“Where there is life, there is hope,” is an old Roman adage. But it’s not a certainty. It’s not a guarantee that just because you’re alive, you have hope. Hope is so much more than being alive–it’s nebulous and concrete–it can’t always be explained, but must be experienced.
Hope makes a way for us to touch life with tenderness, taste life with delight, view life with optimism, and hear the song of life. It’s in our most devastating moments that we can experience the highest hope. But how?
How do we transition from devastation to hope and furthermore to a lifestyle of hope? Is it possible to make hope our first reaction instead of our second or third or last?
The words Peter writes in 1 Peter, resound with the sound of hope in my ears. It’s a guidebook for living hopeful in this devastating world. Peter walks us through the definition, the defining nature, and the determination of hope.
Peter defines our living hope as the resurrection of Jesus and the future glory of his return. He shows us to live defined by hope by getting rid of the things that hinder it, and how to be determined in hope.
As believers we live future minded. Our present choices and actions are governed by the expectation of seeing Jesus face to face. There are three things that we can do in the here and now that will grow our hope.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
A disciplined mind.
Have you seen those toy sticky hands? My kids will occasionally get these plastic, gelatinous hands with a stretchy string attached and they slap it on the windows, the doors, and the sofas, and as it gets used it picks up dirt, debris, cat hair, and crumbs. And pretty soon it’s filthy. Sometimes walking through life can be like that hand. We’re reaching and touching lives and getting a little dirty. Things start sticking to us and pretty soon we’ve lost our hope. If you can center your thoughts on the return of Christ and live accordingly, then you will be effective in the world, spreading hope wherever you go. Outlook affects outcome and attitude determines action.
A sober mind.
Sober doesn’t mean serious. It means a calm, steady, and controlled mind by weighing the things you watch and listen to by God’s word and being secure in it. It stays aware that satan is on the prowl and staying alert to his tricks. Our cat is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We call him Sunny, but he is anything but sunny. He purrs and then bites. He prowls and then attacks. And when we forget his tendencies, we become prey to his tricks. He jumps at us and our hearts race and we remember his nature. Satan is like that. He prowls around attempting to distract us with despair, disappointment, and discouragement. But you have no reason to fear: Christ is coming! And for that reason alone, your mind can stay calm and secure.
An optimistic mind.
Positivity comes easy for some people. It’s like they ooze glitter and sparkles. It’s easy to look at that type of person and wonder if they understand that pain exists. As a positive person myself, let me assure you: I’m aware of pain. Pain has stolen my breath and turned my world dark. But I’m also aware that God is in all and over all and that he has my back. His heart is good and trustworthy. When the outlook is gloomy, have an up-look.
I took a hike along the Northshore of Lake Superior this fall. The beginning of the hike deceptively hid the strenuous middle. At one point I faced 275 stairs. In a row. I have a funny knee that doesn’t laugh at stairs. I knew the view at trail’s end would provide me with a beautiful reward, but I needed to stop in the middle to catch up and to look up. To pause and take in the beauty of the forest, the curling birch bark, and the way the clouds skidded along the mountain. Life is like that trail. It’s starts out innocent enough and then morphs into difficult challenges and the only way through is through. Look beyond your circumstances and see God. He’s there.
A disciplined, sober, and optimistic mind creates a spiritual mind-set that allows us to experience the grace and hope of God in the day to day grind of life. We have the assurance of seeing Jesus face to face at his second coming, but we have the ability to see evidence of him in our todays as we fix our minds on him.
Our hope lies in the living God. He is living. He’s not dead or far off, but near and close. He draws us to himself and as we respond he draws us closer to him. You find joy in bringing him praise. You bring him praise when you choose hope over despair.
Life can be despairing and difficult. Circumstances surprise us. Situations shake and seem to overtake us.
Can you stand unafraid when your earth gives way? Can you trust God to open the doors that are meant to open? Can you trust him so that you stand unmoved? When hopelessness persecutes, can you stand on the solid rock and say, “I stand with God and I will not be moved.”
