on finding favor with a generous landowner (Ruth 2:2).

In steps Boaz, whose eyes immediately spot the Moabite in his fields. When he hears of all Ruth has done for Naomi, he sets out to establish her safety among his paid workers. And, Ruth finds more than she sought, including a God who is trustworthy and a hope for a future full of promise and purpose.   


Inspired by Ruth’s words, “where you go I will go,” countless brides have chosen to have this portion of Ruth’s story recited at their weddings (1:16). Even though Ruth is not speaking to the man she marries, her promise oozes with enviable faithfulness and conviction, moving all hearers to want to stick by their person’s side no matter what. 

Photo by Vadim Paripa on Unsplash

Upon further inspection, we see that Ruth’s vow of loyalty goes beyond place or circumstance – she’s making the choice to leave behind her home, family, and pantheon of gods to become part of Naomi’s people and faith. Ruth’s devotion is the truest kind of love because it’s a laying down of her own life for the good of Naomi (John 15:13).

Over and over throughout Ruth’s narrative, our heroine chooses loyalty over risk…

  1. of being ravaged – like gleaning in fields run by men with little oversight (Ruth 2:9)
  2. of reputation ruination – like going to Boaz in the middle of the night (Ruth 3:4,11,14)
  3. of rejection – like Boaz as her husband and kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3:9,13)

But this is no blind-loyalty. It’s not one that rushes head first into dangerous situations. Ruth’s devotion is one born out of trust – trust in Naomi and, ultimately, Naomi’s God (3:12). 

It’s also sourced by love. Ruth’s love-loyaty overcomes all ulterior motives and selfish desires – so much so that Naomi is moved by it, the people of Bethlehem are talking about it, and Boaz is struck by it (2:11).2 When he offers a blessing over Ruth only moments after meeting her, asking God’s favor and reward on her (2:12), we see the power of such purity of heart. 

Such sincerity stands out in our day, too, because ours is a culture that lauds “looking out for number one.” And so, Ruth demonstrates for us all a different way of living – one that trusts, loves, and gives of herself for the good of others (Philippians 2:3-4). She shows us how to live like Jesus in the most practical ways. She exhibits how to live in the world with a sustaining hope in a God who will always meet our needs and be our shield.  


Ruth the Moabite. Like a scarlet letter on her chest, Ruth’s foreign eponym becomes the sole source of her identity (Ruth 1:22; 2:2,6,21; 3:10; 4:5,10). That is until her loyalty, love, and trust begin to outshine the prejudices of the people. 

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

A little history – when God had issued rules about not intermarrying with the people of Canaan, it was not because of bigotry but because God knew such closeness with foreigners would open doors for pagan gods to enter His set-apart people’s lives and hearts (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). But for women like Rahab and Ruth, whose faith in the One True God proved to be purer than most Israelites, their breaking-in on the scene of God’s Redemption Story sets the stage for a better door – one that would be open to all Gentiles to enter God’s family (Galatians 3:8).3 

Ruth, who is only ever acknowledged as “the Moabite” through most of her book, discovers a new identity as her story and faith progress:

My daughter.

It’s notable that Naomi doesn’t call Ruth, “my daughter,” upon Ruth’s vow of loyalty. Nor does the epithet come after Ruth arrives home with arms full of barley. The name of respect and acceptance comes after Ruth obeys Naomi’s plan for a risque (and risky) rendezvous with Boaz (Ruth 3:16), reflecting Naomi’s own transformation. The once bitter mother-in-law is now hopeful once again (1:20; 3:16-18) – because of her daughter, Ruth.

Boaz actually calls Ruth “my daughter” first in the story, creating a crack in the “foreigner” stigma. Calling Ruth by such an intimate term, Boaz extends respect and acknowledges their age difference (2:8). But, as the story reaches its climax with Boaz’s acceptance of Ruth’s invitation to be her kinsman redeemer, “my daughter” has become a term of endearment, ensuring that Ruth will always be treated as family (3:10-11).4

Ruth’s identity is no longer wrapped up in where she was born and is not even defined by what she does or says – but in whose she is. 

Ruth, a woman of hope, steps out in faith with a love and loyalty that is both enviable and inspirational, but it is her inclusion in God’s family – in the very lineage of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5) – that demonstrates for all believers today how to define our identity. Because despite what the world will say, we shall be known for Whose we are.

Friends, we can be women of hope, choosing to trust our unchanging, faithful Father, no matter what He calls us to, no matter what people think or say, and no matter how dark our circumstances may appear. Ruth is our shining example of how to live out a faith sourced by loyalty, love – and hope!

Father God, Ruth’s story inspires us to want to live as your daughters, full of trust and love and hope. We stand in awe of the way Ruth’s story exudes the truth that You work all things out for good for those who love and believe You. We see that because Ruth chooses to believe You, she becomes part of a narrative that is bigger and grander than anything she could have imagined or hoped for. This reminds us that You are always at work in the heavenly realm, which is why we, too, can choose to have faith in things we hope for – certainty in the unseen. Lord Jesus, we’re so grateful that You laid aside your own comforts and needs in order to live and die for us. Thank You for giving us role-models as Ruth to help us see what it looks like to live such humble, selfless lives. Thank You for including her and us in your family. Holy Spirit, we recognize too easily how fear, doubt, and anger can keep us from seeing the Father at work, from receiving all the blessings He has for us. We ask You now to be the One to prompt and remind us so that we’ll continuously fix our eyes on our Father instead of our circumstances. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(inspired by Romans 8;28; Ephesians 3:21; John 5:17; Hebrews 11:1; Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 3:8; Ruth 2:12; John 14:26; Hebrews 12:1-2) 

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 – This article gives more info about ancient Moab and the relationship between Israel and Moab over the course of the Old Testament years. 
  • 2 – The Faithful^ chapter about Ruth, Kelly Minter focuses on Boaz’s first conversation with Ruth (2:11-12), which really helped me see how unique both Ruth and Boaz were in their day. It stood out to me that Boaz, the son of a foreigner (Rahab) would have had a soft heart for foreigners. Then, I especially loved that Kelly said this: “When you arrive at the end of the book of Ruth, you don’t just walk away with a sense of God’s unfathomable ability to redeem and restore but also a grander idea of who He is.” (p.37). Isn’t that the point of spending time in Scripture – getting to know God better?!
  • 3 – The Women in Christian History Devotional^ makes an awesome point about Gentiles being included into the family of God, “By including faithful foreigners in the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew was making a powerful statement. The gospel of Jesus was exploding outward into the Gentile world, but Jewish believers didn’t need to fear that development. It was really nothing new. Outsiders like Ruth and Rahab had always been included in God’s plans because of the faith they displayed” (Dec.29).
  • 4 – Carla Harding’s Lectio 365 post about Ruth inspires me: “a Gentile woman went from the grip of poverty to the embrace of family.”
  • BONUS Resource — A friend reminded me that Francine Rivers wrote a fictional series called Lineage of Grace,^ which chronicles the lives of the five women in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. I read it years ago and LOVED it. I highly recommend it to you if you like immersing yourself in someone’s imaginings of what it could have been like then. So good.
  • On our “Women of Hope” playlist, I have two songs that speak very clearly the story of Ruth. First, “Ruth’s Song” by Marty and Misha Goetz, which sounds like something out of a Disney movie (in the best of ways), we hear about Ruth’s vow to go where Naomi goes. Then, the Faithful project’s song about Ruth, “We Are One,” echoes the idea of inclusion in God’s family! We are one!!
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Our verse is really weaving itself within my heart, mind, and soul. It’s becoming part of how I think — hooray! I’d love to hear how this key verse is establishing itself in you. Let’s stick with the Good News Translation again this week:

      “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”
    • To be fair, Beckah Shae’s song, “Faith Is,” is a big reason why Hebrews 11:1 is settling into my psyche. (I have our first two songs on replay FOR SURE.)
  • 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: purchased on Zazzle, credited to Ann McDonald of Australia. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Women of Hope: Rahab

My heart won’t stop pounding. My breath comes in short spurts – I can no longer see the spies running in the distance. Oh, that the God who split the Sea will keep His spies out of the sight of the soldiers hunting them. 

Of course He will.

What a day! The men who entered my rooms today were not the kind I usually receive. But I welcomed them more readily. For them, I lied to the king. The king! Yet my spirit soars! For the first time I feel free! Free to be me. Free to live beyond this wall that has held me captive to my circumstances for so long.

Ack, my mind won’t stop spinning. It begs to know WHY I have betrayed my people and put myself in danger by helping the enemy. But my spirit, my heart – they win out. They remind me that these people who follow the one true God – they are not the enemy. Look how they treated me this day, how they promised to come for me and for my family.

