Finding Hope

It is hard to be hopeful these days. Bad news just keeps rolling down. We continue to read of the spread of Coronavirus and the rising death toll. We hear of a rise in violence, suicide, and depression, and we wonder if this is just the beginning of the long-term affects of social-distancing and pandemic threats. We see the political talking heads pointing blame at one another, which only shakes our confidence and heightens our fears.

In the middle of all of this, it is the roll of the Church, of every believer, to shine as a beacon of hope in a dark and dreary world.

Hope: it’s such a small yet powerful word. 

We often use it rather casually. We may talk of a “fools hope;” like when you hope your team wins even though they’re on a 5 game losing streak. Or maybe hoping that they’ll have a better year than last year – if they even get to play (yes, I’m thinking specifically of my Royals).

Then there are things we hope for that are really an expression of deep desire. “I hope to see you soon!” a parent will write to their child, indicating that they will be working toward that goal.

So what are the things we are hoping for right now?

  • I hope to stay healthy.
  • I hope no one I know catches this virus. If they do, I hope they don’t suffer.
  • I hope to go back to work soon. I hope I still have a job.
  • I hope college will start again in the fall.
  • I hope my marriage can survive this quarantine.
  • I hope that the Church can come back together soon – and that people won’t stay home even after it is safe to assemble.

There are many things we may be hoping for today, but there is one hope to which we are called to share in Scripture. The way the world speaks about hope (wishing for something that may or may not have any guarantee of coming about) pales in comparison to what the Bible means when it speaks of hope. The Psalms make it very clear that our hope is in the Lord:

  • Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
  • Psalm 62:5 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”
  • Psalm 71:14 “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”

We put our hope in God, the one who is faithful, unchanging, and true. The Christian’s hope is established, strengthened, and encouraged in God’s Word. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” 

So what do we hope for?

The hope of Scripture rises above the day to day wishes and desires, and is a longing for the very presence of God Himself. Our hope goes far beyond sickness and health, poverty and riches. Our hope is to find ourselves in joyous fellowship with God through eternity. This fellowship with God is only possible because He has promised to save us, and has done so through the death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.

Ps. 119:81 says, “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.”  Our hope is in the Salvation of the Lord, His deliverance of His people from sin, from despair, from the brokenness of this world.

This is what Paul speaks of in Titus 2:13, when he writes, we are “waiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Our hope in this age, and in the age to come, is that we will see Jesus Christ; that we will stand with Him in the Kingdom of God, robed in His righteousness, called by His name. Our hope is that the one who ascended in glory, who now reigns over all things at the right hand of God the Father, will one day come again in glory to bring all things into submission before Him. Our hope is that this Savior, who died to atone for our sins, will also care for us unto the very end, and will not lose one of those whom the Father has given.

This is our hope, and our hope does not put us to shame (Rom 5:5). Therefore we will “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12).  So beloved, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).

SDG

Yet I Will Rejoice

candle-in-dark

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, 
nor fruit be on the vines, 
the produce of the olive fail, 
and the fields yield no food, 
the flock be cut off from the fold, 
and there be no herd in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 
God, the Lord, is my strength, 
he makes my feet like the deer’s; 
he makes me tread on my high places.”
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

For the second week in a row now I write in response to tragedy.

Last week, our little town of Lennox, SD was rocked by the news of a murder/suicide, in which a young mother shot her husband, child, then took her own life.  There remains a heavy burden in our town, like a thick fog that refuses to dissipate even under the noon-day sun.  We have grieved and mourned.  We have gathered as a community to express our sorrow and our hope, but the waves of this tsunami continue to crash in upon us, and will for some time.

Early Monday morning we awoke to the news of the shooting in Las Vegas.  As I write, 59 are dead, and over 400 are wounded.  Already the politicians and talking heads are drawing lines in the sand about who’s to blame, talking about what to do, but never really helping anyone. Stories keep coming in about the terror, the heroism, and the pain of the lives lost. We cry out, as we read in Scripture, “How long, O Lord?!?”

I turned again this week to the book of the prophet Habakkuk.  Habakkuk is a very different book than the other OT prophets.  He never speaks to the people the word of the Lord.  Instead, his book is made up of his questions to God.  Judah had become an absolute mess, morally, spiritually, and politically.  But God’s response was even more troubling. God was bringing the Babylonians to punish Judah for their idolatry.  Perplexed by God’s will, Habakkuk cried out, “How long, O Lord?”  That question, while filled with despair, is also a question of faith.  The prophet saw destruction all around, and he knew that God had promised to be with his people and deliver them.  How could that promise come true when everything around was falling apart?

Through the dialogue of Habakkuk’s book, the prophet learns that God is still in control, that God sits in judgment over all nations and people, and that through it all, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4).

This is why the passage given above is so powerful.  At the end of his book, Habakkuk proclaims his faith in the sovereign God.  His listing of disasters, from the failing figs, olives, and fields, and the loss of the herds, reveals just how bad things were.  No food on the shelves, no harvest coming in.  Those things that you sort of take for granted; they’re all gone.

Maybe we’d write it differently today.  We might say, “Though the batteries won’t charge, and the wifi is down, the cupboards are empty and the credit cards maxed out, though violence takes us and scatters us to the wind…”

How did Habakkuk respond to such loss?  How can we?

Habakkuk says, “Yet I will rejoice!”  You can almost see him there, gritting his teeth, eyes full of tears, hands shaking as he writes.  “Yet I will rejoice!”  He does not rejoice in this disaster, as some blackhearted fiend.  He does not rejoice in retribution.  He rejoices in the Lord.  He knows that God, the Lord, is his salvation and strength.  He knows that those who trust in the Lord “will be like Mount Zion… which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125:1).

Like the prophet, we are taught by God’s Word to rejoice.  Paul teaches the church in Philippi, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Phil 4:4).  With trust in the Lord comes joy, not in the circumstances, but in the presence of the Lord himself.  He is with you, not just in times of peace, but in the midst of sorrow and loss as well.

We are to say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will rejoice!”  Rejoicing is sometimes done with tear stained cheeks.  Joy is most needed when we are broken, and joy can fill, and mend, the broken heart.

When all else has failed and left you, when the fragile illusion of peace and security have been shattered, hold fast to your faith in the God of salvation, the God who has delivered and ransomed you in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Our God is in the heavens, and He has established His king in Zion, and his name is Jesus.

Hold fast to your faith; not because it is fleeting, but so that your joy won’t be.  The troubles and sorrows of this world crash upon us like the billows of the sea, but Christ stands firm and will not be moved.  Faith in Him is our anchor in the storm.  Cling to the One who has saved your soul, for he will never let you go.

And knowing that He holds you in the palm of his hand, you will find joy!

SDG