There is no replacement for hope. Despair, and its cousin, depression, grow like weeds in modern minds because of a lie that is told and retold in our time. In our songs and our science we are told that only what we can see, touch, taste is real. The realm of spirit is the stuff of imagination, good for literature and poetry, but not for actual life. Even people of faith frequently maintain a clear separation between what they believe about the ‘spirit world’ and the rest of life. (We even have words for these two distinct worlds – Sacred and Secular.) Sunday songs are disconnected from Monday labors. We are taught to love life, to pursue personal fulfillment and happiness relentlessly. “Faith,” if it exists at all, is reduced to a working morality, a philosophy of ‘nice’ designed to keep us from killing each other. So what’s wrong with that? Simply stated – those who live only for ‘here and now’ will inevitably fall into despair!
Hope flourishes where the Spirit of God is invited into this world of work and play. Hope is sustained when we believe that we are more than a complex assembly of carbon atoms that will eventually deteriorate and die. When we form what we think and how we act around the knowledge that we are body and spirit created in the image of God and destined for an eternal home, hope is restored. Hope gets us up in the morning. Hope allows us to love in spite of the risk of being rejected. Hope does not avoid ‘reality!’ Instead, informed by One greater, hope looks at terrible things and says, “it can be made better and I will try.” And, ultimately, hope gives us reason to face the ‘last enemy’ (death) courageously.
Peter says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6, NIV) Go back and read that again, slowly.
Hope cannot be obtained by positive thinking. It is not to be confused with that wonderful trait enjoyed by some called optimism. It is not choosing to ‘look on the bright side.’ Hope is a gift of God, available to us because of Christ who bridged the gap between this world and eternity with His resurrection! He ‘disappeared’ into death and then, by the power of God, came back to assure us that there is more to life than feeling secure, finding our next meal, enjoying sexual pleasure, and getting a good night’s sleep!! Hope rests on God’s gift of an ‘inheritance,’ what I possess because I am His child, of salvation. My mind is enlarged, by faith, to take in heaven. “In this you greatly rejoice!”
No matter what the present situation is in your life – the deep sorrow of divorce that apparently has ripped away the future; the cancer diagnosis that brings mortality onto the visible horizon of time; the loss of friend that breaks your heart; the reversal of fortune that changes everything about tomorrow – you can be hopeful, in Christ.
This Monday morning, bow down and look up! Take this prayer as yours: “I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, save me.” (Psalm 31:14-16, NLT) Return to the Resurrection and bridge that ‘gap’ that we have created between the eternal and the present, the Spirit and this world, with faith. Hope will return and with it will come joy.
Here are words from the Word. I pray that they will strengthen you in hope.
“Love the Lord, all you faithful ones! For the Lord protects those who are loyal to him, but he harshly punishes all who are arrogant. So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the Lord!” (Psalm 31:23-24, NLT)
“So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NLT)