Hope: Noun: The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help. Hope: verb: To look forward to with confidence or expectation.
I consider myself to be a hopeful person. I believe deeply that we will always have hope. When life is good it is easy to put our confidence in hope, that it will come to our rescue and that with God’s help we can attain anything. When things get hard it is easy to feel like we are hanging on to hope with a thread, or worse still, that we have let go of hope altogether because disappointment led us to believe that it was safer not to hold on to it.
Disappointment is a very real emotion. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I think that sometimes as Christians is it hard to admit that we are disappointed. It feels wrong to acknowledge it’s presence in our lives because it is as though we are saying that God has let us down. The truth is, it sometimes feels like that and it makes your heart sick. God will not let us down, but when we loose sight of hope it feels like He might have, that He may have forgotten what we asked Him for. It may feel like He isn’t listening… but He is. He is listening and he hasn’t forgotten us.
I came across this passage from Lamentations 3:19 in The Message Bible. It says this:
I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. I remember it all-oh, how well I remember-the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.
“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out”. Our Father’s love for us is loyal; it is faithful; it never let’s us go. Even when we feel deserted we must convince ourselves of this fact. He loves us. “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense”. You may be someone who finds it hard to understand God’s love, or even doubt that He loves you. I think that this can be a cause of great suffering for many Christians, “How could God love me? He obviously doesn’t know who I really am.” The fact is He does. He knows who I really am and He still loves me! Sometimes if we doubt His love, hope fades. Sometimes we doubt His love because Hope faded. We can feel like we put our hope in Him and things didn’t work out how we wanted. It can be hard to come to terms with and hard to trust Him but that doesn’t mean He isn’t trustworthy. We are all shaped by what happens to us and beauty can come from everything if we let it. Learn to look for fruit in any situation we face.
“When life is heavy or hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.” When I read this phrase the idea of entering the silence carries weight. I don’t believe it means when things are hard, shut yourself off from the world and do it on your own, on the contrary, I think it means enter the stillness of God’s presence. Try to stay in the land of the living and find your source of life in the silence of God’s presence. The heaviness we find in God’s presence restores us and lifts burdens from us. We can combat disappointment with thankfulness. Enter the silence, wait on God and say thank you for all the good things he has done and hope will appear.
The verse says, ‘Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: wait for hope to appear’. When we are disappointed it is so natural to ask questions. The biggest question is usually “why?” The truth is often there are no answers. In the natural that can be very hard to come to terms with but supernaturally we can still find peace even when there are unanswered questions. If we stop asking questions and wait for hope to appear, it will.
One of the things that I have struggled with is the fact that disappointment seems more real and sometimes worse if we get our hopes up. Does this mean I should stop hoping to avoid greater disappointment? It is easier to let go of hope to protect ourselves, but there is treasure in not taking the easy route. As Hebrews 10 tells us there is no pleasure in shrinking back, “But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved”. If we lose hope we become people who are lost. We will continue to struggle to find our place in the world without hope. Hope and faith are closely linked. Hebrews 11:1 in The New Living Translation says:
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about the things we cannot see.”
Romans 8:24 tells us that ‘hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?’ The Message translation puts it like this, “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.’ Waiting is a big part of hoping. When we have hope, waiting produces patience. ‘We don’t see what is enlarging us’ but we can be sure that something is if we let it.
One of my favourite things to read is The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake. (Search for it; it is so inspiring.) In the final verse he writes ‘We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes’. If we think of a horizon we can see a line where the horizon ends. If we ask God to push back the horizons of our hopes he will broaden them. The horizon will no longer be the end, it will be wider and more beauty can be found in it. So I would encourage you to ask God to broaden the horizons of your hopes. We must try not to become too fixated on hoping for one thing, though it is very hard. There is more. More than what we could ever hope for or imagine so let’s give God a chance to show us more. We have to learn to trust Him, really trust Him with all our hopes and dreams. If we can truly give them to Him holding on to hope becomes security for us.
When I was a little girl my Dad used to play a game with my brothers and me. It was called “But I might not catch you!” We would stand on a high surface, often the kitchen worktop and shout “Dad! I’m going to jump” and his response would be “But I might not catch you!” He would stand facing the opposite direction or pretend he was really busy doing something or that he didn’t really think that we would jump, but we would jump, with great faith, as high as we could and not for one minute did we think he wouldn’t catch us. He always did. Now, as an adult, I find myself standing on a metaphorical kitchen worktop with my arms outstretched but it is me now who is saying “but He might not catch me”. So we tentatively hang on the edge of the ledge with our arms reaching out to Him but without the same amount of trust that we had when we were young. It is up to us to jump in faith that God will catch us. When my Dad caught me as a child there was always joy and laughter that followed and we would laugh and shout “Do it again!” and he would say “Oh but this time I might not catch you!” But He always did. If we jump, we give God an opportunity to show us what He can do. Sometimes the jump is letting go; giving things wholeheartedly to Him and trusting Him with it. Hope walks us to the edge of the ledge: Faith tells us it’s safe to jump. We have to assume He will catch us and when He does, joy will follow.
We must remember that God ‘takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.’ God is our comfort and strength, a very present help in time of need. Life is hard but He is our hope and the hope for the world, so let’s be people who 'stick with Him'. “The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.” We have Jesus; letting go of hope in my book is not an option. “It is a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God”.
God can do anything. The facts in front of us may say one thing but the truth of God’s word sometimes stares ‘facts’ in the face with a miraculous installation of hope and a feeling that God is there. He never leaves us. His love does not let go of us. Hold on to hope with confidence and expectation. Nothing is impossible with help from our Father. Who we are is found in Him and He is the hope of the world. Give Him a chance to show you what He can do.