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Finding hope when life is a shambles

Indian woman 371562f3
For 22 years we have prayed for the healing of a family member. And at this point, praying is a grind. Other folks pray for us more than I probably do. Please don’t judge me, but mostly we just cope.   When pain is chronic, I think that’s what most people do.   And yet we serve th…
By Seth Barnes
Indian womanFor 22 years we have prayed for the healing of a family member. And at this point, praying is a grind. Other folks pray for us more than I probably do. Please don’t judge me, but mostly we just cope.
 
When pain is chronic, I think that’s what most people do.
 
And yet we serve this God who insists on arousing hope in our spirits. The paradox of it all can be maddening. “Curse God and die,” say the cynics. And we read crazy stories of people being radically healed through our teams around the world. Last week 30 or so were healed in a place where people go to die in India.
 
Last week I shared with the Adventures staff my story about going to Swaziland for the first time in 2004.
 
I knew it would be grim. The AIDS epidemic was in full swing.
Karen, Seth Jr., Emily, Leah and I all went on this huge project. 900 participants ministering in
192 separate schools over two months.
 
As I prepared to go and began praying
about the reality of the plague stalking that small country, I felt my
spirit beginning to grieve with them. God took me to Lamentations 3 and I heard him say, “This is the story of the Swazi people.”
 
It begins, “I am the man who has seen affliction” and for 20 verses, all you read is heart-wrenching hopelessness. You read words like:
darkness
              broken bones
    bitterness and hardship
imprisoned
      no communication
lost
  mangled
a target for arrows
       a laughingstock
mocked
   broken t e e t h
trampled in the dust
             deprived of peace
wandering
  bitterness and gall
And then on the heels of this misery Jeremiah makes an astounding statement in verse 21. He says, “I have hope.”
What? What a crazy thing to say in the midst of all that misery. He goes on to say, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
 
I don’t know how Jeremiah can say that. Clearly it seemed as though God’s compassions were failing in verses 1-20. So he was either nuts or there must have been something more to the picture. Somehow Jeremiah knew that God would come through for him.
 
As I read these verses and meditated, I found it strangely comforting to know that a man of God could see his homeland and people decimated and still find hope.
 
And so, I flew to Swaziland, knowing I’d find death, but also the possibility of hope.
 
The weeks passed and our teams carried a message of hope that changed the atmosphere of the country. Thousands committed their lives to Christ. Many more learned about AIDS and how to avoid contracting the HIV virus. Our time culminated in a celebration in the national stadium. People cheered and danced.
What is our reason for hope? It’s the power of the Gospel. We’re not deluded, we see it in actual changes in people.
It’s a privilege to serve in places where hope keeps washing up on the shores of hopelessness.
 
What hopeless place have you lived in? Can you dare to pray a hopeful prayer? If you struggle to do so, know that there are many others of us that live that way too.

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