With faith, I hang this scarlet cord from my window and await the rescue that I have longed for, prayed for – hoped for. Yahweh, I know that You are God in heaven above and on the earth below. So I remain here with humble expectancy for your mighty move.

Rahab. A foreigner. A prostitute. A woman with no man to cover her or care for her, thus sinking to the depths, doing what desperate women in her day did to stay alive. The stories reach her ears of a nation, a moving wave of people who overcome the toughest of enemies, the most arduous of deserts, and the deepest seas as they approach the Jordan River – not coming in peace, but to conquer her nation (Joshua 2:10). Fear melts her people as they anticipate the Isrealite’s arrival (Joshua 2:9).

But a different kind of fear overtakes Rahab – a fear of the Lord (Joshua 2:11).1 It’s this reverence, this awe of Yahweh that moves Rahab to do the unthinkable, to risk her life, to save the enemy, and to lie to the king about it all.

In a bold move, she asks the spies, in return for her secrecy, to rescue her and her family when they come back to defeat Jericho. And a deal is struck. 

The distant, unlikely hope that had budded in Rahab’s heart upon hearing the stories of God breaks open in full bloom the day the spies arrive. So, as she watches them run into the distant hills, she knows the stories are true, her faith is well-placed, and her hope for a life among God’s people is possible.

Faith in Action

When her people’s courage fails, Rahab finds strength in a God she has only heard about. When her people back her into a corner of their city’s wall, into a shady, shameful profession, Rahab stands firm with a different kind of profession – that of faith (Joshua 2:11).2

Like Tamar, Rahab’s shame-filled past is not only forgiven but leads her into a future that is blessed because of her faith. It’s her faith that places her in the most honorable, holy genealogy of all eternity: the Messiah’s. Joshua writes that Rahab not only escapes death when Jericho is demolished but she goes on to live among the Israelites for the rest of her days (6:25). And, Matthew fills in the gaps: Rahab marries into Judah’s family, to a man named Salmon, and they have a son, Boaz (1:5) – the one who becomes the great-grandfather of the mighty King David. 

The opening chapter of the New Testament forever memorializes a woman who stood on her faith, against all odds. And not just any woman – a foreign woman becomes a living fulfillment of God’s declaration to Abraham that all people would be blessed through Israel (Genesis 12:3). Rahab proves that the door to God’s family is open to all who believe (John 3:16).

Friends, Rahab stands as a beacon of hope for us, revealing that faith is all we need to stand firm with courage in the face of the worst the world has to offer – a living faith in the God of heaven and earth that is spoken and acted upon.

What a contrast Rahab is to the original ten spies, those sent by Moses to scope out Canaan. Ten men, who had seen with their own eyes the splitting of the sea, the daily miracle of manna and quail, and the power of God to bring water from a rock, claimed a faith in God, but their actions spoke fear (Numbers 13:31-33) – the kind that kills faith.

However, Rahab’s faith carries over into her actions, which is how this foreign prostitute is able to stand alongside the great Father Abraham in James’ illustration of what faith in action looks like (James 2:21-25). Rahab professes faith and steps into action, illustrating James’ point that faith without action is as dead as a body without a spirit (v.26).

Rahab’s brand of belief ushers her into the Hall of Faith (aka: Hebrews 11), making her a forever witness to the force faith can have in our lives.

In the Wait

It might be tempting to read Rahab’s story and think, easy – all she had to do was hang a red cord out her window. 

But what Scripture leaves out is the looooong wait Rahab has to ride out. 

Have you ever had to endure a long wait? Maybe for test results. Or news of a job. Or the coming of a child. Or the drawn-out death of a loved one. Waiting. Is. So. Difficult. Maybe that’s why God has included in Scripture over one hundred words of wisdom about waiting, such as:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14)!

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

And Rahab waited – while the spies hid, while they traveled to Joshua, while Israel crossed the Jordan then made their way to Jericho. And, while Israel marched around the walls of Jericho for an entire week (Joshua 6:12-17).

She had no control. No say. Nothing more she could do but faithfully, obediently, patiently wait. Once again, Rahab becomes a model for our own faith in action – because as inactive as waiting may feel, it’s actually packed full of choice and obedience. Waiting is an act of faith.

Red as Blood

We can’t move on from Rahab’s story without pausing to consider the scarlet cord she hangs from her window. Like the red thread that makes its appearance in Tamar’s story, we see it woven into Rahab’s. 

Photo by Mari Madriz on Unsplash

The scarlet cord dangles like a red drip of blood, indicating Rahab’s home in the wall as holy and set apart – much like the doorposts of the Israelites during the tenth plague.2 On that night, the angel of death passed over all homes stained with the blood of lambs, and for Rahab, death would once again not enter the home marked with the sacred, scarlet symbol.

In the same way, crimson blood flowed from the Lamb of God as He died on a cross, marking each of us forever. His is a blood that brings life. A blood that saves. A blood that sanctifies.

And if that’s not enough symbolism to make your jaw drop, consider the word for ‘cord’ in Hebrew, tiqvah, which means both ‘cord’ and ‘hope’.3 In Joshua 2, verses 18 and 21, we have a literal tiqvah, a red ‘cord’ tied to Rahab’s window as a signal for rescue, but it’s also a symbol of ‘hope’ in a God who redeems.

Friend, God sees you. He knows your circumstances, your fears, your deepest desires. Just as He sent two of His people to a woman of faith for help, He desires you to be His vessel of hope and help in the world. And, He used those same two men as His means for keeping His promise, and He’ll do the same for you. You can trust that God will make a way because He can be counted on to keep His word.

It’s wild to think a woman of ill-repute and foreign ancestry could become a thread woven into Christ’s family and narrative, but isn’t that just like God? Rahab’s story proves that every one of us is worthy to be loved and utilized by Him. So, let’s keep in this mind as we ponder this woman who had confidence in what she hoped for but could not see (Hebrews 11:1). Rahab helps us understand what it is to put our own faith into action and to trust God in the long wait. Let’s take notice. Let’s grab hold of faith and discover a hope that not only sustains us but pushes us into our own stories of great courage. Here’s to becoming a woman of hope like Rahab.

Father God, your story amazes and astounds us. Your attention to detail, your perfect vision, and your grace-filled way of bringing the outcasts into the forefront give us hope. No one is too tattered, too broken, too sinful, or too lost for You. Yet, we confess that too often we think we are beyond your reach – so today we stand in faith, claiming the truth that your grace covers all sin and that there is no condemnation in You. Lord Jesus, it grows our faith to see You in the pages of Rahab’s story. To see your blood running throughout all Scripture reinforces our belief in You – that Your blood redeems us every single day. Lord, we desire to live with confidence in what we hope for but cannot see. Holy Spirit, breathe your breath of truth into our hearts and minds so that we can believe how loved and covered by the blood of Christ we are. Help us to live each day with a faith that chooses courage in the midst of fear, faith over the temptation to doubt, and hope that renews our hearts, strengthens our minds, and pushes our bodies toward action – even when that action is patiently, obediently waiting on You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Matthew 10:30; Habakkuk 2:3; Isaiah 56:8; Joshua 2:1-21; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:12, 11:1; 1 John 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:7; Galatians 5:22; Isaiah 40:31;4 Psalm 27:14)

