By Summer Stevens
I love to garden. At least, I love the idea of gardening. I love it when the long-awaited Baker Creek Seed catalog arrives in the mail, and I settle down on a cozy chair, dog-earing pages for exotic carrots and cauliflower that looks like broccoli. When it’s gray and dreary in the early months of winter, I love to place my order and check my mailbox for the manila package containing a dozen or so tiny envelopes that hold promise for fresh garden salads and sauteed squash.
I start my seeds early. Tiny tomato plants sprout up from a handful of dirt no bigger than a dixie cup. Clusters of basil fill tiny peat pots. With the snow falling outside, I carefully label popsicle sticks and water my little friends every day with a spray bottle.
But then, spring sports start, the sun actually does finally come out, Easter plans have to be made, and my dear little sprouts get neglected. A few plants will make it through to harvest, but I never have managed a thriving harvest like I’ve dreamed.
You see, what I really love about gardening is hope. The hope that gets me through the winter, knowing that the cold days will come to an end, and the long summer days when my kids run barefoot through sprinklers will return.
For the Christian, our hope is in the return of Jesus and the anticipation of hearing the words “well done.” Some people do a good job remembering this and live in light of it, while the rest of us struggle to daily keep our eyes on Jesus. We get caught up in the cares of the world. We forget that we live in a larger story. I asked hopeful people to share their secrets, and here are five habits that emerged.
1. Hopeful people don’t overthink things. They’re called unrealistic or simplistic or plain out ignorant. And what did Jesus say, again? “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a well-reasoned logical adult will by no means enter it.” Oh wait, no, He didn’t say that. A child. Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child. What does the faith of a child look like? It’s simple, uncomplicated and trusting.
2. Hopeful people hang out with other hopeful people. Hope is contagious. So is discouragement. We can choose with whom we spend our time. Hopeful people find strength in community worship and sitting under solid Bible teaching. Just being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re a hopeful Christian. It is a discipline to train your mind (Rom 12:2) and take those spiraling thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5), which is why it’s important to walk alongside and learn from Christians who do. Hopeful people also have at least one person who regularly and fervently prays for the honest burdens on their heart.
3. Hopeful people rely on Scripture. Lots of Christians read Scripture, understand Scripture, even teach it, but hopeful people rely on Scripture to curb their thoughts and keep them focused on Jesus. When anxious or condemning thoughts surface, hopefuls have an arsenal of verses that remind them of God’s promises, His faithfulness and their identity in Christ. Single topical verses are a great place to start, but for anxiety specifically, consider memorizing larger passages (Ps 139; Phil 4:4-8; Isa 43:1-7).
4. Hopeful people choose gratitude! Rather than dwelling on the negative, they purposefully remember how God has provided for them in the past, as an indication that He will provide in the future. Has God met relational needs? Financial concerns? Health issues? In times of doubt, hopeful people dwell on the character of God and can’t help but talk about His goodness with others. They write it down in journals, put answered prayers on post-its in a jar or collect mementos to bring to mind how He has been faithful in the past, and He will be faithful in the future (Deut 7:9).
5. Hopeful people believe God. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps 27:13-14). When the dark days come, hopeful people do not lose heart because their hope is firmly anchored in God’s truth. They believe what He says—that He loves us and He is coming back for us. And in the meantime, He has work for us to do (Eph 2:10); all the hopeful people I know, as they eagerly await His return, are busy doing the work of the Lord!
If you struggle to find hope, this month, in preparation for Easter, choose just one of these habits and pray through the Scriptures and ask Jesus to fill you with hope as you wait for Him.
Summer Stevens is married to Nathanael and they have five children. She has a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.