hope that is seen

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It?

Some things in life are just worth the fight. Hope is one of them. But what about when your circumstances dictate the exact opposite? Then what?

How badly do you want it? Would you go to battle to see the very thing you are hoping to come to fruition?

And if you are, what will you sacrifice to get there?

Sometimes, when, our future seems bleak, we need to choose to fight. We’ll need to be ready to get uncomfortable to face our fears, and then we need to dig in deep to decide we are not going to lose hope.

If only it were that easy.

Times when our beliefs and emotions vary, we need to find comfort in the tension. Enter hope.

Lori felt exactly like that when she went off to jail for the first time at age thirty-eight. She never thought her life would land up this way, but it did. All she had in front of her was a pile of her consequences.

Lor's Hope in Family
Lori (middle) with her daughter and husband.

Five years before this time, she had a wonderful husband, two children, and life was good. Despite being brought up by her grandparents as a toddler and then later, by two parents caught in the grips of alcoholism. Lori overcame the odds of what could have been in growing up in that environment, that was until her husband went to jail for a year, on a misdemeanor charge. While her husband sat in jail, Lori’s world turned upside down.

Instead of helping her while her husband was away, people took advantage of her. Within a year she was raped twice, and to numb her pain, she turned to drugs.

When her husband came home from prison he didn’t even recognize her. He said to her, “What happened to my wife?”

Her response was one born out of pain, “She died.”

This lifestyle then extended to her husband as life seemed to get worse and worse for them. As she sat in jail, with her future looking bleak, no family to support them, and little in the way of options. Her and her husband, also in jail at the time, decided that they would pray.

Sometimes when there seems to be no way out, the only place to look is up.

Romans 8:24, NIV says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Lori and her husband soon learned that God could provide a way out. In their desperation, they realized they could not go back to the same place they came from or back to the same friends. They needed hope, and it came in the form of rehab.

God provided through family members who had earlier given up hope, but through their prayers, God changed their hearts.

Now, both Lori and her husband are fighting for what their future in rehab. In the midst of what felt like a hopeless situation, Lori and her husband have learned to put their faith in what God could accomplish, not in what they could.

In doing so, their lives changed significantly.

Lori enrolled in a 9-month residential rehabilitation program through Restoring Women Outreach. She also enrolled in our Pure Joy Goods job-training program. In her job-training program, here at The Community Place, Lori uses her gifts and talents to create beautiful pallet art. She takes classes, attends recovery meetings, and is mentored by one of our staff.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick

You can support Lori on her journey to hope, by purchasing a piece of pallet art. For every $10 you spend, it is the equivalent of one hour of job-training and support services.

So how about you? Are you like Lori, recognizing hope exists in the unseen, not in what you currently perceive? Or will you allow your emotions to dictate what you believe your future will hold?

If you want to fight for hope you are going to have to do the following:

  1. Submit your will to God’s, just like Lori did in jail.
  2. You’ll have to believe beyond your circumstance that your future includes hope, and not focus on how today feels. Your emotions do not dictate what God has in store for you.
  3. Cling to the scriptures. You will need them to be armed against the attacks of the enemy as he seeks to deter your faith.

Someday, Lori’s family will be restored, all because she fights daily for the hope of what will be, not what it is today.

Everyone struggles when the situation looks bleak. But we have a choice. How will you arm yourself in battle to obtain the hope you seek? Comment below and let’s encourage each other in our battle for the things we do not see.

 

Learn 5 Ways You Can Lose Hope

5 Ways to Lose Hope

It’s true; sometimes life can be hard. At times, it can feel like there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances. It’s in those moments we can’t lose hope.

 

As you walk into our office at The Link of Cullman County, you will find yourself confronted with four large letters strategically placed on a pallet-designed counter top.

In moments you will determine whether you can accept the meaning of those four letters, or if your perception of your situation keeps you from believing their truth.

The letters in and of themselves, hold little power.

But when they are combined, they quadruple in strength and form the word “HOPE.”

 

HOPE DESK
The “Hope Desk” at The Community Place, home of The Link of Cullman County.

 

For some who find themselves in the midst of chaos, destruction, and crisis this word can either settle their soul or be cause for an accusation.

What does it mean to have hope?

By definition, hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.

There can be much excitement and joy in hoping for something new, and yet, at the same time, hope can feel defeating, frustrating, or some times far-reaching when things don’t seem to be going the way you think they should.