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 – Make Your Move,^ a book study by Lynn Cowell, has a chapter about Rahab. I’m much inspired by the ideas in this chapter – such as the contrast of the fear of the people of Jericho that destroyed faith versus Rahab’s holy fear of God that built faith, p.92.
  • 2 – The Faithful^ book includes a chapter on Rahab, and the author, Amanda Bible Williams, uses this play on words about Rahab’s profession in contrast to her profession of faith, p.18. She also points out the beautiful symbolism of the red cord, p.25.
  • 3 – Nerd alert! Annie F. Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun, first introduced me to this incredible word, qavah, of which tiqvah is a derivative – both of which can mean cord AND hope. The context for her pointing it out in the third episode of her 2022 Advent series had more to do with hope deferred, so it was with great JOY that I discovered tiqvah in Rahab’s story. I love words!
    • Note: Joshua 2:18 is the first time tiqvah is used in Scripture.
    • And tiqvah is only translated as ‘cord’ in Rahab’s story. Everywhere else in Scripture, it’s interpreted as ‘hope’!!!
    • Other verses you may be familiar with that use tiqvah: Ruth 1:12, Job 4:6, Psalm 9:18, Proverbs 19:18, and Jeremiah 29:11.
  • 4 – Another nerd alert. 😉 The passage we memorized in our previous series, Isaiah 40:28-31, contains a key verse for our exploration of hope: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (v.31a). The word for ‘hope’ in that verse is none other than qavah, which (remember) means ‘cord’ as well as ‘hope.’ Hear how it’s defined by Strong’s: “wait for (probably originally twist, stretch, with the tension of enduring, waiting; wait, cord; be strong, strength, also strand of rope).” Do you see how the Hebrew language puts the feeling we get when we have to WAIT into words? It gives us word pictures – waiting can feel like the tension of a rope being pulled tightly!
    • Both Annie F. Downs and the Bible Project use the image of a bow and arrow to illustrate the tension implied by the biblical word ‘hope.’ As an archer pulls the arrow back into the string of the bow, tension grows until the point of release.
    • Qavah, unlike its derivative tiqvah, is usually translated as ‘wait’ (rather than ‘hope’). One writer says ‘hope’ and ‘wait’ are often used interchangeably (as is the case for Isaiah 40:31a) “because hope in the Old Testament means to wait for something with expectation and anticipation it will happen.” Just wow.
    • Other verses you may be familiar with that use qavah: Genesis 49:18, Job 7:2, Psalm 25:3, Psalm 37:4.
  • Maybe you can tell — I LOVE Rahab and her story. So for our “Women of Hope” playlist, it was hard to choose one or two songs for her. I limited myself to four — but, JJ Heller’s song, “Scarlet Thread,” could be Rahab’s as much as Tamar’s. So — that’s five. LOL. The other four: “Rahab’s Lullaby” from the Faithful Project, “By Faith” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Scatter” by Anne Wilson, and “Echo” by Charity Gayle. What a lineup! I have them on replay, for sure. These songs build faith and bolster courage!
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Did you hear how this verse tucked itself into Rahab’s story — she’s a woman who hoped for what she could not see!? Whoop, whoop! This practice of meditation isn’t so that we become familiar with a famous line of Scripture — it’s so that it becomes part of us, transforms us, strengthens us. Let’s change the translation this week, moving from NIV to the Good News Translation:

      “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”
    • Have you picked up on Beckah Shae’s use of Hebrews 11:1 in her song, “Faith Is?” It’s fun; it’s catchy — it’s a great way to soak ourselves in our key verse.
  • 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: The painting is all over the internet, but without any credits to the artist. The signature seems to read, Rekzi Tapkiran. Rekzi, your subject makes a lovely Rahab. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit 

Women of Hope: Tamar

Soon I will no longer be able to hide that I am with child. What will I do? It’s bad enough to be sent shamefully back to the house of my father. A woman should live with her husband’s family – even if he no longer lives. My father. He will not live with anymore shame because of me. When he learns of my state, he will give me over to the Pharisees. I will be put to death.

Maybe this is my fault. Maybe I should not have allowed my father-in-law to think me a prostitute. Maybe I should not have lain with him, but Judah denied me my rights as his son’s wife. The Law is my only covering as a widow – I am to marry my husband’s brother. So why cast me out? Why send me back to my father?

For a man of God, Judah has failed to trust Yahweh in His provision for heirs. I was so proud to be part of his tribe, to be part of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But look at me now. Shame rules my days. Fear holds me in its tight grip. 

Oh, that my desperate act will not be the end of me and these little ones. Surely, my story does not end here. Lord Almighty, I no longer put my hope in Judah. I put my hope in You.

Tamar’s story may be the most confusing one of the entire Bible (Genesis 38). When we read its words through a twenty-first century lens, nothing about it seems holy or even right. But, when we understand Tamar’s world as a patriarchal, tribal culture that’s governed by the Law of Moses, we begin to see her choices as bold. And brave. 

When her first husband dies, the Law says Tamar is to marry his brother in order to have a child who would carry on her dead husband’s legacy (Genesis 38:8; Deuteronomy 25:5-6). When Judah’s second son chooses to dishonor God and his dead brother by not giving Tamar an heir (Genesis 38:9; eww!), God kills him. Then Judah panics, fearing that Tamar will bring death to his last son, so he sends her home to her father (Genesis 38:11). In their culture, that is not how it’s done. At all.

And Judah knows it. It’s why when he finds out that the “prostitute” he thought he slept with is actually Tamar, he calls her righteous because she had the fortitude to make the situation right when he did not (Genesis 38:26). “In her own culture it was Judah who was worthy of rebuke … Judah was the villain; Tamar was the courageous (albeit a bit audacious!) heroine.”1 

Tamar’s actions might be shocking to our modern sensibilities, but without a man over her, she would have no covering, no protection, no provision. In her day, women without a husband or sons became beggars or prostitutes, and she didn’t care for either of those options. So, she put a plan into motion – and her hope in God. 

Desperation and Redemption

Tamar’s story depicts events we might not relate to culturally, but we understand how fear can lead to decisions made out of desperation. 

A chapter of my own story is about a time when I was desperate to save a relationship. Fear taunted me – one day telling me to run. The next day, to cling, nag, beg – do whatever it took to keep what I had. But desperation pushed me to do the bravest thing I could. I turned to the One I fully trusted. I surrendered to His bold call to let it all go, and with trembling hands, I gave back the engagement ring. 

Looking back, I can see I never lost hope for God to redeem the broken things, but I didn’t know how He would work it out. I had to choose to walk in faith, to surrender a future I had counted on in order to trust the one God promised would be good – even though it remained unknown to me. Truly, at the time I was in such a state that I would have done whatever He asked of me. So to consider Tamar’s life-and-death situation, I can only imagine the depths of her desperation.

Forced beyond her limits, Tamar’s response ends up pushing Judah out of complacency and fear, into a response that reflects a reverence for both her and the God he’d been ignoring for years. And, God – His response leads to the redemption of this family so they could continue to carry a mighty mantle into the future (Genesis 49:10). 

Photo from Canva

The Scarlet Thread

When we read the Bible as one story – God’s story – we begin to see patterns unfold into larger themes and motifs that create layers of meanings. Like the tiny, scarlet thread that’s tucked into Tamar’s narrative. Wrapped around the wrist of her baby boy at his birth, this red cord becomes a clue, a connector of the past, present, and future. 

Eyes to the past, we see that much like Judah’s twins, Isaac’s sons were born with some jostling and confusion. Isaac’s firstborn, Esau, described as a “red” child, came out of the womb with his brother, Jacob, holding tightly to his ankle (Genesis 25:26), foreshadowing Jacob’s taking of the firstborn’s inheritance. 

For Tamar, when Zerah’s little hand appears first, a scarlet thread signifies him as the firstborn. But, then his hand reenters the womb, confusion ensues, and Perez emerges first, taking on the firstborn’s place and rights.

Thus, the red thread begins its weaving – tying stories together, helping us see connections among them. Firstborn sons and inheritances. Births and the color red. 

Looking to the future, the generations after Tamar considered her blessed, as we see in a prayer spoken over Ruth, “may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12). But, what those who offered the blessing could not have known that day was Perez continued a line of men who become ancestors to the Messiah. In other words, we are given assurance that Tamar’s actions were honored by God. And, in case we’re still doubtful, Matthew cleverly includes Tamar in his genealogy of Christ, setting her into a history full of faithful people. 

Tamar – the foreign, forgotten widow – becomes a forerunner of Jesus, the Firstborn of All Creation (Colossians 1:15), the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9-10; Revelation 5:5), the One to bring a heavenly inheritance to all God’s people by the shedding of His most precious, red blood (Ephesians 1:13-14). 

As a woman of hope, Tamar models for us a way of living by faith in the midst of our desperate situations. While her scarlet thread is but one cord that weaves in and out of God’s larger story, it ensures that Tamar’s narrative will be honored and spoken for all time – because she placed her hope in the One who responds and redeems. And so shall we.

Father God, we thank you for stories like Tamar’s that stretch our way of thinking and give us a fuller picture of who You are. You don’t judge Tamar’s desperate, forgotten state. You don’t shame her for her choices. Instead, You meet her in her desperation and redeem her situation – all the while paving a way for Messiah. How we marvel at the way You work all things together for good. Lord Jesus, it’s amazing to see You woven into the stories that came hundreds of years before your birth. Such intentional weaving of patterns builds our faith and gives us hope for futures we cannot see. Thank You for coming alongside us, just as you did Tamar, and for reminding us that You made us – wonderfully and fearfully. So, we never have to doubt your love, your nearness. There is nowhere we can hide from You – there is no shame great enough to separate us from You. Holy Spirit, You may not be named in Tamar’s story, but we see the way You sustained her with strength, resolve, boldness – and hope. Thank You for being our covering, our protection as we move about our desperate days. May we continue to put our hope in You and be strengthened by You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Genesis 38; 49:10; Romans 8:1, 10, 28, 38-39, 10:11; Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 139:5, 13-15; Psalm 91:1-2; Isaiah 40:31; songs: “Wonderfully Made” and “My Hope Is In You”)

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 – Quote from Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter.^
  • On our “Women of Hope” playlist I have chosen two songs to represent Tamar — but maybe you’re beginning to see that most of these songs contain similar themes of faith, hope, and courage. I do love Ellie Holcomb’s “Wonderfully Made” for Tamar because I can nearly hear Tamar’s voice as the lyrics are sung — how much she needed to be reminded that she was made for purpose, that God saw the good in her. The song “My Hope Is in You” could very well have been Tamar’s prayer. It can certainly be ours.
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Let’s stick with the NIV one more week so that we can ponder with the Spirit about the assurance He offers us for all we do not see.

      Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
  • 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: The painting, “A Veiled Beauty” by Frederick Arthur Bridgman. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit

Women of Hope: Sarah

I really thought I had figured out how Yahweh would fulfill His promise for Abraham and me to have a son. It seemed like such a great idea; it even appeared to work. Hagar conceived a son, but the jealousy, the regret – they have been eating me alive on the inside ever since. It doesn’t feel as though that was the plan.

Yes, I concede – it was my plan. I thought I could bring about what God had promised. But now I live with greater shame than ever before. 

Oh, how can Abraham’s God be so cruel as to make a promise and not keep it? Haven’t we done everything He’s ever asked of us? We moved – left everything and everyone behind to come to this desert of a land. And, wasn’t the plan to fill this land with descendants? Where are they? Ha – Yahweh was right about one thing. We certainly cannot count them… 

This God – He keeps speaking this idea of a son as if it could still happen, telling us again yesterday that now – now??? – I am to conceive!? Have those men not looked upon my body? I am old. Too old. And they wondered why I laughed. 

Yet, Abraham stood faith-filled, turning his head to look at me with beckoning eyes, as if to will me to believe. Do I dare hope, yet again, for a child? I want to believe that God can do the impossible. I have seen Him multiply flocks and wealth, so maybe… Maybe He will bring my womb to life at last. 

Like so many in Scripture, Sarah tends to be remembered for her moment of doubt. When this ninety-year-old woman overheard the three men of God tell Abraham that she would have a son of her own within the year, she laughed (Genesis 18:10-12).

Yet, Hebrews 11:11 tells us, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (ESV). By faith. Sarah believed God to be faithful because He had promised. Even if doubt won out in the moment, in the end Sarah chose to trust in the promise of the One who is faithful.

Trusting the Promise

As a child, did you ever sing “Father Abraham”? You know, the repetitive tune, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you!” If we took that literally, as most children would, we might think Abraham bore many children – when in actuality, he had two (in Sarah’s lifetime; Galatians 4:22-23):1

  1. Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceived by Abraham (Genesis 16:1-4).
  2. Isaac, the promised son of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:2). 

In the covenant God made with Abraham, He had promised Abraham’s descendants would be too numerous to count, like sand on the shore or stars in the sky (Genesis 15:4-5), yet it would be decades before Abraham and Sarah would conceive the heir of the covenant, Isaac.

But, even Isaac only had two sons – Esau and Jacob. If we spin this out another generation, Jacob had twelve sons. THE twelve that would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Even with many fruitful generations, it would be four hundred more years before Abraham’s descendants multiplied to the point of making it to the millions (Exodus 38:26). By then, Abraham was long buried in a cave next to Sarah (Genesis 23:19). They never witnessed the full fruition of the covenant promise.

So, was Sarah wrong to trust God’s words? Did she think she’d misplaced her hope as she lay on her deathbed?

No, rather than focusing on what had not yet come to be, Sarah chose to focus on what God had given her in the moment. As soon as she held Isaac in her arms, she recognized that God had taken her doubt-filled laugh and replaced it with the real thing:

“God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

Sarah’s laughter now signified her joy in a promise fulfilled. Rocking that baby boy in her lap meant more than a future she’d never see. Sarah knew she held the promise. Looking into his eyes, she trusted that God’s promise for a great multitude would come in time – just as Isaac had.

A Future Hope

Like Sarah, we each hold onto a hope for something to happen that will demonstrate that God is, indeed, Promise Keeper. Some desires are so tender that we barely whisper above a breath to call them a hope – desires for a child of our own or for the child who has lost his way to come back to the Lord; for healing of body or mind or both; for wholeness in marriage or for someone special to come into our lives… 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Just last week, I wondered aloud at a coffee shop with two friends a question that has been coming out of the shadows of my mind – what if the thing we’re praying for won’t happen in our lifetime? What if I never get to see my sons embrace their faith and fully love this God of ours?

As I spoke the question, I felt the truth of it. And it’s been doing a work in my soul.

I’m coming to reconcile the fact that I may sow seeds that I’ll never get to see harvested. I’m looking to my Savior for a hope that is greater than my limited time on earth – for vision to see beyond this moment, this life. I’m learning to lean on the One who has offered to take my yoke and help me carry the burden that feels so heavy – so that He can help me remain faithful to the prayers (Matthew 11:29-30). And to the hope.

Because our hope is in Him. Not our desires. Not our plans. Not our timeline. 

Just as the exiles were promised a future return to Jerusalem, I’m awakening to the reality that God’s promise to give us a hope and a future might actually be beyond my lifetime (Jeremiah 29:11).

So. I have a choice. You have a choice. Will we remain faithful to God? Will we keep our hope and trust in Him no matter what His plans are? No matter what His timing is?

Sarah models this kind of hope for us. She demonstrates what it looks like to wait for decades for a promise to come about. She shows us what it looks like to allow the blessings of today to be enough to carry our hopes into a future we may or may not attend. A woman whose laughter resounds her faith, Sarah leaves a legacy for us to follow so we too can be women of hope.

Father God, stories like Sarah’s help build our faith so that in our everyday longings we can look to You with hope and trust, believing that You will fulfill every promise – in your way and your time. We confess that we are impatient. We concede that we think we know best. Forgive us when we take things into our own hands, trying to force situations to fit our visions. We choose this day to put our full hope in You, releasing our grip on the plans we’ve been forging in our own strength. Lord Jesus, You are the truest fulfillment of the promised Son. You represent a future Sarah could never have imagined – that her womb would birth a son that would one day give way to the Son of God. We pray that this image would never leave our minds – that it would sear into our remembering that You truly have a future in mind for each of us that is full of goodness and hope. Holy Spirit, we know that the only way to sustain our prayers for the desires that dwell in our hearts is with You at the helm. Be our fuel for faith. Be our anchor of trust. Be our source of truth that constantly reminds us that God is faithful – He will bring about the promises He has given. We need only trust. And hope. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by: 1 John 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:10; Isaiah 9:6-7; 40:31; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:26; John 14:26; Genesis 46:27)

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 – Abraham actually had eight sons (Genesis 25:1-6) — after Sarah died, Abraham took a new wife, Keturah; “she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.” “Keturah’s sons became the fathers of Arabian tribes living east of Israel” (quoted from this article). For our purposes here, it was simpler to talk about the two. To more fully understand why Galatians would only talk about Isaac and Ishmael, the quoted article above goes into more detail.
  • The book, The One Year Women in Christian History Devotional: Daily Inspirations from God’s Work in the Lives of Women,^ has an insightful devotion about Sarah on the final day of the year-long devotional (December 31st). The writers suggest we “keep laughing with Sarah all year long as [we] watch God work in flabbergasting ways.” That’s an invitation worth accepting!
  • What do you think of our new “Women of Hope” playlist? Sarah’s “songs” include “Faithful” by Sarah Reeves and “Everything Is Possible” by Philippa Hanna. I imagine both songs being sung by Sarah as she wrestles through doubt for things unseen — landing on faith and hope!
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Let’s stick with the NIV again this week, making a point of contemplating what it means that “faith is confidence in what we hope for:”

      Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
  • 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: Phillip Medhurst presents 039/788 James Tissot Bible c 1899 Sarah hears the promise and laughs Genesis 18:10 Jewish Museum New York . Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit

Women of Hope: Eve

How could I have done this? I had, quite literally, the most perfect life. No stress. No pain. No death. Oh, to walk again through the garden with my Maker – I already miss His nearness, His loving gaze. 

That serpent. He picked up on my wandering eye, my inner thoughts about that tree. So curious about what I’d know when I ate of it, I veritably leapt at the offer to take and eat. One bite. One stinkin’ bite, and now everything is lost. I should have trusted my Maker instead of wanting to be like Him. 

Oh how I hate that a beloved creature of the Garden had to die to cover my nakedness, but the shame I feel overwhelms my senses. Everything in me wants to hide – from myself, from Him. No matter where I hide, though, I cannot escape the pain of knowing our children will never walk the Garden or know the Maker the way we did.

