If the daily news
headlines make you want to pull the covers over your head, admit defeat and quit participating in society, you’re not alone.
Every day, we’re inundated with stories about political dissent and a deeply divided nation. Our society is facing an epidemic of Fentanyl deaths, mental health issues, division, illness, and the death of our loved ones. Catastrophes are everywhere, and the trajectory doesn’t look good. Is this the new normal? If so, life on a deserted island looks pretty good right about now.
We want to have hope, but sometimes it’s hard to absorb, let alone know where to find it. In our quest to obtain this divine virtue, three misunderstandings could stand in the way of our receipt of one of the greatest things God gave to us through His Son.
The Cliché Hope.
Cliché hope is the promise of a pain-free life. It’s the theory that if you live a certain way or follow certain principles, you can somehow avoid crises, bad circumstances, and storms. You can have the postcard family, house, and car of your dreams. You can effectively earn your way to a trouble-free life, exempt from hardship and adversity.
This is what a lot of people think, and it’s also why they handle crises so poorly. Do we really buy into the idea that we can “succeed” ourselves out of this fallen world’s chaos? Maybe if we acquire more money, more connections with powerful people or more influence, it will save us from the troubles of life.
We need to abandon the false notion that our lives will always be happy and problem-free. In John 16:32, Jesus told his disciples, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” This was probably disconcerting for them to hear, which is why Jesus immediately followed up with his comforting words, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus didn’t want his disciples to be under the delusion that their lives and ministry would be easy and comfortable, and he doesn’t want us to think that either.
It’s not the despair or problems that trap us. It’s how we respond to them that becomes the much greater problem. Cliché hope is not helpful. In all actuality, it can be& insulting — to the parent who has lost a baby, to the teenager who has been bullied at school, and to the middle-aged person fighting discouragement so severe that suicidal thoughts are never far from their mind. Remember, the force of hope starts at the point of your deepest need, but it doesn’t ignore or diminish this need.
The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” It’s the firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25; Hebrews 11:1, 7). Biblical hope is rooted in faith in the redeeming salvation given to us through Christ. By “contrast, those who don’t place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
“God never gives us more than we can handle.” If anyone has ever said this to you – or maybe you’ve said it yourself – I challenge you to find that in the Bible. It’s not there because God isn’t the giver of trouble. He is, however, the redeemer of all that we face in life. He is about the business of refining us in the fire and bringing us through even the roughest storms.
“God loves you and wants to bless you.”
“God is all-powerful, and even -faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, so ask Him to help you and trust Him for what you need.”
These are good, true promises from our Lord and Savior. But this kind of simple faith only works well for a little while — until it doesn’t. What happens when life suddenly throws a giant curve ball or doesn’t work out exactly the way that you expected it to? It’s important to decouple hope from outcomes. Life experience and my personal relationship with God have taught me that any faith which focuses on- the gifts rather than the Giver is shaky ground to be standing on.
The Bible has a lot to say about God’s goodness and desire to bless His children, but it’s easy to get selective in how we read it, taking individual Scriptures out of context and using them to justify our expectations and outcomes. The truth is that while God does have plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11), the Bible also has plenty to say about our suffering too.
The idea that faith in God is the road to a life of health, wealth, and perfect happiness is simply not a biblical view. Jesus told us that we will have troubles in this- world (John 16:33). He didn’t promise to remove them or fix them or suggest that faith is a way to bypass pain. He also didn’t suggest that having faith would provide a solution to all their problems. Yet, there’s one outcome we can be sure of — the gift of God’s faithfulness and presence. Whatever hardships and adversities life throws at us, we have the promise He will carry us through and refine us in the process.
The Solitary Hope.
Where do you turn when you’re in distress? When you come to- the end of yourself — your influence, your connections, your intelligence — then what? What do we do with the pain that no amount of money or success can heal? If we don’t have any answers outside our own worldview, then we’re truly at the mercy of whatever comes our way.
Hope doesn’t exist in solitude. God called us to be in community with others. He created us to be able to pull destiny out of each other (Proverbs 13:20). Hope is less of an emotional force or a feeling; it is more tangible than that. It comes to us through real people, friendships, and community. I believe true friendship is one of the greatest sources of hope.
As much as you desire to be independent or private, you were not designed to; live life alone. It’s critical that we find hope and meaning in something greater than ourselves. You have a limited capacity to provide for all your needs. To be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, we need our Lord and Savior, first and foremost, and the community He has placed around us.
Sometimes, a lack of community is not due to isolation but rather insulation. When we go through pain, we often put walls up emotionally and retreat. To experience hope, we must push through that and open our hearts to the idea that the comfort God promised us, just might be found in relationships he’s placed in our lives.
Our lives are not neatly packaged. They are complex. Life traverses; both breathtaking summits and gut-wrenching valleys. If everything always ends up perfect, then we don’t need hope. Hope is there precisely because things won’t always unfold in the manner we want them to.
The story isn’t yet complete. We’ve already been told the ending, so we’re not without hope for the future — we just happen to be living in the messy middle part. Take heart, for we serve a God who is continually at work in this world to heal, redeem and make all things new again.