But sometimes we hijack ourselves by believing hope does not exist. Here are five ways we can lose hope:

  1. Give up
    This can seem like the most appealing option at times. If we just give up and no longer believe hope exists, then we won’t get our feelings hurt or our dreams crushed.
  2. Stop trusting God
    When people hurt us, repeatedly, it’s a standard defense mechanism to stop trusting them. There are times when they may need to earn our trust back. But God is who He says He is and never changes. If we stop trusting Him, we will quickly lose hope.
  3. Place our faith in people
    People will fail us daily. If we put our confidence in them, it won’t take long before we lose all hope in humanity.
  4. Blame everyone else for our circumstances
    Pointing our finger at everyone around us will keep us feeling like we are the victim of our circumstances. So go ahead and blame everyone else and watch hope fly out the window.
  5. Rely on yourself
    The quickest way to lose hope is to rely on your wisdom, your strength, and your own experiences. If you never allow anyone else, including God, to help you, hope will elude you.

Those may seem like some great options if feeling sad, lonely, and depressed sound attractive. However, if you prefer to experience some joy in this life, allow me to suggest some alternatives.

Here are some ways you can find hope when you feel hopeless.

Rebuke the lie that says “Hope is dead.”
Just last week I had a situation happen to me where I felt stuck, lost, defeated…even heart sick. There seemed to be no glimmer of hope. It wasn’t until I realized my emotions were ruling my decisions that I could recognize the lies.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Pr 12:15

The truth was hope had been there the whole time. This perspective gave me clarity, and I felt my attitude change, which helped me have hope in my situation, again.

Consider enlisting support
Believing you don’t have any hope feels lonely. Sometimes we need others to help us get out of our rut. Friends or family member can help you identify your current state of mind. 1 Thessalonians 5:11a tells us, “…encourage each other and build each other up…” Seek out those people in your life that encourage you. If you don’t have people like that, visit us at The Link of Cullman County. We have someone on staff called “Lead Encourager.” It is her job to encourage anyone who comes in feeling hopeless to help them set goals so they can move forward.

Get ready to fight
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12, HCSB) Let this statement not fool you, just because our battles are against the spiritual realm, doesn’t mean hopelessness can’t feel just as powerful as a bully in real life. Especially when the circumstances you are facing seem dire. One of the most beneficial ways to overcome losing hope is by putting on your armor of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

On days when hope feels like it will slip away you'll have to decide, how badly do you want it?

Let’s encourage each other. What are some of the ways that you can suggest to someone who is struggling with hope to stand firm and trust the Lord?

Dawn M Owens, Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County

Dawn Owens is the Founder/Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, a blogger, speaker, and a lover of lattes in coffeehouses that have deep seats and warm faces. She also enjoys encouraging others to dream big for the kingdom of God. As a wife and mother to gingers, she finds herself staying on her toes, outnumbered by the men in her life. In her down time, she is either reading a good book or watching historical period shows, dreaming of where she might travel to next.You can find Dawn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Can Community be the Cure to Addiction?

During the last four years, I have spent most days learning how I can come alongside people who have found themselves addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Although, I had my days of partying, and fairly hard at that, by the grace of God, when He set me free of that lifestyle, I never looked back.

But because of that, I often found myself in either one of two camps of thinking: I either thought that Jesus can just heal their addiction and if the person had enough faith to believe, the need for the drugs/alcohol would be taken away or I couldn’t understand how they could get addicted in the first place.

Although I enjoyed at times going out with friends for drinks, any drug I took never really impressed me enough to want to do it everyday. In fact, when I was on the really heavy stuff after a surgery, I wanted to switch to extra strength Tylenol as quick as I could.

But God has done a few things in my life that I want to share with you today, especially to those of you who keep those in active addiction or recovery at arms length simply because you don’t understand. I too have been there, some days can still find myself there, and therefore can completely empathize with you. But because I have heard story after story of why people use drugs, read books on it, watched documentaries, and most importantly prayed and sought the Lord on it, I have a few thoughts for you and me (I’m still preaching to myself) about how we can all better respond to this growing epidemic that is leaving a line of bodies in its tracks.

Side note: To those of you who are reading this that are in active addiction (and I hope you are reading this) and those who are walking in recovery, I pray this article helps to build bridges for you to have people come along side of you. I am a cheerleader for you and with God’s grace, an advocate for you. So if I get something wrong, I hope you know it’s not intentionally, but I am always open and willing to learn. Teach me what I need to know.

