Fostering a Hope worth Having
I had high hopes for 2020, didn’t you? You know, #20plenty and all that. How bitterly we can laugh at all that arrogant folly now! I had high hopes for my son’s start at High School. I had hopes for a giant leap forward in my career that included meeting with publishers in the US. Even when the Covid19 Pandemic hit, I had hoped that at least my dayjob would survive it. And in the very midst of it my husband had hoped that, after 2 months of having his business’ doors shut during lockdown he would be able to open them again in May. Our hopes thus far have not amounted to much and it seems like hope, just like patience, sanity and money, is hard to hold on to in times of uncertainty. I know many of you are in the exact same place. Hope is hard right now.
How do you deal with uncertainty? Me, I try to distract myself with jellybeans and coffee, and I try to pacify myself by trying to figure things out, running future scenarios in my head so I can feel better, feel like I am “doing” something. Searching desperately in every source of information I can find for some kind of reassurance that things are going to work out, like trying to shore up a river that’s threatening to break its banks. But all of it is actually just a frantic grasp for comfort and control. For something to put my hope in. Because without hope, the torture of uncertainty will eat you alive.
The problem is that my “strategies” present a fickle hope at best. Small hopeful snippets in today’s news cycle are quickly obliterated in the next, proving my hope false. Some days I wake up feeling like I can handle it, but that feeling soon get’s hit with the reality of our situation with the finesse of a wrecking ball.
Hope is not hope if it’s:
- Based on my circumstances or feelings
- Hinged on my ability to control outcomes (which I continue to be deluded and overconfident about)
- Or dependent on the actions and decisions of others
So I had to ask myself, do I even understand what real hope is, and where to find it?
Hope is a word we use loosely. And even now, in this season, we as believers might be making ourselves guilty of peddling half-truths about “hoping in God” when in truth we have no idea what that means and how to actually get there, with our Christianese platitudes about as useful as a jam sandwich to a drowning rabbit. So here’s is another fun truth bomb for ya:
But how? David, who lived through a lot of uncertainty, seemed to always return to an unshakeable hope. In Psalm 27, which he wrote in the midst of war and persecution, he said that what he had been going through would have made him lose hope, had he not believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (v 13). See, his hope was not a “one day pie in the skie when you die” kinda hope. He had confidence in the goodness of God in the “here and now”. He knew this: that when your everyday life feels like a battle, you need this kind of hope in the worst way.
That’s where biblical hope is different and if I’m honest, this does not come naturally to me. I never expect something good to happen. I kinda live in the “worst-case scenario” space. So how did David find this kind of hope? Because that is the kind of hope I want to have! No, that is the hope I NEED right now? How did he get there? Take out Psalm 27 and let’s take a look:
Confidence in the right place:
David’s confidence was not in his own strength, in his ability to plan and strategies his way out of his present difficulty or just white-knuckle it through. David did not seek out hope in the news reports of the day, in the outcomes he could predict or control. He said of the character of God “in this I will be confident” (v3). David’s hope in God was not a hope the way we sometimes express it, when we hope that something would happen but we are not sure if it will. For example: “I hope my sons can learn to get along/ put the toilet seat down/ not use the floor as a closet”.His hope was based on certainty because it was based on the character of God. The One who doesn’t change (Num 23 v 19). The One who loves us with an everlasting love (Jer 31 v 3) There is a certainty that comes with knowing the character of a person. David’s hope in God is not a crossing of the fingers, not a “hope for the best but expect the worst” attitude which is what I so often have. It was more a “Expect great things from God” as in the words of William Carey.
Devotion over despair:
How did he get to this place of firm confidence in God? It’s hard to have confidence in someone we don’t know. And if we relied on second hand faith on social media or the opinions of a friend with the theology degree or our experiences in the world to form for us a picture of God’s true character, we would be on shaky ground indeed. God instructed his kings to have their own copy of His word and to read it all the days of their lives (Deut 17 v18) so that in times of doubt, in times of war, in times of struggle, in times of uncertainty they would not rely on their own wisdom but on His, not rely on their own abilities, but on His. There is only one place where we can find a true revelation of God’s character and that is through His word. So this is what David did:
“When You said “Seek My Face”, my heart said to you, “Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27 v 8)
God directed David towards devotion. Away from his feelings, away from theories and opinions, and straight into the Word. For the purpose of revealing His face, His likeness, His character. Where we often go wrong as believers is that our searching of God’s word is about us, to know more about who we are, how He sees us, what He promises us, what He says about us. But if we want unshakeable confidence, a firm hope, what we need to be looking for first and foremost, is what God says about Himself.
This is the pursuit David devoted himself to even in the midst of “enemies and foes” (v2), and I am so convicted by this when I consider the things I’ve been pursuing just to “feel better” in this time. That is why David can so confidently say “I sought the Lord and He delivered me from all my fears” (Ps 34 v 4), because it’s in the seeking and the finding that our confidence in God is established.
Undeviating instead of uncertain
I find lately I deviate, between being ok with the levels of uncertainty, and then being beset with sheer panic. My grip on hope seems to hover somewhere in the margins, like those tiny spots in your peripheral vision that move every time you turn to look at them. It’s because there was actually so many “false things” I used to set my hope on – my presumptuous certainty about the future (work, plans, strategies) being 1st on the list. I was certain of it…relied on it. But David sets for me a different example; his reliance on God was even deeper and more secure than his reliance on a father or mother (v10)! In the face of uncertainty, David renounces reliance on even such certainties and rather finds certainty in what God is teaching him in his trial. And what he learns puts him on a firmer footing – a smooth, stable undeviating path through the uncertainty (v11).
God does not rescue us from uncertainty by just laying out everything that’s going to happen so we don’t have to be scared. God rescues us from uncertainty by teaching us, and that is a daily process and turning to Him for todays bread, todays light, todays grace, todays wisdom. The word in the bible for “teach” is the word YARAH, which means to point, to shoot, to direct the flow or cast something in a straight line. It is God’s word that guides us through uncertainty, with enough of whatever we need just for today. Every. Single. Day.
Through devotion and discipline a hope was fostered inside of David, not the ‘cross your fingers’ kind, but the kind that is based on a high confidence in God, a God whose love declares the best possible outcome for our circumstances, even if we can’t see it right now. And when he found that hope, he also found courage and strength respond to uncertainty so that he could preach to himself when his soul was downcast and unsettled (like mine is, and I’m sure like yours is too!), “HOPE IN GOD!” (Psalm 42 v 5)
God knows it’s scary to be us right now. He doesn’t take our tears, fears or suffering lightly. That is why He lights a path for us to find a solid hope, hope that has certainty in it. Pray for me. I am praying for you.