The Most Difficult Lesson for Christians To Learn (Psalm 119:114)
As Christians we are not immune to grief, disappointment, or discouragement. Like anyone else, we lose loved ones, miss out on promotions, suffer through divorces, struggle with children who rebel, get buried in debt, and generally experience the kinds of pain that often characterize life in a fallen world. Because of this, it is not uncommon for even the most committed believers to feel as if God has deserted them and lose hope, to shake their fists at God and cry out, “Why?”
Turning from God because He allows bad things to happen to good people is a mistake. The reason Christians sometimes experience grief, disappointment, and discouragement can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. This being the case, we can and should expect life to be difficult from time to time. That is the bad news. The good news is that because Christ lives, Christians have hope in even the most trying of times.
God does not spare us from human suffering, but He does promise to walk us through it if we turn to Him in our times of need. He will also use our suffering to bring us closer to Him and strengthen our faith. This may be the most difficult lesson Christians have to learn; one some never learn. Christians who fail to learn this hard but essential lesson often turn away from God and, in so doing, lose the only real and lasting source of help they have for overcoming the predictable struggles of life.
Those of us who learn his difficult lesson have the comfort of knowing no matter how dark our personal circumstances may seem at the moment, 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.
Hope is so powerful it 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 an invisible force that keeps us going when we feel like giving up. People who have hope can endure most anything.
The reason hope is such a powerful force, at least for Christians, is because it comes from trusting in God. Unless God is the source of your hope, you are engaging in wishful thinking not hope. For many people, particularly unbelievers, this is precisely what they do. 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.
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. This is why I can state unequivocally that God always answers prayer; but sometimes he says “no.”
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 ask God to let him win the lottery. The former hope aligns with Scripture but the latter does not. To enjoy true hope, put your trust in God and align what you hope for with Scripture.
When your world falls apart and you are mired in despair, 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 to understand how God used certain events, tragedies, and setbacks in your life. But if you trust in God, it is enough to know He will use the troubles you face for good. This is why you can have hope in even the darkest circumstances.
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