"My soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great LOVE we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning." - Lamentations 3:20-24
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" - Romans 15:13
I was stunned by a recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): the life expectancy in the United States has fallen consistently over the last three years. In our medically advanced, socially connected, tech-savvy culture, our life-span is declining. "Deaths of despair" are listed as the major contributor to the decline. These deaths of despair include drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide.
Desperation seems to have replaced hope in the lives of individuals which, in turn, affects our culture. We have increasing rates of anxiety and depression among all age groups and cultures. Many are quick to throw blame on our current political, financial or medical deficiencies.
Researchers at Harvard are looking for underlying causes of despair, and have found a link between three components and lower rates of suicide and depression: church, family and community. They lament that there are no taxes, laws, therapies or pills to keep people in pews and families intact.*
Sadly, we all know that one can be part of a family, member of a church and participate in a community, and still experience despair. What is it that can bring hope to an individual, who in turn, shares it with another?
Even as Christ-followers, we can become mired in the injustice, suffering, and abuse that is present in our world, and we forget that our hope lies in a powerful and loving God who has not turned a blind eye, but indeed has a purpose and a plan.
I imagine Jesus' disciples often became overwhelmed with the never-ending needs, oppressive government, and pressure to fix it all. I can see why He invited them to come away with Him. It was an opportunity to regain perspective and remember who they served. Maybe it's a good time for us to do the same; to realign our hope, refocus on the One who holds the future, and then live out that hope in the midst of a "crooked and perverse generation" Phil 2:15
We live in a world where many people don’t know or believe much about hope. For the Christian, hope has as its focus a Person. God.
Just as we can’t have faith in faith, we can’t have hope in hope. The words become optimistic platitudes. Hope has nothing to do with optimism, though some think that hope is optimism- looking at the positive side of life. Optimism is the expectation that whatever is not good now will get better eventually, "This too shall pass, wait until the next election, tomorrow is another day..." Sometimes we try to comfort ourselves with those words. There’s nothing wrong with an optimistic attitude, except that it only lasts as long as I feel optimistic.
Hope, on the other hand, believes that God is fully aware and active. Hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to lasting freedom. The optimist speaks about possible changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the midst of the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in God's good hands. “I don’t know how God is going to fulfill His promises, but I do know that He will, and therefore I can live in the present with the knowledge that He is with me."
Honestly facing the despair we are dealing with in the world today means we cannot go around despair to hope. We have to go right through despair. We may never know what hope is until we have tasted despair. We must be able to look at the despair of this world to have an inkling of the hope that Jesus offers to us. Our faith in Jesus- who He is and what He promises, results in hope. "...our hope is in the living God." 1Tim 4:10.
The Apostle Paul's love chapter, 1Corinthians 13 ends with listing these words in a specific order: FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE. Faith informs our daily life- we live by faith in the Son of God-and this results in hope. Hope for the future and hope for today. Both faith and hope rest securely in the relentless, powerful, sacrificial love of God.
Hebrews 6:19 tells us that we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It reminds me that I can trust that there is no power-no person-no disease-no circumstance that can swipe me out of His hands. He’s got this. And He‘s got me; so I can "live hope."
As I step out into my world as a follower of Jesus, may I live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought and generous in love. Hope does not disappoint; the love of God has been poured out in my heart. I have this to offer those I meet in my everyday, walk-around life: real and profound hope- the trust that all is well, and all will be well. May it flow from me to bring living water to those around me that are desperate to drink.
In the midst of difficult times, we may feel a sense of hopelessness. Crying out to God in sorrow or disappointment is lament; many of the Psalms of David are honest laments, full of emotion. Honesty with God is a crucial part of deepening our relational intimacy. We often see David calling to mind, even in the midst of danger or depression, what he knows to be true of God that extends beyond the circumstance. It seems to bring him peace and hope.
Are you in a place where your hope seems dim? Spend time with God; take time to open up honestly. You might read a few of David's Psalms:42,43,46. David reminds his soul to hope in God in the midst of trying circumstances. What are your circumstances? How can you remind your soul to hope in God?
Remember some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffered intensely, yet held fast to hope. Often it was a scripture or the encouraging words of a comrade that reminded them of where their hope lay. People like Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Amy Carmichael.
Look up the lyrics to an old hymn that paints a picture of the hope we have in the midst of struggles in life. Read slowly and savor the words. Try these: Be Still My Soul, Great is Thy Faithfulness, The Solid Rock, Be Thou My Vision.
*The Weekly Standard Philip Luke Jeffrey- Dec 14, 2018.