When you don’t have the strength to hope

“When I can no more stir my soul to move, and life is but the ashes of a fire…”
                                                                                        —George MacDonald

I cleaned out the ashes in my woodburning stove this weekend. It’s been a cold winter, and bright fires in that stove brought cheer, comfort, and warmth to my little nest.

These ashes, though, are cold and dirty and … depressing. No warmth. Not even a tiny little glow left in that gray heap.

 What about the times that feel as though only ashes remain? When there is no fire, no energy, no inspiration?

What about those times when you are overwhelmed, when you are so weary you want to quit, when everything seems to be working against you, when even Scriptures that you have held tightly do not keep hope burning?

What then?

Scripture gives us an amazing picture of God’s care of His children, even when it seems that all that is left in our souls is a pile of ashes.  

First, the Spirit of God is always working within you, and it is His strength that carries you through these times.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s will.

So even when we cannot articulate our needs, when there seems to be nothing we can say or pray, when we cannot even cry for help, the Spirit within us brings our case to God. Our help and hope do not depend on what we can do! We are constantly under the care and power of the Spirit who knows exactly what we need–even better than we know ourselves. Wow. Can you believe that?

And God is always working for the good of His children.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

The God who created the universe has chosen us as His children. He is working for our good in everything. In everything. He has declared that we are in good standing with Him. He has a plan for each of us. The Spirit within us steps in and connects us to God when we do not know which way is up. And Jesus himself stands beside God, pleading on our behalf.

Hmmm. Just thinking. Maybe the word “hopeless” should be struck from our vocabulary.

In the darkest times, when we are weakest and most helpless, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit hold us. The Bible has all kinds of images that describe this: we are sheltered under His wings; He holds our hand; He hides us in the shelter of a rock; He gathers us in His arms and carries us. One of my favorites is My times are in your hands. I am held in His hands, no matter how things look from my limited perspective. 

OH! and here’s another. Does this describe any time you have experienced?

Praise the LORD,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack.
In a panic I cried out,
“I am cut off from the LORD!”
But you heard my cry for mercy
and answered my call for help.

Love the imagery in that passage. The NIV version describes the city under attack as “a besieged city.”

Our Father who loves us, the Son who died to make us heirs, and the Spirit who transforms us keep us safe when we are besieged. 

As the psalmist says, Father, May your unfailing love be my comfort.


Scripture: Romans 8:26-28; 31-34 (NLT); Psalm 31:15 (NIV); Psalm 31:21-22 (NLT); Psalm 119:76 (NIV) 

3 thoughts on “When you don’t have the strength to hope

  1. I am thinking that you are right about the word “hopeless”. It is indeed a wonder-ful thought. A powerful statement.

    We are NEVER hopeless!

  2. Cleaning the ashes out of the woodburning stove reminded me of walking through the dry bones scripture again in Ezekiel. Ashes remind me of mourning, but then the joy comes…yes, there is always hope even in the most dire of circumstances. Thanks Elaine for being faithful in your sharing of the Word.

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