Now, to those of you who, like me have looked at an addict and thought…”Why? Why would you do such a thing to your body? Why would you do this to your friends, family, loved ones? I don’t understand why?” I hope this encourages you and helps you to maybe consider seeing things from a difference perspective.

I start by saying this to you. The reason why an addict uses has nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

If you’ll stick with me, I promise you I’ll explain why that is true.

Last week, I told you in this blog post about my friend Sherry. Sherry is just one of many women in my life who are recovering from addiction. Each one of them have their own struggles to overcome. But just as I tosherry_blogld you about Sherry, I believe these people to be some of the bravest people I know. They have chosen to daily let go of a lifestyle that had a huge grip on them to follow Jesus in sobriety. They are re-inventing themselves through the identity that He has given them.

As I have walked with them, God has revealed some things about me that has helped me to relate. One is that I too am an addict. No, I’ve never needed to go to rehab for drugs or alcohol, but I have found myself addicted to other things. Years ago, I was addicted to shopping. Any chance I got, I wanted to go shopping and purchase the latest and greatest finds. I loved it. The thrill of the spending, I felt powerful being able to buy things I wanted but just like an addict the aftermath of it left me feeling ashamed, empty, and powerless.

I have learned that I am also in recovery from being an approval addict. I find myself on many occasions seeking and needing the approval of others. Though God has brought me a long way on this, I still find myself refreshing Facebook to see who “liked”, commented, or shared my post. I still check to see how many people read my blog and I still pray every time that I write only for God and not to tickle the ears of the people reading.

Over the past few years I battled with another form of addiction, sugar. There were times where I would dream about it and think about where I could get my next “sugar fix.” Sugar is cheap and easy to find, it was also easy to hide because I could purchase it, consume it, and no one would know otherwise. The evidence was easy to cover up and it didn’t alter my state for anyone to know what I had done.

I think if each of us took a moment to think about those things in our lives that we crave outside of the Word of God. Those things that we need, that we have to have, that we cannot get enough of…even things that may seem to be healthy, we’ll realize it’s not difficult for us to be addicted to something. And from these experiences I learned and hopefully you can too, empathy. Or let me say it this way, compassion.

Romans 9:15 (ESV) says, this… For he (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

What does it mean to have compassion? It means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Synonyms are pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow, feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

When you feel these things for someone it opens your heart up to them, it helps you get into their shoes, and it helps us to love them right where they are at.

To be honest with you…I don’t care which camp you come from. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that addiction is a sin, a disease, mental health issue, or genetics. God doesn’t make exceptions to the rule. We are to love regardless. Regardless of why the person has gotten caught in the addiction.

And to love people, sometimes you have to do it the same way Jesus did it for us, sacrificially. It’s easy to love someone you believe is doing everything the way you think they should. It’s not so easy when they aren’t.

John 15:13 says “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”nogreaterlove

When we have compassion on them just has our Father had compassion on us, we can love people sacrificially.

But this is where we have failed. Instead of having mercy and compassion on our sick, we condemn them. Instead of loving them we shun them. I can’t tell you how many people over the last four years I have heard tell me that a local church told them they were no longer welcome there. They were told to take their tattooed bodies somewhere else. They felt judged and not loved.

Some of you are thinking…well, maybe they felt that because of the way they were dressed, they shouldn’t have worn that to church. Or maybe, you are coming up with a rebuttal to their tattoos, or their life style or something else, but I plead with you. Please STOP. Just stop.

For some of us that way of life is foreign. It’s such an extreme from what we believe it’s hard for us to understand. Stop trying to understand it. You can’t. You’ve never been there. You don’t understand the hurt they have felt, you can’t get to a place to make it make sense. This is not compassion, it’s the complete opposite.

With compassion you respond with “I’m sorry this has happened to you.” You sit and you listen. You don’t pass judgement off of your own experiences. You listen to hear theirs. You open your heart to hear what they have to say and what may be behind what they are saying.

Because there is more to people than the mask that they put on. I cannot repeat that enough. We all have hurts, we all have wounds. We all have learned how to cope with them differently. If you listen to recovered and healing or healed addicts enough, you will hear a common thread.

“I used to cover up my pain. I used to heal the wounds in my heart. I used because I knew no other way to cope with the hurt.”

