A Christmas Message: Because He Lives, We Have Hope - Even in Our Darkest Hours (Psalm 119:114)
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
This is the season when we celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world: the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His birth, death, and resurrection transformed the world forever. One of the many blessings that accompanied the birth of Jesus was the gift of hope for flawed people living in a fallen world. Because he lives, you and I have hope. No matter how dark our personal circumstances may seem at any given point in time, we know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is Jesus Christ.
When you walk with the Lord, you walk in hope. To hope is to look forward to a better future and trust that it will occur. Hope is one of the most powerful forces known to man. It’s an intangible concept that can produce tangible results. In fact, hope can be the difference between life and death. People have survived grueling ordeals, major injuries, and serious illnesses because they had hope, while others in the same situation have died because they lost hope. Hope is that invisible force that keeps us going when we feel like giving up. People can endure most anything as long as they have hope.
The reason hope is such a powerful force, at least for Christians, is because it comes from trusting in Jesus Christ. Unless Christ is the source of your hope, you hope in vain. For many people, particularly unbelievers, this is precisely what happens. To the secular world, hoping is synonymous with wishing. People often say they “hope” something will happen when what they really mean is they wish it would happen but don’t really expect it to. This is like the student in one of my college courses who after skipping half of the class meetings, doing little of the assigned homework, and failing the mid-term exam told me he “hoped” he would pass the course. Like others who confuse hope with wishful thinking, he was trusting to chance for a positive outcome.
For Christians, hope is something altogether different. Hope in the Biblical sense is synonymous with trust. We have hope because we trust in the Lord, and we know the Lord oversees every aspect of our lives. When our hope is based on trust in God, we don’t just wish for a certain outcome, we expect it. Instead of leaving the things we hope for to chance, we place them at the feet of Christ and trust the outcome to Him. We can trust in Christ because we know he will provide what we need, although not necessarily what we want.
I need to emphasize that last point. God provides what we need, not what we want. Christians who hope for the things of the world—a bigger house, nicer car, more money, increased power, or enhanced status—may be disappointed, even if they place their desires at the feet of Christ. Why? Because what we hope for should honor God rather than indulging selfish human desires; it should align with the teachings of Scripture. God knows your heart and He knows what you need. Therefore, you can trust Him to provide what you need.
To ask God for things that are self-centered and me-oriented is not just inappropriate, it’s a sin. It is one thing for the family of a child with cancer to ask the Lord for a complete recovery; it’s quite another for an individual to hope he will win the lottery. The former hope aligns with Scripture but the ladder does not. Place your hope in Christ, but align what you hope for with Scripture.
When your world falls apart and hope deserts you, place your burdens at the feet of Christ. Find hope in the fact that God knows what is best for you. Trust in Him and understand beforehand that any outcome decreed by God is the right outcome, even if it is not the one you hoped for. In some cases, it can take years for you to understand how and why God used certain events, tragedies, and setbacks in your life. But if you trust in God, it is enough to know that He will use the troubles you face for good. This is why you can have hope in even the darkest of circumstances.
SCRIPTURE IN ACTION: AN EXAMPLE
Let’s look at an example of how powerful hope can be. Paralyzed by shock, Darla was unable to move. She couldn’t even bring herself to get out of bed. The darkness of her bedroom was an apt metaphor for her state of mind. Darla’s spirit was crushed. When we first talked, her beloved mother had recently passed away unexpectedly. Darla found her mother on the floor of her home when she stopped by for their weekly mother-daughter breakfast. Then just two days later, Darla’s husband was killed in a tragic automobile accident. In less than a week, Darla lost the two people she loved most. To add to her misery, Darla had recently learned that a corporate restructuring might eliminate her job. In a matter of days, Darla’s world fell apart. Consumed by grief, she felt hopeless. Darla could think of no reason to go on.
After getting no response to her phone calls and text messages, Leanna—a friend from church—went to Darla’s home to check on her. When Darla did not answer the door, Leanna’s concern peaked and she decided to let herself in. Fortunately, she knew where Darla hid her spare house key. Once inside, Leanna found Darla passed out in bed and called 911. She had taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills. Darla was rushed to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
Darla was hospitalized for a week. During this time, Leanna never left her side. She listened for hours as Darla talked about her feelings of hopelessness and despair. Finally, Leanna told her, “Darla, you have been dealt a cruel blow. It’s no wonder you feel hopeless. Who wouldn’t? But there is hope. You just have to know where to look for it. Let me tell you why I know you can overcome the despair you feel.”
