WITH ALL OF THE DIFFICULTIES, struggles, pains, losses, frustrations and general unjust craziness there is in this life it doesn’t take much to lose ones hope. We try our best to continue trusting the God of hope but so much in this world and in our individual lives tells us to give up the fight and settle into the lands of defeat. There is no fairy tale ending, so get a cozy chair and get yourself a nice view of the pit of despair.
We see bad things happen, or watch family members struggle with health issues, we struggle with finances, prayers don’t get answered so we are tempted to just give up trying to be optimistic or to cling to any sort of faith that God can change what is going on in our lives. Along with all of that we take the fallout from one unanswered prayer and use it to justify not having faith for God to do something next time. Or we allow one loss to cancel out dozens of previous victories, everything that God did years ago no longer matters because we feel that He wasn’t with us today.
These are difficult issues and hard questions to deal with and they can’t just be answered by telling someone that they just have to believer harder or that they should just read their Bible more. I’m not against faith or prayer or anything like that, I’ve personally witnessed the blind see, the deaf hear, and the crippled walking out of wheel chairs. However, I have also watched people die from cancer, others struggle with issues from accidents, I’ve lost two friends to depression and suicide and I’ve had my own problems as well.
Hope in action vs. hope in the rear-view mirror
I have seen the greatness of God’s power in action and I’ve seen and experienced the absence of it, even with myself. For the past four years I have struggled with an ear issue that has left me with unending ringing in my ears, has cost me one third of my hearing ability and has made me unable to even worship along with the rest of the church I attend. Flashback ten years ago now and I was once in a market in Mexico City on a mission trip and we were praying for people. One day a woman came to get prayer for her ear. Me and another prayed for what we thought was an ear
infection and she was miraculously healed. What we found out after we prayed was that she didn’t have in infection but had actually ruptured her ear drum the day before and was totally deaf in the one side. After she said she could hear she pulled out the cotton ball from her no longer deaf ear that was stained with blood.
It’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk.
This is where things get difficult when you know that God can and is able to move in power and He doesn’t. It’s not easy to keep hope alive, especially as the years go by, especially when those years bring more and more pain, frustration and loss. God is the God of hope according to Paul in Romans 15:13 and not only that but He is also supposed to be our source of joy and peace. The problem is though it’s not just a matter of going down to the Jesus store and picking up some joy with a side of milk. These are real matters of faith, not just superficial ones where we just try to whitewash what is going on inside of us.
What is real faith?
You see real faith is not yelling at the top of your lungs that you have faith; real faith involves being honest with what is in front of us. Faith is never absent from realty, it recognizes what is really going on and looks towards God to change that reality to something else. Pretending that there are no problems is not faith it is delusion. Does that mean we can’t pray for a change? Of course not. What I am saying is that our faith and hope are not dependant on our circumstances they are dependant on the nature and character of God.
It takes infinitely more faith to declare that God is good and loving when your world is upside down than it does when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church and everything is rainbows and sunshine. Real faith is when you are able to honestly praise God even when you don’t get your prayers answered, not just when you do.
Just look at what Jeremiah said after the darkest day in Judah’s history at that time in Lamentations 3:25-26 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (NKJV). Jeremiah didn’t write this after the people repented and had a great party, no he wrote this after the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. How could he speak of hope after so much death and destruction? He could do it because He understood who God is.
That is where we find out great weakness, far too often we take the supposed and actual failures, shortcomings, and losses of our lives and place the blame squarely on God and we lash out against him like overly emotional teenagers in response. Everything bad was God’s fault and everything good is the result of my own hard work – is the lie we tell ourselves. You see God is good but we are temporary travelers in a world that is not good.
We live in a fallen and broken world and there are times when we don’t get our way, a prayer doesn’t get answered, a person dies, a job is lost or a life loses its purpose. Then rather than praise God for who He is and what else he has done for us we abandon hope because we believe it is better not to hope than it is to hope and be disappointed. We respond that way because it is all part of the plan, not God’s plan but Satan’s.
Why Satan comes to steal our hope
In Satan’s eyes a mute, broken and depressed Christian is the best one there is because he knows they will never do anything to weaken his kingdom. It is a campaign of disarmament where he and his forces go out and convince Christians that it is better to have never hoped than to have hoped and lost. It is a strategy where he convinces us that the weapons of our belief and warfare are too heavy to carry and actually do more harm than good. So we should throw them away and settle for a life under spiritual house arrest.
In Rick Renner’s devotional Sparkling Gems From The Greek (USA Canada) he talks about John 10:10-11 and unpacks the meaning of what Jesus meant warning us that Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. Renner speaks of how the word kill does not mean to murder but has the understanding of a religious sacrifice such as when a lamb was killed on the altar. If Satan can’t destroy our hopes, dreams, purpose, life or anything else he’ll convince us to do it ourselves out of devotion or another reason. The same applies to our hope if he can’t crush it from within he’ll convince us to lay it down either for moral, cultural, religious, or emotional reasons. Or it could be as simple as feeling as if God is calling us to lay something down when in reality God is trying to awaken that thing you are about to kill.
What do we have to look forward to?
Proverbs 13:12 tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” this is both a spiritual and a medical truth as the loss of hope has a tangible impact on our spirit, mind and body. However the verse continues and says that a “longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
In our opening verse Romans 15:13 the hope Paul was looking towards was the culmination of both Jews and Gentiles coming into the Kingdom of God together through the New Covenant (Titus 2:13). This is what drove him from nation to nation and from prison to prison preaching the gospel despite the problems he encountered because he saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
We also need that long ranging hope to carry us to the end of our lives, but we also need hope for today. We need both hope for today and for the future because we live in two worlds one of earth and one of Heaven. So our hope must reflect that we can’t have a hope that is based only in the future, but we must also have a hope that sees its results today, although to a smaller degree.
It is just like opening a present on Christmas eve and getting the rest in the morning. Or taking a long-awaited road trip but also taking time to make stops along the way. You don’t wait until you arrive to enjoy yourself even though your ultimate enjoyment is at the end of the trip (serendipity). At other times you may discover that you only enjoyed the final destination because of what happened along the way, so it is with our hope in God.
Are there times when God will answer our prayers, yes, and are there times when He won’t (at least as far as we can perceive) of course. What is important though is not how God answers but how we respond to God afterwards. If we can turn to God with the same love and hope no matter the outcome then we have passed the test of faith and our hope is not in God’s ability to please us but it is based on our love for Him.
Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (NKJV)
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Trusting the God of Hope when You Have None Left by Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.