How am I still alive? 

Ah, now I’m beginning to understand – death comes slowly. Universally. Not for just the two of us, but every creature, every plant, every person. What have I done? How can I go on? And, yet, I wonder about my Offspring who will crush that serpent’s head. Do I dare hope there’s a day of redemption to come?

Eve may be the poster woman for how not to live a life of faith. The first chance she’s given to make a choice between self and God, greed and trust, she fails. She doubts God. She listens to the logic of a lying snake. She reaches for the forbidden fruit to taste and to take – to take what she wants at the cost of everything she has known.

Eve puts her hope in herself. In a lie that she can be like God.

And, before we judge her too harshly, let’s look at our own arms that stretch for the fruit just within reach. The fruit of success. Of happiness. Of comfort. Of approval. 

How much like Eve we are – so quick to put our hope in other people, our own plans, and in the world’s ways.1 But before we pluck leaves in an attempt to cover our own shame, let’s look to the Maker, to the One who made a promise to Eve. And to us.

Hope in the Midst of Curses

Consequences abound in the Garden where curiosity transformed into doubt, where the created betrayed the Creator:

  • The woman, the mother of life, will still bear the fruit of her womb – but not without great pain.
  • The man, the first of all humanity, will still pluck the fruit of the vine – but not without great toil.
  • The pair of them, husband and wife, will have to overcome much strife to be fruitful in love.
  • The shrewd serpent will slither all his days along the dust and dirt – his only fruit, the venom of each strike of a heel. 
  • Even the seed of Eve – the One not yet born – will know the serpent’s bruising bite. But, He brings the final, crushing blow.
    (Genesis 3:14-19)

The promise God slips into the punishments for such disobedience becomes the hope Eve needs to step into her role as “Mother of Life.”1 Desiring her seed to become the One Who Redeems, Eve puts her hope in Cain: “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man” (Genesis 4:1). But his own pride and jealousy drive him to murder Abel, his brother.

Hope, once again refocused on the Maker, Eve bears fruit a third time: “God has granted me another child in place of Abel” (Genesis 4:25). God has granted, or appointed, another son, Seth, to Mother Eve. Not the Redeemer himself, but the father of the people who would one day call on the name of the Lord – and bear the One who would ultimately crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15, 4:26).

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Take and Eat

Eve becomes the first woman to disobey the Lord, to “take and eat” that thing she’s called to avoid, to stay away from. But she’s not the last. Potiphar’s wife tries to take Joseph, her husband’s servant. Queen Jezebel gives it her best effort to take the lives of all God’s prophets. Delilah betrays Sampson by taking his hair, his strength. In short, the Bible is full of women who follow Eve’s “take and eat” model. In other words, Eve is only the first of us.1

Not so ironically, Eve’s Seed, the Prince of Life,1 takes and eats – our sin and shame, our pain and powerlessness, our grief and guilt. He takes all of it onto Himself. Then, in a twist of redemptive movement, this Redeemer offers us His body. To take and eat (Matthew 26:26). To swallow pride and take in humility. To consume His constancy, His confidence, His character – so that we can at last become like Him (Romans 8:29).

Eve had the right idea – she just went about it all wrong. Her misplaced hopes cost her and all of creation wholeness and holy presence, but when her Seed steps onto the dust where the serpent slithers, everything changes. The earth and everything in it shifts toward the hope of a day when a final redeeming blow will crush the Father of Lies once and for all. 

And, on that Day we will at last gather around the table of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and hear Him say, through tears of great joy, “take and eat”1 (Revelation 19:6-9).

Till then, my friends, we can rejoice in our reality that the Redeemer has already come. His bruising ended with a victorious defeat of death, allowing Him to inflict the first blow upon the head of that shrewd snake. Sure, he still slithers, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), but his power is now greatly limited. Because Jesus. The Seed of Eve has given us power through His Spirit in us to stand firm against every scheme of the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-11). 

Friends, we know in whom we place our hope. So, the next time a forbidden fruit tempts our eyes, our bodies, we can remember the One who has given us all that we need to overcome the desire to disobey (1 Corinthians 10:13). And He has given us a visual of what’s to come – a walk in the garden with our Maker, whose voice will beckon us closer, whose eyes will shimmer with love for His child of hope.

Father God, how perfect You are to have begun with a Garden and to end with one, as well. We know that You looked upon creation and called it good. We are also aware that in your omniscience, You knew before You formed Adam and Eve that they would betray You, yet You looked upon them and called them VERY good. How much hope your declaration gives us as we continue to fight our own fruit-taking temptations. Thank You for looking at us with eyes of love and calling us very good. Lord Jesus, it boggles our minds to think that You would offer us your body as a remembrance of all You did on the cross to take our sins and make us whole. It is with great humility and gratitude that we take and eat during Holy Communion as an act of faith and hope for all You have done for us. Holy Spirit, because You dwell within us, we know we have all we need to overcome every temptation and to stand against every lying scheme of the enemy. We pray that, like Eve, we would put our hope in the promises of God, in the Redeemer who has come to crush the serpent’s head on our behalf. Today we choose hope because we choose to trust the One who will one day defeat Satan and death – and usher us back into the Garden with our Maker. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. 
(Inspired by Sally Lloyd-Jones’ poem;1 Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,31; 2:8; Revelation 22:1-3; 1 John 3:8; 4:9-10; Galatians 1:4; Luke 22:19; Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT)

Welcome to our summer series all about Women of Hope! Each week we’ll consider how women in Scripture lived with hope despite what they faced and felt. As I did with Eve at the beginning of today’s post, I’ll open with a vignette of each woman — imagining how she might have thought and felt in her situation then how she looked to God for hope. I hope this part of each post will capture your curiosity and cause you to want to dig deeper into the Word and lean more closely into God’s presence.

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 – I drew so much inspiration for this post from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ poem about Eve in the book Faithful. Here are a few of the lines that really grabbed me:

And at once we see.
The lie that worked on you, Eve, 
works in us still: 
“God is not good. 
God is not kind. 
God does not love you. 
If you do what He says, you won’t be happy.” 

Eve, you’re not the worst of us. 
You’re just the first of us. (p.94)

– – – – – – – – – –

And, Eve, your name–given to you after the sentence of death–
carries no blame.
Eve–”Mother of Life.” 
Your name is a promise 
telling you the true story of who you are: 
It is through you, Eve – not, Adam – that Life will come. 

Someone will be born into your family, Eve. 
He will crush the serpent 
and the serpent will strike His heel. 
He is the Prince of Life Himself, 
born to die – and in dying, to destroy death! 

Those thorns on the ground will one day make a crown. 

You see, Eve, the first gospel isn’t Matthew.
It’s Genesis. 

And the first person to hear the gospel announced, isn’t Mary.
It’s you. (p.99)

– – – – – – – – – –

Faced with choice–we reach for the fruit. 

We take and eat.

Such small words.
Such an easy act.
So violent the breaking.
So hard the undoing.

God will taste centuries of slander and ridicule and hatred. He will will taste poverty, homelessness, scandalous birth, suffering and betrayal–and violent death–before He will take those same words and turn them into our salvation: 
“Take and Eat.” (p.99) 

– – – – – – – – – –

At the end of time, 
Eve, I see you at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
When everything sad will come untrue.
When He will wipe every tear from our eyes.
When we will see that there never was a tear shed that was lost.
When we will see how He has woven everything together in this,
His beautiful story of Love, to do such great good to us that we
Will hardly be able to take it in …and only fall on our knees in

And as we sit together at His table, Eve, 
I hear Him say with tears and great laughter–
And eat!” 

