Hope with a Capital H

Today’s scripture: Psalm 71 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

I have some bad habits. Oh, I have some good habits, too; but just like everyone else I have some things I’ve been doing since childhood that I can’t seem to shake. One of them is that I’m a scratcher. I scratch my head, and I scratch my neck, and lately I’ve been scratching my face. It’s usually a dead giveaway that I am nervous or stressed about something. There’s lots going on in my world these days, and it seems that there is a never ending stream of things to worry about. I consider myself a person who lives his faith, and over the years I have learned to take a wait-and-see approach. But sometimes, try as I might, I find myself . . . worried. I guess that’s one of my habits. I worry. What are some of your habits? What are the habits that define your faith and your world view? When times of trouble show up or even when good times come, what do you habitually do that ultimately defines who you are?

As I was reading the psalm for today, I felt moved by the author’s strong faith and Hope in God. This is someone whose faith is strong and who has habitually turned to God in times of trouble. In verses six and fourteen, the author of the psalm tells us about his habits: “Upon you I have leaned from my birth . . . . I will Hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” Clearly this person has developed good habits towards her/his relationship with God.

A habit is developed by frequent repetition over a period of time. Once it’s in place, a habit becomes very involuntary. Our attitudes and responses to problems in life tend to become habitual responses. My grandmother used to say that your attitude will determine your altitude. So what is your attitude when life presents difficult times? Some people are habitual worriers. Some become habitual complainers. Some become habitually negative. While others become habitually cheerful and positive. A paper published by Duke University researchers in 2006 found that more than 40% of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions but habits which are nothing more than choices we make every day at some point and then stop thinking about but continue doing. Habits start with a choice which becomes automatic over time.

So what happens when we choose to trust God as opposed to worrying? What would happen if we chose to praise God even in the direst of circumstances? What if we cultivated a habit of Hope? How would our lives be different? Perhaps by choosing to trust, we would create a habit of trust and a habit of praise and a habit of Hope!

Our reading for today reminds me that storms will come, and those that mean you harm will constantly be trying to tear you down. But if we consistently choose to go to the rock and to rest in the one who will fight our battles, then eventually this will become our automatic reaction to stressful situations. No need to worry, our Hope is in God.

Prayer for the day: Heavenly God, thank you for being my refuge, my rock, and my fortress. Thank you for being trustworthy, such that those who take refuge in you will never be put to shame. Please give me a deeper conviction regarding this truth so that I can live it out as an example to others. Thank you for giving me this Hope that will never disappoint or fail, so that I can have the confidence to say that I will never be put to shame when I trust in you.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.