Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Top 10 Ways You Can Choose Hope and Claim Peace

By Melissa Taylor

This was the hardest “Top 10” list I’ve written yet. I wanted to give practical ways to achieve peace, but that was a challenge. A big part of achieving peace is based on what you’re putting into your mind. What I’ve determined is that peace is a choice. I don’t mean to trivialize it because I know how easily peace can be snatched. Ultimately, when we put our hope in God, peace is achievable and will follow.

10. Begin by living in the light. Of course the light of Christ, but also light up your world. Open the blinds. Take a walk in the sunshine. Turn on some lights in your house. Listen to music that brightens your mood, not dampens it. Get rid of the misery around you and let light surround you. Invite hope into your life.

9. Spend time in God’s Word. I know Christians tell you to do that all the time. And you probably wish you had more time to do so, don’t you? I get that, I do. But it’s true that God’s Word is a “lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalm 119:105) And since #10 instructed you to get a little more light in your life, well then give it a try. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (NIV) The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. (Life Application Bible) Attitude is half the battle in gaining a hope perspective that leads to peace. God’s Word can help.

8. Dismiss depressing thoughts quickly. Be aware of what you are thinking. Do your thoughts tend to be negative, condemning, or gloomy? Not much room for hope in the company of those characters. Next time you find yourself dwelling on something depressing, stop it! You don’t want to do that. 2 Corinthians 10:5b, “…We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (CEV) So, catch those thoughts, give them up, and listen to Jesus who says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

7. Here’s a practical one. List 5 things that bring you hope or 5 things you are hopeful for. Read them when you need to. Can’t think of 5? Then make them up. You gotta start somewhere.

6. Don’t give up. “You feel hopeless because you have been using your own power, not because there is no hope. You feel hopeless because you have been headed in the wrong direction, not because there is not hope. You feel hopeless because you have cut yourself off from others who could help you and guide you, not because there is not hope…You are not hopeless because there is not hope. There is hope for you, if you will just persevere long enough to find it.” Stephen Arterburn (from Tammy Maltby’s book Confessions of a Good Christian Girl) Choose to persevere long enough to find hope.
5. Choose to be hopeful even when you don’t feel it. I struggle with this so I remind myself to choose hope. I wear a bracelet almost every day that says “HOPE” on it. I have a Willow Tree Angel of Hope in my den. I have Scriptures of hope posted at my desk at work. I’m choosing hope and hope brings me peace. When I’m struggling greatly with this, I get help! I talk to a friend, ask my Bible study gals to pray for me, or when it’s been too overwhelming, I have sought professional help. Do whatever it takes, but don’t live life based on your feelings. They can be so fickle. Choose hope. Live in peace. Don’t settle for less.

4. Thank God for your trials and hardships. Believe me, I know that sounds crazy. These next verses give big time purpose to our trials and suffering, therefore offering peace. Romans 5:3b-5a, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” (NIV) I’ve been through many trials where hope seemed lost and these verses have restored that. And that brought me peace. Take it for your own.

3. Take a time out for yourself. Psalm 46:10 instructs us to do that so we will understand Who is in control. Remember, when life is chaotic and peace seems far away, get quiet where you can hear God and God alone.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (NIV)
“Calm down and learn that I am God.” (CEV)
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.” (The Message)

2. Pray hope and peace for yourself. Like this:
“Lord, when my peace is broken by problems that come, remind me that You are always there caring about anything and everything that concerns me. I want to praise You through the painful places I walk through so I can rest in Your perfect peace. Thank You for giving me hope and being my peace. Please help me have hope and peace today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen (portions of this prayer are from Prayers to My King by Sheri Rose Shepherd)

1. Accept God’s plan for your life. When you’ve lost hope, you have nothing. Nothing to look forward to. Nothing to believe in. You begin to question if God exists for you or just other people. This verse tells us very different. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God does exist for you. He has plans for you. He has a purpose for your life and it is good. But you have to choose to trust Him. Choose to accept the hope God offers. Take it for your own. Look ahead with hope. As you do, soak in the peace it gives you.

God loves you. He created you and He had a good reason in doing so. I pray that you will give Him a chance. Never lose hope. Once when my marriage was on the verge on ending, I asked my husband, “Is there any hope for us?” He replied, “Just an ounce.” I immediately took that “ounce of hope” to the Lord and asked Him to multiply it. That was my prayer for the months ahead where we fought for our marriage. The restoration process wasn’t easy, but because I had hope, I was able to hang in there and claim peace. Peace that didn’t come from my circumstances. Peace that wasn’t a part of my surroundings. It was inside of me. It came from God. I had to choose it and I’m so thankful I did.

I don’t pretend that life is easy. It’s not. Hope and peace are available to us at all times, but we have to take them. In the middle of our sometimes raging world, I’m praying that you will claim them for your own and live life how God intended, with His peace in your heart.