Exhibit of Hope (It’s Time to Make Your Own!)

Over the summer, my mom and I took the kids to the sea-side aquarium in Kure Beach. We saw bizarre fish, adorable turtles, and even intimidating alligators. The kids posed in the jaw-bone of a Megalodon and learned about all kinds of sea-creatures. It was an amazing afternoon.

But out of all the exhibits, only one has really stuck with me…one that didn’t have any animals in it at all. If we had gone another way as we left the museum, we wouldn’t have seen it at all.  But I’m glad we did. It was this:

cedehcd02-2

I know. It doesn’t look all that interesting. But it has stayed on my mind.

Here’s what it is: a record of hurricanes and the height of their storm-surges. This particular exhibit records surges more than twenty feet over sea-level…I can barely imagine what that actually looks like.

I do know, however, what the consequences of those levels looks like. We’ve all seen the pictures or maybe lived through the effects of a hurricane. Houses, roads, and sometimes even entire towns are destroyed. Lives are, sometimes, lost.

This exhibit shows – yes, the storms came. The water rose. Damage was, inevitably, done in the process.

But this skinny grey column is an exhibit of hope, at least in the way I see it

The water-marks say – yes, there were storms. We were shaken. We were flooded.

But, still, here we are.  After the storms, we don’t give up. Towns re-build. The debris is taken away. The beaches are cleaned. We move on and are maybe more prepared for the next round. We do all we can to protect the lives of those in the path of the storm.

And if we remember how we made it through the storms that have come before, we can know how to handle the storms of the future. We know when to move to higher ground. We stock up on canned food and water. We have flashlights and batteries. We are quick to board up the windows and to stay alert for warnings from the weather channel.

And this exhibit is another reminder of the need to do all of those things…it’s a reminder that storms have come and storms will come again.

Maybe you’re asking this question now – what does all of this have to do with us and our quest for hope?

Let’s find out (it’s an imperfect metaphor, but it has done me good to think about it in this way).

So this is what I want you to do: find a pen and two sheets of paper. Think about your past. Think about the storms that came through and how they threatened your heart and your life. On one sheet of paper, jot these storms down.

Now take a look at each storm and remember how God brought you through it. Remember how He was faithful. Remember how He forgave. Remember how He provided. Remember how He sent a word of hope just when you needed it. Remember how He healed, how He set you free, how His grace was sufficient — even to just keep your feet moving through the hardest days.

Remember the peace that came when your situation was anything but peaceful. Remember how He restored what was lost. Remember how He rebuilt your heart and your family. Remember how He took on the debris that needed to be removed. Remember how He calmed your fear and put your feet on the Rock that is Higher than any storm-surge can reach.

Remember how He has stepped into your life, Emmanuel and Savior, and rescued you. Kept you from harm that could have come your way. Kept you from the roads that you didn’t need to travel down.  Remember how He strengthened your faith, fortified your trust, and blessed you with grace.

Remember how He has loved you through it all…remember the beauty for ashes, the joy that came in the morning. Remember that even when you couldn’t see through the rain and you couldn’t see beyond the next wave, He was still there. Remember Him!

Now write all of those testimonies down next to the storms….don’t let yourself forget what God has done in your life! Write it down, say it out loud — give Him the praise for every mercy He has shown and every miracle you have been given.

Look at what you have before you – an exhibit of hope!

Yes, the storm surge came this high in your life – but it did not destroy you. It did not send you careening out to sea without hope.  Instead, you learned the truth of this promise God gives to us in Isaiah 43:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

I have to take a second here and rejoice in that simple phrase that is our everything – “I will be with you.” There, in that phrase, in that five word promise  – we have hope. 

Here’s where the second sheet of paper comes in. At the top of it, write that verse from Isaiah 43 and I hope that it hides away in your heart at the same time.

Beneath that promise,  write down the storms you are going through right now. Whatever the worry, whatever the fear, whatever the difficulty – write it down.

These storms are no less under His control than the ones He has already brought you through. He is still the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior! He still says “Do not fear!” You are His – He knows you, He loves you, and He is with you!

The God who brought you through every storm on that first list has not changed.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is still able to take what is intended for evil and use it for our good. He is still able to part the seas when we face depths we can’t cross in our own strength. He is still our peace-speaker. He is still with us, though the mountains shake and the oceans roar.

He is still able to comfort, to strengthen, and to hold us when we’ve been knocked down by the winds and can’t get ourselves back up. He is still able to re-build what has been destroyed. He still brings life. He is our hope that will never fail.

So, in the storm, we run to Him with everything within us, even if it feels like He is a million miles away. We choose to trust Him instead of our emotions or our circumstances.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” ~Psalm 61:2

We go to His Word. I love how the Message puts it in Psalm 119  – Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word.”

We pray and we obey in whatever way He has asked of us, putting on that full armor of God from Ephesians 6 – and then, ‘when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.’ (Ephesians 6:13)

No, life is not easy and trouble will come. Storms will blow through and sometimes they will linger longer than we think we can survive.

But we have a supernatural strength to depend upon. We can call out to our Father and know that we can trust Him to help us! When all we can do is stand, we are standing on that High Rock. We are trusting in the One who has overcome every storm, every darkness, every battle.

We have the promise and the hope of victory in Jesus. Sometimes victory over a situation might not even happen in this lifetime, not that we can see with our physical here-and-now vision — but our hope is not bound by time.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Even if our flesh does falter, we can declare this with faith: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever! (Psalm 73:26)

And victory over the fear, the depression, the anxiety….all of the side-effects that can drag us under the waves — that victory is now because of our hope in God, our Savior!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Phil. 4:6-7

We praise Him and we have His life shining forth from us even in the pain, even in the sorrow, even in the storm — because this is the grace He gives to us and this is how we are exhibits of hope to everyone in our lives.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-1

So, today, surrender those storms on that second sheet to the One who is our very present help in time of trouble…and keep the first list handy so you can add to it. Because in His time and in His way, we know that all things are working together for our good (Romans 8:28).  We can be confident in our hope that today’s trouble will one day be another testimony of His faithfulness!

God is our mighty fortress,
always ready to help
in times of trouble.

And so, we won’t be afraid!
Let the earth tremble
and the mountains tumble
into the deepest sea.

Let the ocean roar and foam,
and its raging waves
shake the mountains…

Nations rage! Kingdoms fall!
But at the voice of God
the earth itself melts.

The Lord All-Powerful
is with us.
The God of Jacob
is our fortress. 

(from Psalm 46)

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