One secret in times of hopelessness is the truth that we win. Whether in life or death, when our lives are secure in Christ’s salvation, we win. It’s not about praying for victory, but it’s about praising God for the victory.
That doesn’t mean that your circumstances are going to magically change because you’re standing in the victory of Jesus. It means that your spirit is secure in him, no matter what it is you’re suffering.
Can you give all for love’s true name? When faced with desperation, we automatically lean toward running from the difficulty. But as new creatures in Christ, our minds are in the process of renewal. Our default of hiding during difficult times transforms into standing firm on the Solid Rock, with our eyes fixed securely on the One who leads us on and through and upward and forwards.
Come What May
Always guiding us, always with us, always loving us. Always providing rest when we need it. Giving us the tools we need to stand firm in the face of the storm. Faith to believe that he doesn’t leave us floundering, but gives us the wherewithal to stand. Stand in him. Stand with him. Suffer for him. Suffer because of him.
Our joy and hope is found in him. He is our everything. Come what may. Will you obey? Will you find your joy in bringing him praise?
You do this when you fix your confident hope on the living God. Turn to, rely on, and trust in God. Say yes to him more than you say no. Stop fighting your difficulties and ask God to redeem your pain into beauty.
He may not calm your external storm, but when you fix your hope on God, he does calm the storm that rages within you.
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.For to this end we toil and strive,because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:8-10 (ESV)
Hopelessness is barren and covered in destruction. It appears as though nothing can grow. Hopelessness strips us of growth, it destroys life, and it leaves barrenness in its wake. It appears as if all is lost.
Call me an incurable optimist, but even when all seems lost and hope has vanished, I look for the positive. Sometimes I have to dig in the muck and mire. At times, I search and search, but eventually I find treasure. And you can too.
Our hopelessness doesn’t have to define us. God can use the circumstances in our life to refine us if we allow him to draw us near, open our eyes, and hear what he has to say.
Turn to God instead of away from God.
When trials come, do you have a tendency to blame God, run away from God, or turn to God? Sometimes I go through the process of all three. The mentality: “I’m a child of God, no troubles should befall me,” gets stuck in our head and when trials come, we stomp our feet and cry, “Why?” Or we run away from God and wait out the trial behind busyness or religious duties. The best response is to turn to God. Ask him your questions, seek him for answers, and choose to trust him.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)
Our perspective for the purpose of trials needs refining. Trust God. He doesn’t waste a hurt, ever. At times that is hard to believe because the devastation we feel is so overwhelming. How can we trust God if he allows so much hurt? is a question that can roll through our minds. When that question plagues me, I remember the cross. I remember what Jesus experienced and know that redemption came through pain.
When we stand strong in the face of our pain, God redeems it and allows our faith to be strengthened by it. We exchange our hopelessness for hope when we set our hope on him, and not on ourselves or whatever vices we turn to when we feel devastated by life.
Rely on God. Self-sufficiency and a stiff-upper lip are positive traits until they’re not. And they’re not when we try and go through this life in our own strength. If we can exchange our self-sufficiency for God’s sufficiency and that stiff-upper lip for eyes fixed on God, we begin to rely on God. He guides us, molds us, and directs us. We simply must respond by a letting go of our own abilities and strength and exchange it for competency in his ability to rescue and renew us.
Set your hope on God that he will deliver you again. He does deliver. Take a moment to remember and remind yourself of how God rescues you.
I’ve battled with anger issues off and on throughout my life, and underneath the anger lies shame. I’m ashamed when my temper gets the better of me. I’m ashamed at the words that fly out of my mouth that do more damage than a club. Words wound in ways that destroy the essence of a person. I battle anger and I battle shame.
We screw up or we make life-altering wrong choices. We doubt Jesus’ blood can truly clean our past. Anger rules us. Our enemy uses shame to keep us locked in a pit of hopelessness.
