I am writing from my chair at the Infusion Center where the medicine that keeps the inflammation from searing through my joints is being pumped through a needle into my veins. While I hope the medicine will give me relief from debilitating pain, I have three hours to reflect on a greater hope.
The hope that gives peace in the darkest hour is the same gift given to us when we want to feel better, need a break from a toilsome day, or are tired of the rain. It is a call to consider the work of Christ in the Kingdom of God. When life in the present seems too chaotic, painful, or mundane, we beseech God for action. We hope for what we want. I hope for something or another almost every day. -
“I hope I can find my keys”
“ I hope I won’t be late for my appointment.”
“ I hope the medicine works.’
Those were my hopes so far today. Simply put, I hope God has my back. I am tired of being sick, slow, and surly. I am at the end of myself.
Hope is a natural go-to in misery, despair, and fear, but often we slip into the wrong hope. Like me today, we hope for the thing that will take away the pain. We pray for a better day, something new, or someone to understand. We do not pray as David did –
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 1143:8)
David’s hope was ensconced in God Himself and the love that he knew would not fail him. Rather than asking for sunnier weather, a clear plan of attack, or protection in battle, he wanted only God’s love to remain with him. Hope is not a whim of despair; it is the weapon that destroys it.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I will praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7)
Wallowing in self-pity wishing for anything that will help make our situation improve is not the hope God has given us. As Christians, we are not to hope for what we want from God – we are to hope for Him alone.
Until our trust is in God, our hope is despondent, despairing, or even desperate. We are not seeking God; we are begging Him to do something.
When I am trying to prepare dinner and my swollen crooked fingers cannot operate the can opener or open up a zip lock bag, I am often unhappy about needing help for so many minor tasks. Do I rejoice in the hope of eternal life where my whole body will be in perfect shape? No, I hope my husband will take me out for dinner. When he doesn’t, but does open the can for me, I am thankful he is there and always willing to help. This is the higher hope God gives to us – being able to see our blessings, not our failings, and being grateful even in difficulty.
In Luke’s Gospel there is an account of a widow coming to Jesus with her only son who had just died. Her despair is palpable on the page of my Bible – “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said, ‘Do not weep.” Can you not feel the love Jesus had for this woman who lost the only one in the world who could care for her? Still, she came to Jesus.
“And He said, ‘Young man I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak.”
When we feel we have lost everything we care about and we despair in our hopelessness, the grace of God pours His hope into us. It is He who catches us before we fall. It is He “who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace...” (2Thessalonians 2:16) This is the saving hope that gives us an inexpressible sense of peace and comfort. In His everlasting arms we will be given all we ever need.
Years ago my husband and I were desperate for our daughter’s return after she had fallen off a cliff while on her honeymoon in the British Islands. We prayed fervently for her safety and strength as she was strapped to a body board and airlifted back to the states. Meanwhile the plane she was on went through a wicked storm, tossing the small prop all over the sky. If we had known about that imminent danger, our prayers of desperation would have turned to panicked pleas. Desperate hope blinds us from the power of our Almighty God.
After her safe return, our daughter told us, “I wasn’t afraid because my hope was in God who had created the storm in the first place!” Her hope was not desperate, but was fixed on God’s glory.
Martha was very distressed while she waited for Jesus to come after her brother, Lazarus, had died. We can just imagine her anguish when He finally arrived. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet in her grief she still had abiding hope. “…I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (John 11:21-22) This was the glorious hope to which Jesus responded, “I am the resurrection and life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, shall he live.”
The hope that God gives us is poured into us by grace through the Holy Spirit and reminds us that we are saved. This promise is sealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and extends beyond any fix, big or small, we are in. It is our only hope – to be in glory with Christ eternally.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…” (Romans 15:13)