And we do. (p.101)

  • You’ll hear much about the collaborative project, Faithful, throughout our series on “Women of Hope” this summer because it is packed with poems, essays, and songs about women in the Bible. As noted above, the poem by Sally Lloyd-Jones about Eve is part of the book. There’s also a song on the Faithful album about Eve — “We Do Not Labor in Vain” by Mission House, Janice Gaines, Christa Wells, and Taylor Leonhardt. I actually included it on our previous “This Hope” playlist.
  • AND — we have a new “Women of Hope” playlist, full of songs by women that will pull us into worship of our One True God and encourage us to live as women of hope.
    • I’ve come to believe that we all need a “summer jam” (song) every year. So, it is with great excitement that I offer Lauren Daigle’s song “These Are The Days” as our Summer Jam for 2023. It’s our opening song!The words of the song’s “bridge” is a great transition from our “This Hope” series, which considered how hope and suffering go together. Its words promise, “If it’s not good, then it’s not over.” It’s okay to let yourself move to the music — I think the truths of the lyrics sink-in better when we let ourselves to be moved by the tune.
    • The opening lines of Steffany Gretzinger’s song, “Out of Hiding,” hauntingly capture Eve’s response to shame — and ours. In Christ, we don’t have to hide. His victory is ours! Other “Eve” songs on our playlist are the hymns “In the Garden” by Kelly Minter and “New Every Morning” by Audrey Assad.
  • 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:
    • This summer we’re picking up the rhythm of meditation — yes, again! But. Instead of filling our minds with a new passage every week, we will park ourselves on Hebrews 11:1 for the duration of the season, the series. This verse’s words are familiar ones — hear it in the NIV:

      Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

      Some weeks I’ll post a different version/translation in order to keep our spiritual ears attentive to its multiple facets. This week, let’s abide in the NIV, allowing its words to make a connection in our brains about faith and hope.
  • 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: Detail from “Adam and Eve” (1528), a 172 × 124 cm oil on panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder, located in the Uffizi Galleries, Florence. Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

This Hope: Christ’s Return and Our Resurrection

Sometimes we only know what we know. For instance, at the turn of the millennium, I took part in a study of Revelation – a book of the Bible I knew little about because I’d never really been around anyone willing to do much teaching on it. Let’s face it – its imagery is more than a bit curious, its prophetic language a bit overwhelming, and the specifics of the end of days debatable.

Think about all the ways its words have been interpreted – like the way we count all the days and years in order to get to THE day when Jesus returns, and we are confident in our analysis despite the fact Jesus Himself told the disciples that He doesn’t know that date of His return (Matthew 24:36). 

Think about all the ways its words have become divisive in the Church – like the way so many Christians (used to) define themselves as either “Pre-Tribulation,” “Post-Tribulation,” or “Mid-Tribulation,” turning their backs on anyone who thought differently. (And, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, then count yourself blessed! 😂)

Of course, I had my own opinions about it all because, heck, not only did I take part in an in-depth study of Revelation, I also read the complete Left Behind series – while doing the study (she says with great sarcasm and regret). The grace in it all is that I only knew what I’d been told. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…until I expanded my learning. (Even now, I don’t claim to know much of it ‘for sure’ – except Jesus wins!)

And, Revelation is actually packed with language and imagery that reflect language and imagery found throughout Scripture (think: Exodus, Daniel, Ezekiel). Despite its confusing aspects, this final book carries out and concludes the story within the pages of our Bible with awe-inspiring continuity. It gives us a picture of what it looks like when Jesus returns to earth a second time. Yes, the events of end times look like a holy cleansing – but it’s not without grace. 

The Bible as a whole details how our humanity, our sin, is a barrier to God’s fullness (Isaiah 59:2), so cleansing rituals and sacrifices were instituted in the days of Moses (Hebrews 9:1-10). 

It’s why the Israelites had to build a holy structure that was cleansed and consecrated in order for God’s essence to dwell among them (Exodus 40). It’s why they had to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins (Exodus 30:10). It’s why Jesus had to die (Galatians 1:4). Likewise, the earth has to be sanctified before God can bring the New Heaven to earth so that all His followers can finally dwell WITH HIM. Face-to-face. Forever (Revelation 21:1-3).

Friends, no one has to tell us that life on this broken, sin-soaked planet is hard. We live it everyday. But, as believers, we have an image of a promised Day when there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more death (Revelation 21:4). What many of us may not know just yet, however, is that day is not happening in heaven, which is currently the place of holy habitation, the place where our spirits go after life on earth is over (2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Luke 16:22-26).

That perfect, Eden-like era comes after Jesus’ return, after Judgement Day, after this place becomes the New Earth. These are the days where our spirits reunite with our resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42,44,46,52-53) – except these bodies will not be plagued with deficiencies and disabilities as they are now. No, these resurrected bodies will be as human as Jesus’ was (1 Corinthians 15:47-49), as perfect as Adam and Eve’s were at Creation. These are bodies that will live forever in glory with Jesus.

We can live for heaven today; we can also live with the hope for the perfect eternal life to come. 

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

Our Groaning Bodies

This is the groaning
As You count every tear we have sown
And we trust what those tears will become
This is the stretching
Making room for our hope to arrive
Knowing You come to make us alive*

Lyrics to “We Do Not Labor in Vain”

Living with the hope that we will one day be in God’s presence, in our glorified bodies, aids us in enduring much suffering now. This hope requires our willingness to trust this promised future and to wait faithfully for it. It also obligates us to do more than despair for the rest of our days. Instead, we can look to all that causes our groans as a means for “making room for our hope to arrive” – BECAUSE we know He has “come to make us alive!”*

The promise of our future with Him – in heaven and in the New Heaven – can serve as fuel for our faith:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

Romans 8:22-24

As we’ve seen in this study, Paul knew suffering. At one point he confessed things got so bad in Asia that he and his group had despaired of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). But, he explained, the sentence of death had happened so they would not rely on themselves – only God (v.9). With a quick turn of phrase, Paul included the core of his faith: he could trust God because God raises the dead (v.9). He knew that the One who has the kind of power that brings the dead to life is the One they could set their hope on to deliver them again and again – and so can we.

We groan in our bodies but not without hope! God will deliver us. One way or another His deliverance comes. Even as we face death, we can hope for the Day that our bodies will be raised, and they will never groan again.

Our Eternal Hope

In the meantime, we might be heard to complain while we endure this life of ours on earth – not so unlike the Israelites, who grumbled constantly despite having witnessed all the plagues, the miracle of the parted sea, and the end of their oppression. The very same people I’m often guilty of judging because somehow I think they should have more faith after all they’ve witnessed and been given. 

Then I remember. I, too, have witnessed much and have been given even more. 

I’ve seen:
God’s faithfulness in every season of stress.
God’s goodness when I thought there was no hope.
God’s provision at times of desperation. 

I’ve been given: 
His love in moments when I was quite unlovable.
His grace every time I’ve sinned and confessed.
His Holy Spirit – to dwell IN ME, to be my helper.

With all this remembering, I find myself confessing my sin of judging others…again. And as His love washes over me and His grace fills me, my hope in Him grows. 

Such equipping and filling and growing hope continues to serve as reminders that I don’t – we don’t – need to live each day with what Sarah Wanck calls ‘temporal hope.’1  Such temporal hope tempts us to think, “when I get through this thing, then the trial will be over.”1 Such a hope focuses on the here and now and is hindered by our limited strength.

Which is why it is so significant that God offers us an eternal hope that will never fail! His promise of a restoration – that will last forever in His kingdom, that will forever reign over everything – is one that sustains.1

Jesus’ return is reliable, thus becoming the hope we can trust because we know it is a certainty. Therefore, we can “hold onto the coming reality of Christ’s return, that one day, your every need will be met in him. His glory will be your source and strength.”2 Just as prophets as Isaiah poured into the people of exile promises that God had not forgotten them, we can put our hope in the same truths. God sees each of us. He hasn’t left us. God’s promise isn’t only for eternity – it’s also meant to be our source of deep hope today. 

This eternal hope is ours, and it will carry us in our right now, our tomorrow, and our forever — this we know, for real and for certain. This hope is yours, my friend. Take it – God wants to be your “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”3 For all your tomorrows.

Heavenly Father, we long to believe the truth that You are here and now – and in our forever future. So, today, we make the words of a hymn our prayer: 

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

That Word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.*

In Jesus’ name, amen.

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 – Sarah Wanck, Wake Up Call, 12/12/22
  • 2 – Sarah Wanck, Wake Up Call, 12/11/22 
  • 3 – Quoted from the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (which is on our playlist!)
  • *I added two new songs to our “This Hope” playlist,. One is from the collaborative album, Faithful, which we’ll hear from much more in our next series. But this song, “We Do Not Labor In Vain,” emphasizes today’s theme of our hope in eternity — Jesus comes back in all His glory to resurrect all the believers into their glorified bodies and finally bring New Heaven and New Earth together for His forever reign – with us! The second is the Martin Luther hymn, “Our God a Mighty Fortress.” I confess I didn’t know the lyrics well enough to be aware of the connections to all that we covered in this post – but I’m so grateful to know that now!
  • Friends, this ends our “This Hope” series. I do pray that our exploration of hope through the lens of suffering has been more hope-filled than we might have anticipated. I mean, suffering is not a favorite topic. 😉 But, equipped with all the promises of God, maybe we can truly persevere through our trials with greater faith and a deeper hope in our Savior and for our future!
  • Next week we begin our summer series: “Women of Hope.” I’m excited to step out into a series that will explore several women in Scripture who lived with the kind of hope we seek. I invite you to ask friends to join us on this special journey. XOXO

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:

  • This spring we’re leaning into the rhythm of meditation. Unlike eastern meditation that seeks to empty the mind and self of everything, Christian meditation desires to fill our minds and beings with Christ. SO — each day, to the best of our abilities, let’s meditate on God’s Word, or as my friend JD Walt says, “ruminate on the Word just as a cow ruminates on his cud.” In other words, don’t rush. Read. Pause. Listen. Reread. Pause. Receive. Give space for the Spirit to reveal and enlighten.
    • This week, let’s meditate (or ruminate) on Romans 8:22-24. As we meditate on Paul’s words, let’s settle into our future reality with Jesus in resurrected bodies that are groan-free.
  • 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 Aaron Burden on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.

