Hope. I find myself thinking about this topic pretty often these days. As I bring to close one of the most difficult and painful years of my life, I find myself looking for hope. A quick scroll through social media leads me to believe that I am not searching alone. In fact, I would go as far to say that all of us are looking for hope in some way. There is an underlying unrest in our culture spawned by the current circumstances of this world that leaves many hopeless and searching for answers. Where do you find them? Where is hope found? How can we have hope in the most hopeless situations?
This Year Sucked For Me
2015 was an exceptionally difficult year. In all honesty, 2015 was the culmination and apex of a string of bad years. After getting to a place where I was ready to give up on my purpose and calling all together, God rocked my faith with the death of my 30 day old niece. I have dealt with death and loss all of my life, but I had never experienced this kind of senseless loss. Why would God bring such a precious gift into this world only to snatch it back leaving only heartache and sorrow? God showed me a side of Himself that I had never seen before and it left me questioning everything. You can read more about this struggle here. As if that were not enough, a few months later my world was flipped upside down when the love of my life decided she was done and walked out of our 12 year marriage (Side note: she may have pulled the trigger on divorce, but I gave her the bullets and loaded the gun for her. We both played our part in this and both are to blame). Every week since she left has been a rollercoaster of emotion and pain.
To throw fuel on an already blazing wildfire, I have moved back in with my Mom due to my new child support payment and I am unable to afford a place of my own (humbling does not begin to describe this). Add a struggling business and a constant feeling of failure to the load and you will begin to see the tip of the iceberg that is my life right now. This is the inner storm that rages within me on a daily basis.
The Truth Is
Where does anyone find hope in the midst of all of this? The truth is, you don’t find hope in any of this or anything else in this world. The unfortunate reality is that there is nothing in this reality that won’t let you down, fail, explode, fall apart, etc. This may be a little cynical, but no matter how hard you try, life will almost always never go your way. As a result, placing your hope in things like wealth, security, family, friends, jobs, goals, religion, ideologies, hobbies, self, happiness, self improvement, etc., will only leave you hopeless as these things fail you on a daily basis. You see, hope is part of something bigger; faith. Hope is a result of faith. Now this faith can be tied to anything listed earlier, but as we all know, none of those things give us a very firm foundation to build our faith on.
Christ is the only firm foundation to which we build our faith and place our hope, but if we are being honest, in many instances our faith in this truth does not produce much hope. Why is that? Is this a result of God not delivering on His promises? Is there something we missed? In my experiences this past year, I have realized that when my faith does not produce hope it is because my doubt out weighs my faith. In other words, in times of turmoil and strife, I mask my doubt with outward religious expressions of faith. This can be anything from reading my Bible to prayer to doing good. I use these things to convince myself that I believe the truth, when in reality I doubt it all. This doubt comes from focusing on my current circumstances and allowing those circumstances to dictate how I see God.
Peter struggled in the same way when he got out of a boat in the middle of a raging sea. It was his great faith that lead him to get out of the boat and start moving towards Jesus. However, in the midst of his mustard seed faith, we see him beginning to sink. Doubt begins to overtake him as he takes his focus off of Jesus and on to the waves and wind. Peter allowed his circumstances to cloud his perspective of Jesus’ power and ability. In a matter of seconds, Peter went from believing in Jesus’ power to doubting it. In this current season of my life, I can relate with this all too well. Just when all hope seems lost, Peter cries out, “Lord save me!” At this point the scripture says, “Jesus ** immediately ** lifted him out.” In the midst of Peter’s doubt Jesus did not leave him. This is where hope is found.
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Wrapping it Up
In the midst of our trials and struggles, when all hope seems lost, we must look back. In the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites on several occasions to build monuments to remind them and future generations of what He had done in their lives. In the same way we need to look back at previous times of pain and strife. Remembering how Jesus did not leave us or forsake us. Look back on all the growth and character development those times produced in you and let those times produce a hope in your current circumstances. As a result, you will see scripture come to life in you. You will see reasons to worship God in the midst of your pain. You will begin to give testimony to how you know God has worked all things for your good and how you believe that this present season of pain will do the same. This won’t make it hurt any less or get you through it quicker, but it will allow you to endure and persevere. It will allow you to stand firm and not be shaken. It will allow you to grow and be sanctified during this time and give you another moment to look back on when the next storm of life comes crashing down on you. It will bring you through the fire not even smelling like smoke.
If you have had a year like me, know that you are not alone and that hope is not lost. If you have not done so, start by being honest with yourself and with God in your doubt and fear. Acknowledge your lack of faith and trust in His care and love for you. Then ask Him to remind you of His track record in your life. Look back at the various seasons of your life and see how He has never abandoned you. Especially those times where you were entrenched in sin and selfishness. These times, for me, produce the most hope because it reveals God’s faithfulness apart from your works. Finally, let these moments produce hope. Simple, right?
A bit of practical application: I build physical monuments to these seasons of my life in the form of tattoos. When life gets hard I don’t have to look any further than my own body to be reminded of how God is faithful and there is always hope even when I don’t see it. I am not telling you to go get tattoos, but I would encourage you to find a way to put a physical flag in the ground to look back on when life gets hard. It could be journaling, art, sculpting, anything. Whatever it is, make sure it reminds you of what God has done in your life.
I love each of you deeply and pray that through my life in all of its failures and success, God will be glorified and you might be able to follow or not follow my example. “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)