God is currently teaching me about Hope in the face of disheartenment. You can probably relate. As humans, we all have a working knowledge of disappointment. Maybe you’re experiencing discouragement because of workplace tensions, declining health, or relational rejection; or maybe the immense problems our country is facing — like our massive national debt crisis or declining moral compass — are leaving you depressed. Whatever has you down, I trust these seven lessons I’ve learned about Hope will be helpful:
1) There’s hope, and then there’s Hope. When I talk about “hope,” I unfortunately tend to use the word in the worldly sense. For example, I might say: “I sure hope that the Nationals go to the playoffs this year. …” (In case you don’t follow baseball, there are pretty slim chances of this happening.)
I’m simply expressing my desire for things to work out, oftentimes when the chain of events is beyond my control and when said occurrence is unlikely. Yet, however strongly I “hope,” my wishes tend to be poor predictors of actual outcomes.
What I really need is “Hope” — the Biblical, God-centered kind. This is the brand that sticks around, that won’t ever be disappointed, and that has real power. This is the type of Hope that Paul writes about: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
So where is this Hope rooted? In the unfailing character and promises of God. As a Christian, I have Hope because God is all-powerful and all-loving, because He is on my side, and because He has made a way for me to have eternal life. Knowing these things deep down produces real and lasting Hope, far superior to the worldly “hope” that things go my way.
2) God cares about what I’m going through right now. Growing up in the church, I heard plenty of truths like “God has a plan for your life,” “He will work things out in the end,” or “There won’t be any more pain in Heaven.” All of these are very important and accurate statements. God has the big picture figured out and has guided the course of history over thousands of years, from creation through today.
But he also cares about the details of what you and I are going through on a personal level right now. Our individual feelings, thoughts, and needs matter to Him in this very moment. He doesn’t just have the best for you worked out in Heaven, in another decade, next year, or next month. He also has the best possible outcome arranged for you today and tomorrow. The next ten minutes of your life are as much a part of his plan as the next ten years.
3) Feeling discouraged is NOT wrong. I find it easy to feel guilty when I’m down — like I’m not working hard enough to have Hope. Yet, discouragement is a normal part of living, painful though it might be. Even God’s strongest followers — like King David, Charles H. Spurgeon, and Mother Theresa — experienced intense spiritual darkness throughout their lives. God completely understands my emotions, because He made me with the capacity to feel, and He is nearby to comfort me in every situation. The problem is not with having feelings, but whether I allow them to push me toward or away from God, the source of my Hope.
4) Dwelling on disappointment can have side effects. I tend to focus inwardly when I’m discouraged. But this is the wrong orientation and can be very dangerous. I start trusting in myself to fix the situation, chasing after temporary/material salves for my pain, or growing bitter and jaded. None of these are empowering, life-giving solutions. That’s because I need to turn my feelings over to the Lord and allow His Hope to refocus and renew me.
5) God is working through my disappointment. It seems like an oxymoron, but God chooses to use my times of spiritual and emotional darkness — when I most lack Hope — to give me the Hope that I need. He guarantees in Scripture that this is how it works: “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 3:3-5)
6) Focusing on God’s character orients me. Instead of brooding over my situation or trying to navigate on my own through my hopelessness, I always do better by meditating on the overwhelming beauty of God, his kindnesses and blessings in my life, and His many promises “to never leave [me] nor forsake [me].”
7) Don’t stop talking to God and other Christians. The Enemy wants to isolate me from my sources of encouragement, especially when I’m feeling weak. As the saying goes, “A lone ranger is a dead ranger.” Severing my lines of communication with the outside world — from those who can help me most — is a sure way of losing Hope and succumbing to the darkness.
Whatever it is you’re going through, I pray you’re uplifted by some of what I’ve shared. I pray you, too, will experience renewed grace in the midst of your current experiences. Whether your problems are small or large, I know God’s desire is to grant you Hope.