Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this update, in order to see important announcements, including 10 days of prayer effort beginning this evening, and a hike to a waterfall on Sabbath afternoon!
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
The intangible, invisible concepts of hope vs. despair have a tremendous effect on our lives: whichever we bring to the forefront of our minds will determine whether we look to the future with confidence and optimism or angst & gloom, expecting defeat. Some would say that, to lose everything, but still have hope, means one is not defeated yet. On the other hand, someone having hope in something practically impossible (such as winning the lottery to solve one’s debt problems) could be called one of the most pitiable (or, alternatively, repugnant) situations to be in, and philosophy to deal with it.
Having just come through New Year’s day, we have seen our society swell with hope & optimism. It is undoubtedly a good feeling to have! But how much does it jive with reality? Inevitably, those hopes have to come into line with our actual situation: which is still much as it was in 2020 & 2021. We still have our same health issues, relationship issues, money issues, political issues, etc. We’ve got to deal with them: and the empty prospect of “the new year’s gonna be great!” won’t get us there.
So, is despair the only alternative? What a gloomy prospect that is! Just looking over into the abyss of cynicism & pessimism makes me shudder. I don’t want naïve, cock-eyed optimism or defeat and despair! We need a third option.
I would argue that more important than the feeling/optimism of hope is the object of that hope. I can put my hope in a grilled-cheese sandwich, but if there’s no chance it can improve my circumstance (other than experiencing a delicious moment) that hope isn’t worth much.
That’s why, rather than clinging to ‘hope’ for ‘hope’s sake, we cling to Jesus, the one who has already shown us by overcoming all obstacles beyond the fathomable, that He is worthy of having our hope placed in Him!
Jesus is the One who is able to make any circumstance, no matter how seemingly impossible, resolve in a remarkable, surprising way! Though obviously not a ‘genie’ who simply grants us our wishes, Jesus is much better than that: giving us that which we would ask for ourselves if we could see from His perspective: the end from the beginning (see Steps to Christ p. 96 for some more development on this concept).
Dear friends: if our hope is rooted in Jesus: if our identity is founded in Him, and our future is united in Him, then there is no earthly circumstance that can rob that fundamental optimism that comes from that! As the Apostle Paul says in 2nd Corinthians ch. 4: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—" (vv. 8-9)
Just think of how hard a time the apostles had, friends. Furthermore, consider the hardships of the prophets before them, the Protestant reformers after them, and persecuted Christians in various places around the world today. Yet God/Christ is their refuge! Their fortress! Day-in and day-out they did/do not give up hope. For, as the Psalmist says: You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:104.
Friends, I hope and pray for a wonderful year 2022 for you and your families. But I know that, externally, it will continue to be affected by this sinful world. My central prayer is that internally you would know & be known by the One from whom we have all things, and to whom we are destined to be with in glory. May that hope, centrally locked in the core of your outlook, buoy and motivate us through any and all of life’s storms.
Pr. Mark Tatum