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A Thrill of Hope

I lettered this pallet. It was so fun! You can congratulate me on my perfect snowflakes later.

It's Giving Tuesday! This is a weird concept to me, because giving should be a part of our lifestyle. But Giving Tuesday is a good place to start. So give! My heart is for camp ministries (plug for Camp Tadmor! We need your gifts!), and refugees.

I've been sitting on a few big topics for about a month now. I'll try to tackle both of them today. The first heaviness on my heart has been the happenings in Syria.

US troops recently pulled out of Syria leaving their northern border vulnerable. As a result, Syria finds itself in another unasked-for war, and many have had to flee the country, or are displaced in camps within Syria. Just as many of the refugees were able to return home, many more are having to leave again. It's heartbreaking. I can't imagine being in an environment in which leaving your home is the safest and only option.

A large portion of the proceeds from my sold books goes to Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit on the ground in Syria, at the US-Mexico border, and all around the world offering support where they can to displaced people. Sales of my book don't just help change lives around the world, but hopefully change the reader's heart as well. This isn't just a pitch to sell more of my books, it's a tangible way for me, and for you, to be involved in supporting people who to know there is hope. There's always hope. Consider buying a copy or five of No Way but Through for your loved ones for Christmas!

The other thing I've been weighed down with for the past month is going to take some vulnerability on my part to share with you, but I hope this story renews your hope and faith. I've been battling God Himself. Not exactly battling against God, but battling with God. Never before has the question of why do bad things happen (especially to innocent people) weighed on me so heavily.

It feels like there's a lot to cover here. I had doubts, I felt literally weighed down by questions, but I was also loving my daily meetings with God. It was like God and I came together to pour over Truth and dispel the lies and darkness. I use the past tense because I feel like I'm coming out the other side of this (more on that later), but God and I still meet every day over Truth.

God has been so tender and gracious to me through it all. Every day, God guides me to just what I need to read, or pray about, or think of. My journal is filled with page after page of scriptures and quotes that have stuck out to me. And it seems that each day has a new theme. One day I read in a few different places to let faith be my compass, not doubt. It was like God was gently pulling me back from the ledge. Don't get me wrong, it's healthy and important to ask these questions, this has just been my process.

A lot of the horrible things happening in the world are the consequences of our own choices as people with free will. God could have made the world a more perfect place by making us automatons, but that would negate any real love in the world as well. C.S. Lewis said it better:

"If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata--of creatures that worked like machines--would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (...) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

But a lot of the bad also comes down to the fact that we aren't here for our own good and pleasure. Yes, God is loving and wants good for us. I can tell you literally countless stories of God's care and provision in my own life. But the point is, it's not about us. There's a bigger picture, a bigger plan at work outside of our lives, outside of time.

Yesterday, I had quite the experience reading a story in the book of Matthew I've read 100 times before. Jesus is in the garden of Gesthemane pleading with God to let this cup of suffering He was about to endure pass from Him. This caught me, because I have so often pleaded with God. In the midst of pain, my darkest days in the hospital this year, painful days on my couch, I've done my share of pleading. Jesus in His humanness, pleaded with His Father. He was so distressed He actually sweat blood, which is a real thing that happens when the body is under incredible stress. But He also knew that His suffering, which was far more than anyone else has ever experienced (we have not actually known what it's like to have God turn His back on us), would be nothing compared to the glory and joy ahead. So He also prayed, "Not my will but yours be done."

If it was in God's plan to so punish His Son, for the glory of restoring ALL things to Himself, then maybe some of our suffering is worth the glory of God. Thanks to Jesus' death and resurrection, we can have a beautiful relationship with God, a Father who will never leave us. Why did Jesus have to die? Because God is just, and none of us deserve to have a relationship with the Creator of the world. But God wants just that with us. This is such good news!

Many of you are probably thinking, duh, Emily. This is pretty elementary stuff. And you're right. These are things I already have thought through and considered, but it's never come home to me in such a profound way before. I guess when you struggle with health issues for 7+ years, you come back around to the same lessons often. Hopefully it will stick this time. This process, though uncomfortable most days, has deepened my foundation of faith and trust in God. And I've never felt so close to God. It's like I've leveled up in my relationship with God, and I'm SO grateful. My heart is full, regardless of my circumstances (my immune system seems shot since the hospital visits).

Some of you may be reading this as Christian jargon. That's okay. Just consider that billions of people over the past two millennia have searched for truth and have found this IS the Truth. Jesus is the answer. Yes, we have each other to make the world a better place, and that's just what God wants. But we can't do it on our own. We're selfish, stupid people who end up messing things up more. Depending on people really starts to break down quickly.

But there is good news. We don't have to do it on our own. Jesus IS the hope. To me, this is such a relief! We cannot save the world or make things better, who are we to even think that's possible? But we can lean into the One who created each of us and everything in this world to fill us with more love and empathy and energy to do the good thing.

I love Christmas time. The magic and mystery surrounding Jesus' birth. He fulfilled so many prophecies written hundreds of years before to a tee. The Israelites had been waiting and waiting. Imagine the thrill of hope tingling along their spines. The weary world had reason to rejoice. Our world has grown weary again, and we too wait for the second Advent of Christ, when He will make all things new. This Christmas season, spend time wrestling, I think God relishes our wrestling. It means we're engaged with God, and we want to know God more. Spend time in awe. Fall on your knees and rest in the knowledge that there is always hope. Even in the most dire circumstances, Hope never leaves us.


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