Exercising Hope

“The darkest night is always just before the dawn.” Yes that is a quote from Batman, but it is also true in our lives right now. When it seems like the odds are against us and our back is against the wall, that is when we know that just over the horizon a new day is about to dawn. The hope of something greater is coming, and in times like these we know that God has to have something up his sleeve.

It seems like whenever I pray and ask God for a specific attribute or character quality, He always one ups me. I ask God for patience, or peace, or kindness and what does He do? Instead of giving me the quality I ask for, He gives me opportunities to live out the thing I’m asking. When I ask for patience, why does it seem like I get stuck in the longest grocery line or I get left on hold for 20 minutes? When I ask for kindness, there seems to be a heightened sense for those who are homeless or less fortunate. I’m not claiming this as doctrinal truth but doesn’t it seem like that to anyone else?

God knows us better than we know ourselves (thank you Captain Obvious), but what does this have to do about hope? Hold on, we’ll get there, hear me out first. Sometimes, God doesn’t give us what we ask for in the way we ask for it. He knows that getting something straight away wouldn’t teach us anything other than to ask for it and then we would get it. That’s how a genie works, not how the creator of the universe who sent his son to die for you works. God wants to connect the dots on a deeper level, on a level we understand in the innermost part of us.

When we actually practice and live out our values, that’s where it sinks deeper. Thinking about something is a start, saying it is another thing, but actually doing it is all together something greater. But when we do something at a time when it’s difficult or inconvenient, that is where we know it has become a part of us. When your reputation is on the line, when you have to go out of your way or when you act in a way contrary to your “normal behavior” that’s when you recognize a change has happened.

Now to hope. Here we are, in the midst of what seems to be a very hard time to have hope. Schools and restaurants are closed, most people are working from home, people are losing their jobs or are taking a hit on their 401k’s. It seems hopeless! What if this is a time for us to bolster our “hope muscles” and start believing in hope during a difficult season? I’m not in any way diminishing the pain that many people are going through, but if there’s one thing I know about our God, it’s that He can add purpose to your pain.

Hope is vitally important to not only our spiritual walk but our health! Proverbs 13:12 ESV says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” When we defer hope, our heart becomes sick. When we are depressed and anxious we can feel physically ill. When a desire is fulfilled it brings us life! We need to hold on to hope because without it, we can be susceptible to not only physical malities but spiritual weariness. 

So how do we get hope? Perhaps a better question is, what is the source of hope? If it’s happiness, then we will only be hopeful in good times which we all know don’t last. If it’s in money, then sometimes we will have it and other times we don’t. Hope in money is increasingly elusive because money has an unquenchable desire. Every time we get some, we want more, and the cycle never stops. We can place our hope in family members, kids, our spouse, a friend, perhaps a celebrity or someone we admire.

Our hope can be placed in pastors and Christian leaders, however it is dangerous to place our hope in any person on earth. If you’re a person then you’re also a human, and humans fail. They disappoint, they don’t live up to promises and can sin. People are devastated when their go-to author, mentor, pastor or friend is exposed to have sinned and their whole world comes crashing down.

You can place your hope in a future outcome, a potential relationship, when you have a child, when the kids move out, or retirement. Time and time again the hope in these things are great but ultimately don’t address the eternal desire deep within our souls. When these moments come, the anticipation seemed more enjoyable than the actual moment, and we are left longing for another day.

The hope that is above all is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Romans 13:15 NLT puts it like this, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” God fills us up with joy, and what greater joy is knowing our sins are forgiven and we can spend eternity in heaven with Him? Hope rooted in God is the only hope with an unshakable foundation. 

How do we exercise this hope? In order to build up our “hope muscles” we need to start small and exercise often. But hope needs to start within yourself. Are you saying things out of fear or out of hope? Is your self-talk is causing you to feel hopeless, what are you projecting to those around you? There are times when we won’t have the luxury of having encouragement from others and we have to rely on our relationship with the Lord.

In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men were raided, and they had lost their families in a battle. The men had lost their confidence in David and were planning to kill him. Alone and in a moment of hopelessness, 1 Samuel 30:6 NLT says “… But David found strength in the Lord his God.” He had to dig deep, step out in faith and he led his men to a victory, recovering everything that was lost to them.

When the news gets to be too much and has given you the information you need, change the channel. When your kids say something out of fear or misinformation, remind them of the truth. When a neighbor, co-worker or friend is overwhelmed with what’s going on, give them an encouraging word, make them a meal, watch their kids for a day or do something that can offer a shot of hope.

It’s incredibly important that during this digital time that we use our platforms as a beacon for hope and not for attention. Many of us, myself included, are looking for and perhaps craving attention. Our platforms, whether big or small, should be leveraged for hope. 

What great hope do we have other than Jesus Christ? He is the one who brings true joy, true purpose and true hope. I don’t know when this will all be over. I don’t know when your reprieve will come. But I can tell you, it is coming. He is coming. Jesus is coming and He will make everything right.

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Discipleship Director

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