As I grow and mature in my walk with Jesus, I learn new things. Over the last two years I came to the realization that there are two different types of hope. Let’s look at each one in depth.
Hope Born of Desperation
Have you ever been in what seemed to be an impossible situation? Maybe that is where you are now. This theme must be set on repeat in my life. There are usually three things that happen at once to create a horrible stress bubble that only God can fix: we run out of money, we are on the verge of getting kicked out of the country we serve in, and some health crisis surfaces. When all three of these unfortunate events take place concurrently, desperation takes hold of my heart. Over the last seven years, the three difficulties have made their appearance four times. Though they have appeared more frequently as individuals. In my heart, I have grasped on tight to the truths found in God’s word, but there is a certain desperation to that hope. Instead of peace, I find anxiety. Instead of trusting God, I find that I question His motives and abilities. This type of hope is hard won, and lacks the consistency which should be evidence of my faith. These seasons often leave me exhausted and useless. What do I do when this kind of desperation invades my sanity? I remember these verses:
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
“Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” -Psalm 3:2-6
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” -1 Corinthians 16:13
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” -1 Peter 1:3-6
“The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” -Psalm 147:11
Isn’t it wonderful to hope in the mercy of the Lord? The truth is I don’t deserve to be free from difficulties in life, and the price I should pay for my sins is eternal separation from God. But because of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, I can find hope in the fact that God shows me mercy. He doesn’t give me the eternal consequences I deserve.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” -Luke 4:18
When we go through the hope born of desperation, and things don’t come to a tidy conclusion, we often find that our hope has died. Is it possible for a Christian to experience the death of hope? Well, if we are talking about the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, no… that hope cannot die. But what about other hopes we have? It is very possible that hope regarding specific desires that go unmet will die. Circumstances may be that God has said, “No,” to our intercession. It is natural that hope for that desire or need would die. There is no reason to keep hoping for something that God has clearly said “no” to. But then there are those prayers that don’t have a distinct no, but they also haven’t been answered with a yes. What then? I believe it is possible for those hopes to all but die. Is there a hope that you have that’s buried deep in the recesses of your heart? Has God promised you something that doesn’t seem possible, and still hasn’t come true? What is the point of this type of suffering?
“Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.” -Romans 5:2-5
When you have been through seasons of hopelessness, one of the results is (ironically) hope. When you go through the process mentioned in Romans 5:3-4, it starts with tribulations which produces perseverance, a better personal character, and finally, hope. In my relationship with God, I can see this finish line. No, not all of my tribulations have been solved (not even close!), but instead of the hope of desperation that I tried to grasp with all my might in the past, I have developed a quiet trust in the Lord which produces a confident hope; I now experience hope resurrected. My hopes have become a sanctum I can retreat to when the weight of my impossible circumstances press my spirit to the ground. And even though common sense tells me that what we face now is by far the biggest and scariest reality we have ever faced, I don’t feel desperate. And when the panic of common sense pursues and taunts me with the infinite uncertainties in my life, I choose to retreat to that sanctum, where I can remember all of the times when God provided a solution. In those moments I can face common sense and proclaim, “I have hope, and this time, it brings me peace in the midsts of this dark storm. I will stand, brave and strong, no longer desperate in my attempt to grasp hope as if it was something distant or evasive.”
This is the journey you are on, and if you persevere, you will also level up to a hope that is resurrected where it was once desperate.