Leanna told Darla something she had never told anyone else in their church. When she was a young girl her parents divorced. Her mother quickly remarried but her second husband, Leanna’s new stepfather, was a brutish alcoholic. He beat her mother and when Leanna was just 14 years old, sexually abused her. Leanna was eventually taken from her mother and stepfather by child-protection authorities and put in foster care. But instead of getting better, things got worse. She was abused by her first set of foster parents and then raped by her second foster father. By the time she was an adult and could set out on her own, Leanna had been through four sets of foster parents, all of them neglectful or abusive.
Leanna told Darla that on her eighteenth birthday she walked out of her last foster home and never looked back. She had no money, nowhere to go, and was filled with fear, uncertainty, and despair. Her prospects were so dismal she wanted to die. Wandering around town, hungry and bedraggled, Leanna walked into a church to get out of the rain. That was when the hand of God reached down and touched her. Seeing Leanna’s condition, the pastor of the church and his wife took her in and cared for her.
This good couple immediately set to work restoring Leanna’s will to live. “Darla, the first thing they told me was that I need not fear any longer; I was safe. From that point on, God would be my safe haven and I would find hope in his Word. They told me that unlike my parents and foster parents, God is faithful. All I had to do to regain the desire to live was look to the Lord for the hope bad people had been taken from me. If I would do this, God would fill me with joy and peace. To make a long story short, that is exactly what happened. Darla, I am here to give you the same assurance a good man of God and his wife gave me. Let God be your shield from the ugliness of life, know that he is faithful, wait for the Lord and he will hear your prayers and fill you with joy and peace.”
With Leanna’s support and assistance, Darla recovered. She regained her will to live by looking to God for the hope that had been taken from her. The rumors of a corporate restructuring turned out to be unfounded. Darla’s job was secure, at least for the time being. But having survived her ordeal, Darla had other plans for the rest of her life. She enrolled in an online Masters Degree program in Biblical Counseling and spent her evenings after work studying. Within two years Darla completed her degree and was hired by her church as a full-time grief counselor. Now, every day she uses the lessons Leanna taught her from Scripture to help hurting people find hope in the Lord.
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE FOR YOUR DAILY WALK
To enhance your daily walk with the Lord, learn from what Leanna taught Darla. There are several important lessons in Darla’s story. The first is that the hope we need to function in a fallen world, a world that can seem dark and even cruel at times, comes only from God. In times of trouble, He is our hiding place and shield. The hope we need can be found in His Word. This is the message in Psalm 119:114 where we read, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.”
The second lesson is that unlike people, God is faithful. Darla learned that putting her trust in people would, more times than not, leave her disappointed. But if she put her trust in God, Darla would never be disappointed. She learned to hold fast to Him for the hope she needed in troubled times. This is a lesson you and I will do well to learn; a lesson that comes from Hebrews 10:23 where we read: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
In a fallen, world bad things sometimes happen to good people. Because of what occurred in the Garden of Eden, adversity is often the rule rather than the exception. Hebrews 10:23 assures us we can “hold fast” to our hope “without wavering” because God is faithful. God has a plan for each of us and it is a plan for good not bad. To internalize this assurance as part of your daily walk, think of the drowning man metaphor.
Assume you have fallen overboard at sea. Everywhere you look for miles and miles there is nothing but emptiness. It would be easy to lose hope and give up in such a situation. But if you knew help was on the way, you would have the hope needed to hold on until it arrived. That is the power of hope. It’s the same when you are drowning in grief, disappointment, or discouragement. You can hold on because help is on the way. In fact, it is right next to you. God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is standing right beside you. Reach out to Him and gain the hope you need to cope and persevere. Reach out to God through prayer and by searching His Word and you will find the hope you need to survive when life hurts.
Another lesson Leanna taught Darla is that if we look to the Lord and wait for Him, he will hear our pleas (Micah 7:7). Finally, when we are drowning in a sea of adversity, God will rescue us. This is good news indeed, but there is even better news. Not only will He rescue us, God will fill us with joy and peace through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the message in Romans 15:13 where we read: “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.”
All we have to do when life beats us down is place our burdens at the feet of Jesus Christ and He will provide the hope we need to pull ourselves back up. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows your circumstances. Consequently, God knows what you need as opposed to what you want, and will provide it if you place your hope in Him. Even when life becomes a burden, you may “abound in hope” knowing that the Lord is by your side and will walk through the darkness with you.
When you are weighed down by troubles and feel hopeless, rather than give up and quit get down on your knees and pray. Ask God to be your hiding place until the trouble passes. Ask Him to be your shield from the forces of darkness that assail you. Then search His Word for the reassurance, assistance, and hope you need to survive your ordeal. Life is seldom easy and people often let you down, but God is faithful. He will never let you down. Look to Him for hope in times of trouble and you will find it in abundance.
(Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com