How do you respond when a storm such as financial pressure, the death of a loved one or some unexpected health problem sweeps into your life? Do you fall into despair? Medical research tells us hopelessness can have serious negative physical consequences including heart disease.
The Bible offers us no free passes through the trials of life. Many of the most famous biblical characters went through enormous trials in their personal lives such as betrayal, family breakdown, loss of loved ones and great disasters. Being a Christian and having faith in God doesn’t mean we never experience problems, suffering, or crises. But it does help us journey through such difficulties.
As Christians we are not immune to life’s trials. I wish we were. But if we were, and true Christianity meant no big problems or bad surprises, then we are all doing something wrong, because churches are full of people going through difficulties. This can be a significant problem because if my worldview is ‘if I’m a good enough Christian, God is going to save me from all the problems of life’, what happens when just the opposite seems to occur? We can become confused, angry and disillusioned. So if Christianity offers no exemption – what is the answer? How do we find hope when trouble hits?
David found hope in God In the midst of great discouragement, even when circumstances remained tough.
Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!
He’s at his lowest – yet He chooses to put his hope in God, finding peace and solace.
Some things people pin their hopes on:
Circumstances: yet they are often out of our control and can change so easily.
The future: yet it’s unpredictable, holds no guarantees, and cannot promise us improvement.
Other people: Sometimes we can build our entire foundation of hope on others, e.g. a boss we hope will promote us, or hope for some lucky break where we may just meet the right person. But people can let us down; people are not perfect; and they often don’t have the power to change our circumstances.
Money: Having witnessed the Global Financial Crisis, this is an easy one for us to cross off. We have seen hope in money shattered around the world. It’s not as foolproof as we used to think. In certain cases, we have seen people go from ‘white collar’ professionals to unemployed and homeless, and ‘blue chip’ share portfolios have tumbled in value. If money were the answer, famously rich people would have no problems.
The trouble is that by looking to these things to give us hope we set ourselves up for problems. You may be wealthy, well connected and attractive, but you still can’t stop life happening – it’s like trying to stop the incoming tide with a broom. What happens when things don’t turn out the way we expected? The ‘pillars’ we’ve built our hopes on can start to crumble, causing our entire stability to fail. We can place our hope in all sorts of things, but the only true hope is in God. Hope is one of the three pillars of the Christian life: faith, hope and love.
Just before the crucifixion, Jesus is discussing real life with His friends the disciples:
John 16:33 (NIV)“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.”
As believers we lead a dual existence: we are in Christ and in this world, two spheres of life that are constantly in tension. We live between these two realities – God who loves us and a world which is breaking down. But Jesus won the victory over the world’s systems; He has overcome the world. When life seems to turn upside down on us, when we go through trouble, when we need to overcome – our hope needs to be in the One that has already overcome!
Hope is not the absence of troubles. (Hope actually originates in trouble; otherwise there is no need for it.) Neither is hope a feeling or an emotion. True hope is a choice – a decision to put your life in the hand of God. Hope in God is life changing. You can become the most optimistic, resilient, encouraging person you know through your faith in God.
Take heart! Even in the most difficult situations we can find hope in God.