This Hope: The Promise of Heaven

Once in a while, something happens that forever changes us – it becomes one of those epic life markers where everything we do and have done is categorized as “before ___” or “after ___.” We’ve all lived through a recent epical moment: the pandemic. My mind automatically separates memories as either before or after the events of 2020 because those months changed everything.

Not all life markers are collective. In fact, some of the most significant ones are singular. Like the season I poured over Jennie Allen’s book, Anything.1 Every Friday for months, I went to the same coffee shop with her book and a journal in hand. I took a slow walk through words that shifted my way of thinking and challenged me to release all the things that held me back from giving my all to God. Those months in that book shaped me forever.

I distinctly remember Jennie describing the way she “lives life for heaven now” – and how I drew a big question mark in my journal because I didn’t quite grasp what she meant. I wanted to know, what does it look like to live for heaven now? As I’ve sought answers to that question, I’ve realized Jennie merely connected dots that God has been putting before me all along. 

The first dot derives from what Paul told the Colossians, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). When we put our focus on heaven, our thinking changes – our priorities and motives shift.

However, when we remove heaven from our thinking – when our focus is on this life alone – all our priorities center on this world and this life,2 leaving us desperate and despairing. When we believe that “this life is all there is, [that] there is nothing else beyond the grave, we will live one way. But if there is another life coming, a bigger, bolder, more beautiful life than [we] can imagine, then [we] will live quite a different way.”2 

J.B. Lightfoot puts it this way, “You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.” 

In other words, if we train our brains to “think heaven” – with all its good, all its promises, and all its glory – then we can find the kind of hope that sustains us through all our struggles. Such a focus gives us faith that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”3 

As we surrender ourselves more and more to the way of living for heaven now, we’ll desire to give ourselves more fully to the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). And we’ll “serve God with a whole heart wherever He” places us because we know that what we do “counts for all eternity.”1 

The Apostle Paul lived his life this way. And, he encourages us to live for heaven now, reminding us that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

Friends, Paul knew suffering. He was flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned, and left for dead multiple times. He learned to live for heaven for all his days on earth because it not only motivated him with the love of Christ but ignited a fire within him to do all he could for Christ while he was here.

So. Living for heaven? It becomes the fuel for living by faith no matter how we feel or what we face. It becomes our focal point so that no matter our circumstances, we can overcome and have hope for what is to come (Romans 8:37).

Longing for Heaven

Sometimes our suffering actually causes us to long for heaven. 

In her book, Restless, Jennie Allen uses the idea of ‘threads’ to help readers see how all the threads of life weave together to create unique masterpieces – threads like gifts, places, people, passions, and…suffering.4 When we put all our threads together, we begin to see how we’ve been made and what God is calling us to do.

But before we can launch ourselves into the world to do a good work, it is wise to examine our threads – especially those of suffering. Jennie explains that if we still have a gaping wound, we might be too raw, too fragile to share without causing more suffering. But if we’ll allow the One who suffers with us to heal us, then we can comfort others the way we’ve been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4). 

In our first year of marriage we suffered both a miscarriage and a tubal pregnancy. At the time, we told very few people; we were too broken, too wounded to talk about it. At the height of my pain, I questioned God. But as I healed, I understood that the ache left by such loss was revealing a truth to me – this was not how He intended life to be. So, rather than bitterness taking root, a longing for heaven budded.

And the more I desired heaven, the more my heart burned for Jesus. Jennie says, “The more we want heaven, the more dangerous we get on Earth”5 – because we become bolder and braver. As I healed, and in a way that only God can weave together, God put a young woman in my path who needed my bold testimony to speak Christ’s hope into her pain.

With each season of suffering, we might get pinned down for a bit, but with our focus on heaven, healing happens – and a resolve settles into our souls that says, no more! When we don’t allow suffering to have the final word, all our threads weave us into strong forces of hope for the world. And for the enemy of our souls, this is dangerous indeed.


Something else happens when we allow hope for heaven to do its healing and holy work within us – we embody the truth of heaven’s reality. And, “the more heaven gets real to us, the less this life has to work out just right.”5 Our looking to heaven grows within us a deep knowing that no matter how dark the valley is right now, we are okay. The hope of heaven emboldens us to live without fear because we believe nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39) – and that our present sufferings will not compare with the glory to come (Romans 8:18).

It’s why Paul could remain fierce in his faith despite all the persecution.
It’s why Peter could keep preaching the gospel despite threats of death.
It’s why Stephen could so calmly retell the story of God, looking into heaven, even as he was dying (Acts 7:55-56).

They understood that they were okay because of heaven’s promise to make all things right and good. They trusted what Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.” (Matthew 10:28 NLT). They lived by the truth that if we die with Him, we will also live with Him (2 Timothy 2:11). 

A friend of mine, whose world came crashing down during one of our world’s epical moments, equates this way of living as going into the world bulletproof. Her hope in heaven and in the promises of God carried her through the absolute darkest valley she could imagine – and she emerged stronger and at peace that life could throw whatever it wanted at her. She knew she’d be okay. 

This is living free of the fear of the unknown, free of the fear of being so overcome that we’ll never recover. This is the freedom that results from living with the kind of hope we’ve been searching for. And we can find it by looking to heaven and living for it. 

Friends, life is hard. The pain is real. But we do not have to struggle by ourselves or without hope. In fact, as we keep looking to heaven, we’ll discover life right now is but a small blip on the radar of all time. We’ll see that God is with us and cares enough to help. AND we’ll find that the heaven He has promised us when this life is done will also equip us to keep living now. We can live free and fierce today because our hope is rooted in the most epic marker of all time – life in heaven with the One who loves us most.

Heavenly Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is heaven. We have prayed these words for most of our days, yet how often have we paused to think about heaven? Your throne room. The place where angels gather and worship You. Where Jesus has ascended and sits at your right hand – where WE are also seated at your right hand. Father, we ask that You would grant us a vision of heaven that would help us keep our thoughts on those things above and our minds anchored on what’s to come. Lord Jesus, we long for heaven, and our hope is for a life with You after this one is over. Thank You for leaving your throne in heaven to walk among us on earth, for demonstrating what it looks like to live for heaven now. Thank You for dying and resurrecting so that we can live that same reality. Holy Spirit, how we need You! Lead us in this way of living for heaven and putting our focus on things above. Build our faith so that our fears dissolve in the hope of what God is doing now, even as we look to heaven for promise and power. Teach us how to receive the healing You offer, and remind us that our suffering makes us stronger SO THAT we can go into the world and offer the comfort we’ve been given. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Matthew 6:9-10; Revelation 4:2, 7:11; Hebrews 1:3; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:14; Romans 8:11; Acts 7:55; Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 1:4)

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 – Jennie Allen’s book Anything^
  • 2 – Ray Fowler’s article “Living for Heaven Now” 
  • 3 – St Julian of Norwich’s famous lines that are said to have been spoken by Jesus to her in a vision. In the vision, she asked her burning question about why sin would be allowed in the world – and this was Jesus’ response, “‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
  • 4 – Jennie Allen’s book Restless.^ I did her Bible study by the same title, but I’ll tell you which resource pulls together the BEST of Anything and Restless — a beautiful 40-day devotional book that functions a bit like a workbook — Made for This.^ Seriously, it takes some discipline, but wow! Those threads become more obvious — God’s plan, too!
  • 5 – Jennie Allen’s podcast episode “Threads of Suffering” — a great discussion on this specific thread.
  • Lydia Laird’s song on our “This Hope” playlist, called “I’ll Be Okay,” gives us words of faith that we’ll be okay — no matter what — because Jesus is with us. AND, the final song on our playlist is a song by Brooke Ligertwood called “Ancient Gates.” It’s one I can listen to on repeat! Its lyrics speak into both this week’s discussion of heaven and next week’s New Heaven and New Earth. So beautiful. So full of promises that shift our focus and help us live for heaven now! “Here and now HE’S JUST AS HOLY!”