Do you hear that folks. These are our wounded. Our heartsick. Our hurting. And they need us to love them, to have compassion on them, to be in community with them.

A couple of weeks ago Crossroads, our church in Cincinnati, showed this video and it opened up my eyes to a whole new important piece in the addiction puzzle.

Take a moment to watch this.

How’s that for a wake-up call Church?  What people need is community, and a compassionate one at that.

They need a safe place to be them with all their baggage, and their hurts, and their pain. They need community who will love them, encourage them, pray with them and lift them up even when they stumble. If I have learned anything from my addicted friends it is this…they will relapse. And sometimes when you absolutely least expect it. For sometimes no reason at all. It can be frustrating and challenging.But we need to be like the father of the Prodigal Son. We need to have our arms wide open waitingon them to come home.

what-people-need-is-community-and-a-compassionate-one-at-that

Now, I know that there are some of you arguing all of this as you read because your thinking…I did that. I did that and they overdosed. I did that and they are still using. I did that and all I got was hurt.

Please hear me on this, I get it. I didn’t say this was easy. But I want to say this as gently and as lovingly as I can (because I know some of you are sweet Mamas who have lost their loved ones or may feel like you are going to)… right now you can’t love them the way they need to be loved. Right now, you need healing. You are hurting.

And in that scenario, “Hurt people only hurt people.”

You will do more damage than you will do good because you are angry. What you want them to do, they did not do. You are angry at them. You may even be angry at God. You could even be angry at you.

This brings me to the point I was making above, the reason why they use has nothing to do with you or may have everything to do with you.

So to help us all, no matter what situation you are in with the person in addiction in your life, I have some steps for you to consider.

First, you need to start to forgive them. Forgive the person for not living up to your expectations. For harming themselves and the people around them. For not loving you the way you needed to be loved, for whatever transpired between you two. I don’t know and can’t list every scenario here. You know the situation. You know the why. Your job now is to start the process of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You being bound up in unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness does nothing to help them. In fact, it only gives more power to the enemy to defeat you and them and anyone else in your life it has affected.

Second, you need to forgive God. He is a big boy. He can take whatever offense you may have brought before Him. You may blame Him for the addiction. You may blame him for their recklessness. You may blame him for their death. But you must remember that we have free will, each and every one of us. When someone willingly subjects themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, they are exercising that free will. No one can stop them, but them. Their choice to begin is just as much their choice to end it. I don’t like it anymore than you do but it is true. So I ask you to consider, letting God off the hook for your own sake. He is still God, on the throne, seated high and exalted. Your not forgiving Him does not stop Him from being who He is. It hurts you more than it does Him. So forgive Him so that you can move on and be free of the bitterness and anger you are holding on to.

Third, forgive you. I don’t know what you have done in your past and you may or may not play a role in why the person is using right now. You may be the perpetrator of their wounds or you may not have anything to do with it, but realize you are powerless. You may have enabled them to use again. Whatever the situation is, again, you need to forgive yourself.

Jesus Christ died on a cross, sacrificially, for each of us so that we may be set free from all of our sins. I’ve heard it said before, When you keep unforgiveness in your heart, you put yourself in a cage and hold onto the key.” it’s self-deprecation and again it helps no one move forward in this situation.

mckenziehyde-compassionverse
Stacey Hyde reconciled with her family.

What a person in active addiction or walking through recovery needs is YOU. You having compassion for them, loving them, encouraging them, praying for them, and speaking truth to them.

So start this process with you. Seek forgiveness. Break yourself free from your pain so that you can receive the healing you need.

Why? Because healed people can help heal people. People who are healed, forgiven, loved and full of compassion freely give what they have recived.

That is the greatest gift you can give to someone in addiction. A healed you.

Now that we have gotten to the end of this post I feel like there is more that I need to share to equip you to love those in addiction and recovery well. So, with that, we’ll continue this topic next week.

Join me when we’ll start to talk about how you love an addict so that you are not enabling them but rather empowering them to take ownership of their addiction in the hopes of them moving forward.

P.S. If you are ready to get help, please contact me or The Link of Cullman County. We are happy to help you get where you need to be to start your journey to sobriety. If you are not in Cullman,AL please call your local church, non-profit, recovery, AA, ALNON to get help.

I know I hit on some things in this post that people are going to want to talk about, so please comment below on and let’s model compassion for each other as we seek God to help us love those people in active addiction and recovery around us.