By Rev Angela C Bosfield Palacious
Usually the phrase “hoping for the best” means to be in a difficult situation with no guarantee of the outcome, but there is the desire to not lose hope. Is this where you find yourself right now? Is your heart heavy for one reason or another? Let me share with you some of the words of comfort, found in the Old Testament Minor Prophet Zephaniah, about what it means to hope for the best that is already promised: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3: 17 NRSV). This was a future hope for a people under judgement, but we know that there is a present hope for us in the gift of the cross and the Holy Spirit. This same God makes a promise never to leave or forsake us, and will be with us to the end of the ages (Matthew 28: 20).
The Lord your God is with you right now in the midst of what you are going through and will make it into a blessing somehow at some time. To trust in God is to hope for God’s best to take your life in a new direction, to a new level, or strengthen you to hold fast to where you are. When it is time to leave Sodom and Gomorrah, or whatever represents a death grip on your possibilities, you will know. Truly, another door somehow opens and you have the opportunity to move on to a better place and become a better person.
Remember the story of Lot’s family in Genesis 19:12-17 NIV:12 ? The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here,13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
“With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’ When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’
How willing are you to embrace God’s solution to an old problem? How ready are you to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit to discover an unexpected Promised Land? If you wholeheartedly love the Lord, and desire to obey the Lord, you will find yourself ready to risk whatever it is that the Lord seems to be asking. Nothing and no-one should mean more to you than God, and your best is directly related to your level of co-operation. We cannot hope for the best to become our best if we keep going opposite to what God says is good for us.
St Paul writes in Romans 7: 14-19 NIV: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
What is it that is getting in the way of your choosing a better way? Is there a dependency of some sort that is controlling your life? Nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, and alcohol are just some of the substances that seem to have us in slavery as a people. Add to this, unhealthy relationships, gambling, deadly debts, job insecurity or dissatisfaction, and we can begin to see that we have to change our attitudes to the daily decisions that we make. We have to be free of all of this to be fully emancipated, fully free.
If our young people are to begin with relatively clean slates then we have to re-examine what we think is the best that we can offer them. What do we teach them about our ideals for a relationship? What do we teach them about the handling of their finances? What do we teach them about addictions and abuse? Can we help them to hope for the best if we consistently offer them models that are less than the best?
These are the last words recorded before Moses’ death and they are strong words for us today: “When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess’.”
It is time for us to combine hoping for the best with praying to be our best, and seeking to allow the Holy Spirit to make that best more visible.
• Rev Angela Palacious, a motivational speaker and author of several devotional books, is an Anglican priest. She may be contacted at 393-9000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.