How do we get out of that pit? How do we exchange shame induced hopelessness for redeeming hope? By not letting the enemy win. By not letting shame rule your decisions or dictate your actions. Let the shame you feel guide you to the redemption Christ offers.
The First Reason
Shame indicates two things: an attack of the enemy or an issue that hasn’t been dealt with. The enemy deals with generalities and the Holy Spirit deals with specifics. When you experience overall shame and condemnation, the enemy is preventing you from knowing hope. Stand firm in God and resist the devil by speaking truth over yourself. Say, “Jesus’ blood redeems me, in his name I’ve confessed my sin and I stand forgiven. God chooses me. God makes me victorious and nothing can prevail against the God’s love for me and in me.”
The Second Reason
The second problem is a little bit more nuanced. Often when shame lingers over a particular incidence, we have a forgiveness problem. Many of us are quick to ask God for forgiveness and he grants it to us. (1 John 1:9). Often we will go to the person we’ve wronged and seek their forgiveness and whether they grant it to us is between them and God, but we’ve done our part. Whatkeeps us trapped in shame is when we don’t forgive ourselves.
If God has forgiven you, why can’t you forgive yourself? God doesn’t treat us with “three strikes and you’re out” so why do we treat ourselves that way? If you’ve said something you’ve regretted and you’ve made it right with God, make it right with yourself. When you refuse to forgive yourself, you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness.
When you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness, you rob yourself of hope. And when you struggle through, you find your way to hope.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5
When we wrestle through the suffering we build endurance. Endurance builds our character because we don’t give in to the easy way out of living in shame, but we battle through to victory over shame. Character produces hope because we’re changed from the inside out. Hope is an outward projection of belief and trust. And hope doesn’t shame us. Why?
Because of God’s love poured out into your heart through the Holy Spirit.
It’s God’s love that starts and ends it all, draws us to himself, and makes a way for redeeming forgiveness. That love resides in us. And when his love is flowing through us and out of us, shame has no place. Hope does.
Hope in God and rest in the confidence that he brings. You are forgiven. Your past is redeemed. Your love is God’s love.
Memorize Romans 5:2-5
Consider anything you haven’t forgiven yourself for and receive God’s forgiveness by forgiving yourself.
The New Year arrives and we hope and pray that it contains ease and blessings, but what if it brings you troubles? Do you think you aren’t blessed? Do you doubt God’s goodness? Do you decide hoping isn’t safe?
We think if we can scoot through life with minimal trouble, our lives are blessed. We wrongly judge another by the amount of trouble they face. And we judge ourselves by how much trouble we face. And often we determine our lives are lacking or wanting for more because we can’t see the hope that troubles potentially bring to our lives.
Hope is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is a person, a feeling, or a thing. Hope as a verb means to look forward to with reasonable confidence, to believe, desire, and trust. Hope is action, it’s sustaining, and life-giving. It’s tangible and at times out of reach.
When I use my circumstances as a litmus test for hope, I feel like a pendulum swinging. Hopeful. . . hopeless. . . hopeful. . . hope-maybe? It’s exhausting and disheartening. If I were to look at merely my circumstances for hope, I would miss out on some wonderful blessings and teachings that my troubles bring me.
Hosea 2:15: “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”
In this passage, God is planning on drawing his people to him. They have forgotten him and in his heartache he chooses to run towards them instead of from them. His mercy causes him to draw them near rather than rejecting them. And he uses the desert and troubles to do so.
The Israelites lost their first love. We can relate. It’s easy to forget the hope we had when we were first set free. The troubles of life, the cares of this world and the battle between our flesh and our spirit weigh on us. When we turn to performance and works for hope we lay burdens on ourselves, rather than resting in grace and abiding in Christ.