    There’s a throne beneath the Name of Names
    There is seated on it One who reigns
    And His Kingdom now is here and getting closer
    So praise Him like we’re there in glory
    Here and now He’s just as holy

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:

  • This spring we’re leaning into the rhythm of meditation. Unlike eastern meditation that seeks to empty the mind and self of everything, Christian meditation desires to fill our minds and beings with Christ. SO — each day, to the best of our abilities, let’s meditate on God’s Word, or as my friend JD Walt says, “ruminate on the Word just as a cow ruminates on his cud.” In other words, don’t rush. Read. Pause. Listen. Reread. Pause. Receive. Give space for the Spirit to reveal and enlighten.
    • This week, let’s meditate (or ruminate) on Colossians 3:1-2. As we meditate on Paul’s words, let’s pray for a growing awareness of heaven’s reality — for our future and for right now. I’d love to hear how your time in these verses help shape your ability to live for heaven now.
  • 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 Kaushik Panchal on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.
^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit

This Hope: An Anchor for Our Souls

Stories abound of boats that survive hurricanes – even when the same storm strips every tree of their leaves and branches, even when buildings are leveled and living creatures perish. The common difference maker between a sunken ship and one that stays afloat? The anchor. 

When a storm comes barrelling toward her boat, the skipper will drop an anchor from the bow (front), securing it to the solid ground below.1 Pointing toward the wind, the boat won’t capsize. The anchor keeps the boat from getting shoved into the land or sucked out to sea.

Years ago, when we were boaters, our seagreen ski boat could usually outrun storms, so I’m not sure how we would’ve fared if we’d had to ride one out. But we did learn the value of a good anchor, and that lesson came on a sunny day when the lake looked like a sea of glass.

We pulled within several yards of land to jump-in for a refreshing swim. I don’t recall if we made the decision not to anchor or just forgot because of the lake’s deceptive calm. Anchorless, however, we put ourselves in danger. Distracted by our own splashes, we failed to notice the boat creeping inland, trapping us between it and the shore until it loomed over us and bumped into us. Thankfully, a nimble, quick-minded someone climbed aboard and got that boat back out to safer depths. Then. Then, we anchored.

I think about how our boating incident mirrors our lives – how when we feel like we’re floating along just fine in life, we can get caught unaware, trapped and even sucked under by a storm that has blown up out of nowhere.

The lesson? Hold onto Christ every single day of this life on earth. Stormy or calm seas, hang onto the person and promises of Jesus.

Our Anchor 

The writer of Hebrews wants us to understand just how much we can count on God’s promises to hold firm, to always bring us through every tempest. The author points us toward Abraham’s reality – no matter what problems arose, no matter how long it took, Abraham clung to the covenant God made with him. He anchored himself to the promise that he would be the father of a great nation despite being childless (Hebrews 6:11-15). He held firm even when waves of doubt tried to drown him and winds of distrust tried to break his grip.

Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Paul spoke of Abraham in the same way, saying “he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham’s faith in God’s promises held him steady through every season, storm, and surprise.

These New Testament writers offer to us the imperfect Abraham as the one to imitate. He may not have made the healthiest choices all the time, but when it counted most, Abraham trusted God. He clung to faith even when he couldn’t see how the outcome God promised could be realized. 

JD Walt helps his modern readers contrast Abraham’s brand of belief with our world’s anecdote: 

“Positive thinking ties our faith to some preconceived and hoped for outcome. Faith, on the other hand, does not seek a particular outcome, but rather anchors all hope in God alone and the surety of His promises.”

JD Walt, The Daily Text, Nov 10, 2018

Positive thinking is putting our hope in ourselves, others, or circumstances. It’s living life anchorless yet counting on things beyond our control to hold us steady.

I’ve been learning this specific lesson in recent months. My form of “positive thinking” looks like planning. The minute life throws a curveball, my automatic response is to kick into planner-mode. My thoughts spiral with every possible scenario so I can plan for each outcome. Each imagining raises my stress. Each plan seeks to lower the stress, giving me the false illusion of control. In other words, I trick myself into thinking “I’ve got this.” And all the while, the boat is pushing me toward the shore where rocks hungrily await my approach.

This way of reacting to life is so habitual that the other night I woke up from an awful dream with tears in my eyes. The dream felt so real, that before I could fully awaken, my mind began planning where I would go in the face of such a loss. Later that morning, I took all the feelings, all the plans to God and eventually laughed out loud as I saw how ingrained this tendency is in me. And God nodded a silent, “I told you so.” Now we’re working together on changing this response in me. He’s teaching me how to put my hope in Him and His promises instead of my plans.

Positive thinking has very little actual power to change situations or to give us what we hope for. But, guess who does? Our Promise-Keeper. Our Anchor.

A Thing With Feathers

We’ve been learning that this hope is not a wish for something we don’t really think will happen. It’s not thinking the best of a situation so that it’ll magically work out the way we want. It’s not even tossing our fears thoughtlessly in the wind, hoping God will fix everything. For all our searching, it may still be hard to put into words just what this hope is. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.2 

Emily Dickinson

In her own poetic way, Emily uses metaphor to compare this hope to a bird: 

This hope gets in our soul – it sings truth and keeps us warm.
This hope perseveres – it never stops, never lets go…even in the storm.
This hope remains with us – without ever asking anything of us except to trust.

Why? Because this hope is a person. It’s His good will for us. It’s our trusting His promises. It’s us releasing our plans so that this hope becomes our anchor. Thus moored, we become immovable in our faith and unsinkable in our determination to remain in Christ.

Friends, we don’t need to float through our days here on earth, allowing the winds and currents to take us where they please. We don’t need to create our own anchors in attempts to wait out the storms of life. And we don’t want to get caught off guard by a sneaky storm – because we have the strongest anchor ever. When we attach ourselves to our Solid Rock, we’re aligning our hearts and minds with His. We are trusting that He will not only get us through the storm but that He’ll be the One to lead us where we need to go. We are believing that God’s promises will never fail to hold because He has the power to outlast and overcome every storm. 

So, whether we find ourselves battered by gale-force winds, watchful of darkening clouds building on the horizon, or content in our current calm season, we can trust that this hope is an anchor for our souls every single day of our lives (Hebrews 6:19). 

Father God, hope against hope, Abraham believed You. He trusted You’d keep your word. And we want to do the same, running to You for refuge with confidence because we hold to the hope that lies before us. In faith, we trust that You are the only One in all the universe with the power to bring all your promises into reality. That You are the only One who can help us navigate life without drifting off course. Lord Jesus, You demonstrated your power over storms when You spoke a word, and the wind and rain stopped. We pray our faith will believe that same power can speak into our storms. Help us build a trust in You – that whether You stop the storm or bring us through it, your power and goodness are the same. We’re so grateful for your promises to be with us when we pass through the waters and to keep the rivers from sweeping over us. May these assurances be an anchor for our souls. Holy Spirit, we confess how easily we launch out in our own strength, with our own plans, only to be swamped by the raging seas of life. So, we ask You to be our constant reminder to anchor ourselves to Christ. We ask that You would speak over us the truth of all God’s promises and the power of putting our hope in them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Romans 4:18;  Hebrews 6:18, 19; Matthew 8:24-27; Isaiah 43:2; John 16:13)

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 – To drop an anchor in this situation, the boat would have to be in a harbor or near the shore. There are, however, “sea anchors” that are used while out on the open seas. These parachute-looking anchors are thrown out behind the boat so that the wind catches the pocket, creating drag, acting as a brake. The effect is similar.
  • 2 – Emily Dickinson’s poem is in the public domain and can be found here.
  • Our “This Hope” playlist has a song by Hillsong called “Anchor.” Its lyrics capture SO MUCH of what God is trying to open our hearts and minds to in this series about suffering and this hope — about how He and His promises are the anchor for our souls.

    There is hope in the promise of the cross
    You gave everything to save the world You love
    And this hope is an anchor for my soul
    Our God will stand unshakeable

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:

  • This spring we’re leaning into the rhythm of meditation. Unlike eastern meditation that seeks to empty the mind and self of everything, Christian meditation desires to fill our minds and beings with Christ. SO — each day, to the best of our abilities, let’s meditate on God’s Word, or as my friend JD Walt says, “ruminate on the Word just as a cow ruminates on his cud.” In other words, don’t rush. Read. Pause. Listen. Reread. Pause. Receive. Give space for the Spirit to reveal and enlighten.
    • This week, we can meditate (or ruminate) on Hebrews 6:13-20. I personally love the NLT version, but you land on what feels best to you. I’d love to hear how your time in these verses establishes a faith in you to hold onto this hope that is an anchor to your soul.
  • 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 Frans Ruiter on Unsplash. Bits and Pieces photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.