Hope Against Hope: Part 1

The Anchor of Our Soul

God allowed me to go through my own Valley of the Shadow of Death so that I could personally experience what it means to have “hope Against Hope.”

Over the last two years The King’s High Way has been bringing back articles that Nan has written over the last two decades. This month it is such a blessing to have her write a fresh update on her new book, Hope Against Hope, which has just come out and to have her share some personal insight into what hope really is and how vitally important it is.

On Saturday, November 8th, Nan and I will be teaching these principles at our Hope Conference at Grace Chapel in Franklin, Tennessee. For more information you can contact our ministry at 866–775–5464 or go to our website at www.kingshighway.org. We know that you will be encouraged and spiritually edified by this relevant teaching. We look forward to meeting you.

With you in Christ,
Debbie Holland
King’s High Way Director / Manager

P.S. These four sessions will be filmed and available at a later date.

I’m so glad to be able to thank each and every one of you who have prayed for me this past year. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m convinced I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your prayers.

I also want to praise the Lord for all He has done for me over the past year and a half. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve learned so much more about His faithfulness.

It all began a year ago January (2013), when I was told I had “malignant melanoma” of the mucous area of my nose (not a skin cancer) and that if I didn’t do certain things (like letting them take my face off) I would die within a few months. But the Lord had other plans for me and that’s the story I want to tell you. I want to encourage you that if He can do these things in my life, He can also do them in yours.

My story begins four years ago when I set out to write a book on the subject of “hope,” not only because I saw it as an essential part of the Christian life, but also because I saw many believers struggling in this critical area. So, it seemed like a very timely subject. It took me a year to write the first 300 pages, but even then I knew in my spirit that something was missing. It was not complete. Even when I took the manuscript into the King’s High Way ministry for a review, they were all very sweet and kind, but told me the very same thing—“something is missing. It’s not complete.”

So I put the manuscript aside, prayed, and asked God to show me what exactly was missing. The Lord faithfully answered my prayer by showing me that what was missing from that manuscript was “personal experience.” (I had written that first manuscript sitting on the shores of a New Zealand river, with no worries at all. Well, you can’t write a book from your “head”—you need to have “personal heart experience” of the subject and I really didn’t have that at the time.)

So God allowed me to go through my own Valley of the Shadow of Death so that I could personally experience what it means to have “hope against hope.”

My Story

My new book Hope Against Hope will give you all the details of how I got the cancer, how Mayo Clinic heard about my case and agreed to take me as an experimental patient (because my kind of cancer was so rare—1 in 100,000), how I’ve had three huge operations where they literally replaced the septum of my nose and gave me a new nose; and finally, how the melanoma has come back four or five times. But, in these articles for Personal UPDATE I really want to concentrate on the part of the book that focuses on the subject of Hope—what exactly hope is; why it’s so important, why we lose it and how we can regain it back.

But, before we start, I want to be totally up front with you. Please don’t think of me as some kind of saint, a flawless or perfect Christian. Certainly, I am not! I’ve had so much pain and anxiety, discouragement and doubt, worry and confusion this past year, that like Job, I’ve cried out many times to the Lord, “Why have You forsaken me?” Like Job, I just didn’t understand what was happening to me.

I had such huge expectations (remember the word EXPECTATIONS) of what the Lord was going to do through my illness (and because of all the prayers), that I was devastated when things didn’t happen that way. I believed with all my heart that God would somehow do a “miracle”—either I would be supernaturally healed or I would lead many others to Christ or somehow lots of “fruit” would be produced. So, I was absolutely crushed when all these things didn’t occur.

Rather than draw people towards the Lord, which is what we had hoped would happen, just the opposite occurred. Nurses kept getting offended at us; doctors were often sarcastic and belittling and rather than develop a relationship with these people like we so wanted, they fled from us. It was so strange. It was like the enemy had this huge inroad and monstrous stronghold and he wasn’t going to give it up for anything.

So in the midst of this spiritual battle, it became very difficult for me “to see” the Lord’s Hand at work and to trust His faithfulness, which then affected my confidence that He was still involved and still working.

And, of course, I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror. The horror that I saw was overwhelming. Philippians 3:8 tells us to: “…count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.” I thought I had done that before! I’ve said that verse a hundred times, but this time it had taken on a whole different physical meaning and was so difficult to say and mean (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:33–3).

Now, I wish I could say that I sailed through all my operations and procedures like a “trooper.” But, here again, I didn’t, which of course added to my confusion and doubt. I was sick to my stomach most of the time, not only from the surgery, but also from the medications they gave me afterwards. I experienced nausea, dizziness, sinus headaches and congestion, double vision, infection, diarrhea, constipation, heart pain, mouth rash (from air tubes), boils and inflamed gums. You name it, I had it! I again thought a lot about Job during this time.

Became Hopeless

So, yes, I can now say that over the last year and a half, I have “personally experienced” hopelessness in a variety of ways. Emotionally (I’ve been separated from all the people I know and love—my husband, my children, my family), physically (It’s been the hardest year of my life—more pain than I’ve ever experienced), mentally (I’ve lost the vision Chuck and I had for New Zealand) and spiritually (I’ve lost the daily blessing of being with my spiritual family).

When you lose your hope, you not only lose your grounding and mooring for the present, you also lose your vision and your dreams for the future. My daughter phrases it this way: “You don’t die if you lose your ‘faith’; but, you die if you lose your ‘hope.’”

Hopelessness is like darkness. It occurs when you pray and pray and pray and yet, you still receive no answer. In fact, everything continues to turn out against you. I got to the point where I didn’t even know how to pray anymore.

The Problem

What I didn’t realize at the time, was that by my holding on to my own expectations and my own presumptions of what God was going to do and how He was going to do it, I prevented Him from showing me His own Handprint of Love in my situation. And thus, I found it very difficult to go on.

Now, we all have expectations and presumptions—it’s characteristic of our own self-centered human nature. This, in itself, is not sin. However, if our expectations are not fulfilled in the way we think they should be, those expectations can lead us to disappointment and doubt, which is sin and which will end up quenching God’s Spirit in us. And, that’s exactly what happened to me.

Here’s where the confusion comes in for many of us (and where the enemy has an absolute field day). We get a promise from God and we interpret it in our own way, but when it doesn’t materialize in the way we thought, we get confused and discouraged and of course, fall right into the enemy’s hands. It’s not that God has been unfaithful to us, it’s that we have jumped to our own conclusions and our own interpretations. No wonder we then don’t see God’s Hand in our situation.

There’s two ways of looking at God’s promises: we can either have our expectations and our hopes on what we think God is saying and what we think He is going to do; or, we can have our expectations and our hopes only upon God’s faithfulness to answer our prayers in His timing and His way.

It was only when I began to “let go” of my own interpretation and my own expectation of what God was going to do and how He would do it, and instead, grab a hold of the fact that God will be faithful to me no matter what happens, that I began to have some victory in my life.

Scripture tells us that the only way Moses endured his trials and the darkness in his life, was by daily “seeing the Lord who is invisible in the midst of the fire.” (Hebrews 11:27) This is the KEY! Moses saw God’s faithfulness in the middle of his trials, which then gave him the hope to carry on.

“Hope against hope” means exactly that—trusting God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises in His timing and in His way. This is the lesson the Lord has taught me this past year and the reason I have been able to make it thus far.

The question becomes: “How do you learn to have this kind of hope?” This is what we pray our new book Hope Against Hope will help to explain.