Do you know people who can remain hopeful even when the world is falling apart around them? And I’m not talking about the kind of hope characterized by plain old denial. Unfortunately, that’s usually the kind of hope I brandish, refusing to deal with a situation until I absolutely must, ignoring it until it becomes undeniable. After all, it’s a lot easier to live in denial than it is to actually face your troubles, confidently believing that everything will work out.
But is that real hope?
I guess to find out what real hope is we need to find out where it comes from.
If you listen to the message coming out of the world and the opinons in television shows and movies, hope comes from some ethereal belief in the human spirit. Or from following your heart. Or from believing in the general goodness of Mankind. And everyone knows that’s a bunch of bologna. Well, maybe not everyone knows . . . . but if they’d really think about it, they would.
What good does the human spirit do, other than get us and others in trouble? What hope can you derive from your heart when it’s often what causes the problem to begin with? And is Mankind really good? Not in my limited experience. On occasion we do kind things, but does that kindness come from us or from somewhere else?
So what is the source of hope? That answer, I believe, is found in today’s verse.
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is the source of hope.
I know I say it all the time, but it’s true: God knows everything. He knows what happened in the past. He knows what will happen in the near future. He knows what will happen in the far future. And so who else better to help us through today that Someone who already knows what it will bring? Someone who already helped us survive yesterday?
This is a terrible example, but it’s the only one I can think of until my coffee kicks in. In March 2010, I went to visit my incredible, awesome friends Jim, Shelley, Jonah and Silas Dinsmore in Guatemala. Originally, I had hoped other people could go with me, but the way everything worked out I was going by myself. Oddly enough, however, I wasn’t concerned. Plenty of other people were concerned with me travelling internationally for the first time by myself, but I wasn’t. Why? Well, Jim had given me clear instructions on how to navigate the Guatemalan airport, even down to giving me Spanish phrases to use if I got in trouble. And I had his cell phone number.
I know there was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. Looking back on it now, there were LOTS of opportunities for something to go wrong. And I’m certainly not saying that Jim knew what would happen. But he knows Guatemala. He knows the people. He knows the culture. He knows the airport. He knows the airlines. And I trusted he knew what he was talking about, and on account of that trust I didn’t worry about my trip down or my trip back home. I had hope that everything would work out just fine because Jim had given me instructions and I had followed them.
What would have happened if I decided that Jim was just faking when he gave me directions on how to navigate the Guatemala City airport? What would have happened if I hadn’t taken him seriously and tried to talk to a child in Guatemala City (very bad things would probably have happened, just so you know)? What would have happened if I didn’t bring the medicine or the supplies Jim told me I needed?
Disaster. The trip would have been a bust. I would have spent all my time miserable or terrified or lost or struggling to make do, unprepared, unhappy and unfocused.
Does that sound like us in life?
God is the source of our hope because He knows what has come and gone, and He knows what is coming, and He has given us instructions not only on how to face it but how to overcome it. If we really believe that God knows everything, we need to take Him at His Word and do what He has told us to do. We need to follow His instructions (the Bible) and live the way we’re supposed to live.
If we really believe that He knows everything, we need to trust Him.
And when we trust Him completely, the automatic, instantaneous result is peace and joy, followed by hope. Real hope. Confident hope. Not the fake smiles and “I’m fine” sort of hope that gets people to leave you alone but turns your hair gray. Hope that lets you see no matter how difficult a situation might be God is in it.
That’s the kind of hope I need. That’s the kind of hope I can have if I trust God truly. It’s the kind of hope the world needs too, especially now in this time of economic crisis and natural disasters. We absolutely can’t understand everything, but God can. When I’m in a situation that’s too big for me, I usually default to people who know more than I do (in algebra, I always took my brother’s word for everything; I still do).
I could struggle through life on my own understanding, but why? My own understanding is limited and claiming that I comprehend why bad things happen to good people is nothing but pride on my part. Pride hurts me, it hurts people around me, and it does absolutely nothing to accomplish what God left me here to do.
Trusting God to resolve a problem is a lot harder than denying it exists — but trusting God works better. Because if you’re so busy trying to figure out why God has done the things He’s done or allowed the things to happen that have happened, you’ll very likely miss the point of why it happened in the first place.