June 22, 2009

We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:2b-5

Caves hold a special fascination for me. There’s just something so cool—literally and figuratively—about descending beneath the earth and discovering a dim, eerie world miraculously filled with astounding formations. So naturally when my family and I were in New Mexico one summer, we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns.

Aside from walking through the twisting cave, viewing the nightly bat show is another attraction at this national park. Mexican free-tail bats fly from the caverns in a mass exodus at dusk from spring through October, and apparently it’s a fascinating sight. My husband was very excited to see the show, but our daughter wasn’t (she was at that age where everything is boring…). I volunteered to stay with her at our hotel, and my mother, who’d come along on the trip, went with Joe to observe the bats.

As I heard the story later, the two of them settled into their seats in the park’s amphitheater in the fading early evening light, surprised to discover they were the only ones there. A ranger gave a short talk on the nocturnal creatures, and then the three of them waited for the bats to appear.

And waited. And waited. Not a single bat flew out of the cave the entire time. The ranger shrugged and said it happened sometimes. They all finally gave up and left.

Hope. It can be as minor as looking for bats, or as gut wrenching as holding your breath for a doctor’s diagnosis. Joe was ticked off that he didn’t get what he expected, Mom more philosophical, but they got over it.

Major heartaches and disappointments aren’t as easy. My family still grieves my father’s premature death thirty-five years ago. And I’ll never be fully reconciled to the fact that Joe and I weren’t able to have more children.

You undoubtedly have your own frustrations, regrets and dashed dreams, large and small. Maybe like me, cynicism and disillusionment at times nip uncomfortably close to your heels, and the evening news brings out the pessimist in you. Some days it’s difficult to feel hopeful about this old world.

The thing is, hope that’s focused on anything or anyone else but God will always disappoint in the long run. Circumstances and people change, we’re up one minute and down the next, bats appear or maybe they don’t. God remains the one constant. As the Christian group Selah sings in  Wonderful Merciful Savior, “You offer hope when our hearts have hopelessly lost our way.” It’s that simple—and that hard.

Caves are formed over time by the never-ending drip, drip, drip of water on rock. But oh, what magnificence comes out of this slow but steady shaping process! And how much more beauty results when we let the continuous poured-out love of God flow over our disenchanted hearts!

Invite God to work in you. Ask Him to help you look beyond the pain and disappointment to the riches He offers—perseverance, character and above all, hope.


  1. Suzanne says:

    Hi Penny,

    I just read today’s and the June 5th post. Thanks for sharing the awesome, awesome Scriptures and your words of encouragement that, even though I may already know the truths you have shared to be true, sometimes they get buried underneath all the everyday “stuff”. Reading them put a ray of sunshine in my day. The background is also amazing. I hadn’t really thought about it but a visit to a National Park suddenly seems like a beautiful idea.

  2. Amy says:

    Very well done, Penny, I’m continually amazed at how your bring in your love of God into all these things. Thanks.

  3. Juliette says:

    Penny – I have read a few of your blogs and I love them! You tie in the everyday with our spiritual need or fulfillment that is there for the asking/taking if we believe in our almight God. Hope is a wonderful characteristic because it show our faith-sometimes our faith wans down because life can be painful at times. I understand that everyday can’t be sunny and filled with just goodness but when suffering hits I still shrink back in surprise before I reckon with it. I have learned to Let Go and Let God and I am breathing easier….most days:)

  4. April Lorier says:

    Thank you for featuring Carslbad Caverns. I’m a New Mexico girl who now lives in So California. But my memories of one of the most geographically diverse states are innumerable. What a place for a child to grow up in nature! I recently wrote about it on my blog, hoping to dispel the perception that NM is nothing more than cacti and donkeys! 😀 My daughter now lives there and is discovering all the wonders of our merciful God in the areas I frequented as a child. What a blessing!

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