We look for our hope in blessings and our effort. But hope is Jesus (noun) and it’s trust (verb). Hope takes us from despair to belief when we take our eyes off ourselves and our troubles and onto the God who is within us and who guides us through our troubles.
In our safety conscious world, we think of trouble as bad. But really? Sometimes it’s your door to hope. Placed secure in God’s hands, our troubles become blessings.
They become blessings because they become the catalyst that draws us nearer to God. Troubles often produce a humble heart because we cannot affect change in our own strength. The Valley of Achor becomes the doorway to hope because God gives us eyes to see and ears to hear his will, his way, and his voice.
This New Year is fresh with promise. It’s filled with the promise of God’s presence: his hope, his love, and his joy. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to look at your valley with fresh eyes. Eyes to see God within it, pointing the way through it, and bringing beauty from it. You can look back on your troubles and see them for what they were: the doorway in which you moved closer to God.
Our greatest times of growth are often in the valley where we feel the rain and the wind and the storms. At times, fire sweeps through, and then new growth comes and our hearts become this beautiful landscape of beauty. Fresh green shoots look brighter on a deep black background.
Think of the testimony you become when you allow God to lead you to the desert place so that your trouble becomes a door to Hope. Your troubles become the way you meet God intimately. And guess what? You don’t have to wait until you have a major trouble to know this kind of hope. All of life is filled with daily little troubles. Don’t dismiss the small things. Let the small troubles teach you hope so that when you face the big ones, you’re ready to receive the blessings God has for you on the other side.
The New Year is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The snow covers everything brown, at least in my neck of the woods. It sparkles in the sunlight. The coyotes have left their mark. The little sparrows leave charming tracks. And then there’s me–frozen in indecision–do I really want to mar the beauty? What if I take a wrong step? What if my snow angel ends up unrecognizable because I’m a klutz hauling myself to an upright position?
That fresh new year use to find me creating a long list of resolution. But I stopped making resolutions years ago. I couldn’t take the discouragement January 15 brought when I looked back and saw the mess I’d made out of the New Year. There were no cute paths or snow angels, but a chaotic effort at creating change.
I appreciate all the tools out there to help set goals rather than resolutions, but I still struggle. I adore planners–to look at–not implement. I’m still looking for the perfect system that will help me corral all my thoughts and hopes and dreams and what I actually need to do in my actual life.
Psalm 33:17-18: “The war horse is false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
A fully trained warhorse in medieval times was able to carry a fully armored knight, respond to the legs of a rider rather than relying on the reigns, and bite and kick on command. In our times of modern weaponry, the idea of using a horse for war is incomprehensible, but they were part of the valuable team of horse and rider. A knight could not have accomplished what he did without his partner, the war horse.
You can imagine with me the deep reliance a knight or solder had on his horse. And how easy it would be to place their hope in this well-trained animal. One would feel invincible.
Sometimes, our systems and goals become our war horse. We begin to rely on the plans we have in place to carry us through. And plans, goals, and systems are good things, and we should discover what works for us so that we can fully step into God’s purpose for us. But those systems won’t save us. They cannot rescue us.
God can. Our hope needs to be placed in his steadfast love rather than our resolutions. Only his love can keep us secure when our plans fall down or a storm erupts in our life. Build your systems, but place your hope in God.
It is good and right to make plans. But when we turn to our goals to control our life, we have placed hope in the very thing that will disappoint us. Our goals then become a source of discouragement because goals cannot rescue us. Goals guide us because they become a tool that God uses to bring about his plans for our life.
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
1. Consider what’s going on in your life: are you caring for aging parents? raising a young family? juggling ministry and vocation? Your real life affects your goals.
2. Pray and seek God for his direction.
3. Choose 1 or 2 goals to work towards rather than half a dozen. It’s so tempting to wake up January 1 and decide that your life needs a revolution. And for some, this might be the year for that, but for other’s the revolution comes about in one small step at at time.
4. Make your plans, but let go. Let God establish you. Place your hope in him and not your effort.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!