Hi Sweet Friends,
Those of us of a certain age will remember the concept of a hope chest. The tradition of a young girl storing away treasures in a chest to be used in the life she hoped for probably ended with my generation. Or maybe the one before me. For generations, many families were farmers and laborers. Life was slow and hard, and arranged itself around the rhythms of the seasons. A social world was small and revolved around school, church, and adjoining farms and neighborhoods. That’s how my dad’s parents met – young people on neighboring farms. A date was a ride on the back of a wagon to church. There wasn’t extra money for frivolous things, so young girls would sometimes sew quilts, knit blankets, embroider pillowcases, or crochet doilies in hopes of using them in their own home one day. She often designated a trunk or wooden box to keep them in and called it her hope chest. Sometimes mothers, grandmothers, and aunts would contribute to the collection. A full hope chest was certainly bragging rights for a young girl. By my generation, a hope chest was valued only by those with romantic hearts who loved old-fashioned tradition. We stored up Tupperware, cookware, and toasters. No one wanted doilies or cross-stitched pillowcases. We could buy what we needed. Fast forward to my children’s generation where they point a laser gun at an item in a store and it is listed on a gift registry. It includes things like $50 saltshakers and coffee frothers. Even better, sit on your couch at home and check things that you desire on a website. Friends and family can go to that website and order a wrapped gift to be delivered to your door. We don’t have to touch anything. All of our heart’s desires are a click away. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s the circumstances and world our children find themselves in. No matter the generation, we’re all hoping, and waiting. It goes far beyond a well-stocked home and wedded bliss. We’re hoping for something at our core, our deepest part. What is it? How do I find it? What am I really hoping for?
My sister has been posting old family pictures of us as kids on a family group chat. Seeing our young faces, I can remember many of my hopes, fears, thoughts, and dreams. Our world was small. I believed what the grown-ups in my life told me. It was just as easy for me to believe the Bible stories at church as it was the hateful, racist comments of my babysitter that were in direct contradiction to the Bible stories at church. It didn’t have to make sense. I was a little girl with a trusting mind and heart, observing my world and forming beliefs about it and myself. Satan comes very early into our stories, using our circumstances and the stories we are born into to lie to us about the character of God and who we are to Him. It started with Eve. It continues in me, my children, and now my grandchildren. Satan’s role as a liar and thief is in everyone’s story. He spares no one. But don’t despair, God’s pursuit and provision is in everyone’s story as well. We were born into a world at war. We have a role to play. It’s a worthy pursuit to ask what our role is.
As a young girl, I loved pretty things. I loved playing house, mommy, teacher, and secretary. Those were what the women in my life were doing. I was a dreamer and fantasizer. I had a mental hope chest that I was adding to unconsciously. I hoped to be chosen, loved, smart, noticed, treasured, safe, and wanted. I wanted to grow up to date, get engaged, marry, have a pretty house, have babies, and be happy. That’s what happened in the movies I watched. That’s what I perceived was going on in the world around me. I believed that that is what happens to everyone who does the right thing and makes good choices. That’s certainly what God wants for me, isn’t it? Happiness? Little did I know that Satan was feeding me a string of fantasies that turned into pursuits, and then rights. Nothing wrong with any of those things; but they were the story I was building for only myself. These things would assure a good life for me. The words “me” and “myself” keep popping up in my hope chest. I wasn’t filling it with provisions for a life that glorifies God. I was filling it with a life that glorifies me. Satan had convinced me that if God didn’t mess things up, I was on a good path. I wouldn’t need rescuing. No young girl ever thought of putting hard and hurtful things in her hope chest. Not one of us ever knew our future would hold rejection and pain for us. We didn’t know there would be betrayal and divorce. We didn’t expect loneliness or widowhood. We never anticipated infertility, miscarriage, or the loss of children through death or distance or sin. Abuse was never in our dreams of the future. We didn’t know we would compare and feel ugly and less than. We didn’t plan on sickness and disease racking our bodies. We never wanted to feel unloved. No one wants a chest full of these possibilities. But many of these things are part of our stories. Our enemy shows up in these stories and uses our experiences and circumstances as evidence to try to convince us we are unloved, unchosen, unwanted, and hopeless. He uses the sins and stories of others, that he is also lying to, to make a case against our worth. He gives us a story and tells it to us over and over again until we claim it as our story. We come to believe that we are helpless victims in our story and cast blame at those Satan has convinced us are at fault for our pain. Don’t get me wrong, we are all victims of other people’s sin. We have all been hurt and mishandled by others’ selfishness and sin, but please also remember that others have been hurt by our selfishness and sin as well. But we’re not without hope.
While Satan is wreaking havoc in our story, God is alive and well and providing for our salvation and care and future. He comes for us and asks us to believe that what He says of us is true. Let’s fill up our spiritual hope chests with the truth of God’s Word that changes the trajectory of our story forever. Jesus speaks in John 10 of the lies of the enemy in trying to tell us there is another path for life other than through Jesus. Jesus tells us He is our Shepherd and laid down His life to buy us. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that He is the only way to God. Hebrews 13:6 reminds us He will never leave us. Romans 5:20 says that where sin is great, God’s grace is even greater. Satan would have us believe that the goodness of God is dependent on our enjoyment of our circumstances. Psalm 100:5 declares that the love, goodness, and faithfulness of God is forever, to all generations. God is constant. Our circumstances and feelings will be all over the board. What has hurt you is real. Don’t deny it. Cry, wail, beat your chest, grieve, and hurt; and hear Jesus say, “I understand. Me too.” Know confidently that your pain speaks nothing of the truth of who you are. Jesus bought you, including your pain, with His blood. God didn’t only rescue you from Hell, He made you His forever. That is your identity, and it will never change. He answers all of our questions about belonging and being enough. He tells us what we’re worth. He is the fulfillment of all we ever hoped for. Our hope chests are full. Forever.
So when disappointment overwhelms us and when our enemy fills us with doubt and fear, we can open our hope chests and show him proof of the character and heart of God. And he must flee. He cannot bear the truth. When Satan provokes us to feel entitled and self-willed, we can agree with Preston Gillham in his book Swagger, “Your life is not your own to treasure” and remember that we have been bought by precious blood. We can fill our chests with answered prayer and witnessed miracles. When God seems silent, we can reach in our hope chests and remember the times that He spoke and made our paths straight. We can fill our hope chests with prayers for our children, our country, the hurting, and the lost. We can say with the psalmist in Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait; and in His Word, I put my hope.” We are all waiting and hoping. Let’s fill each other’s hope chests with truth, love, and kindness. Let’s remind each other where our hope lies when courage fails. Let’s lock arms for our King and tell each other, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” (Psalm 33:20-22)