Do you ever look at the Lord through the eyes of disappointment? Do you feel like you have been walking across a suspension bridge of faith that keeps getting longer and longer when you thought you only had a few more steps to go? You know what God promised is at the end of the bridge but you are struggling with every step to keep from looking down into the chasm of doubt and despair; the wind of impatience is trying to knock you off as the only thing shakier than the handrails which can’t seem to hold your grip is your nerves. Even if you remind yourself that you have to walk in faith most days it’s all you can do to hold on and stand still, let alone move forward. Though you can’t see how much farther there is to go, you can’t turn back as you don’t want all of your efforts thus far to be wasted. You are scared that if your fears cause your knees to buckle you might slip and fall and not recover.
Certainly it takes patience and diligence to walk across a suspension bridge and faith is a must but what else might be needed to make it to the other side? Provided you keep your head up and your focus in the right direction then the reward for making it across will be worth every price paid to cross it. But what happens if your legs of faith start limping and you see no one around to help you and spur you on? After all, you’ve tried walking across this bridge before and though you’ve come farther this time, you are still tempted to turn around and go back to seemingly more secure ground. So many times you tried this only to see your efforts end in shame and disappointment as you stopped trusting God to see you through and do what He promised. Your double mind left you unstable in all efforts to receive His promises and you feel even more ashamed for having tried. What is it that can propel you beyond your doubts and encourage you to keep trying?
I would argue that one major key is hope and having a proper understanding of what hope is. Solomon warns us that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12) And since the soundness of the heart is the life of the flesh, a lack of hope can therefore make us physically sick. (Proverbs 14:30) So what exactly is hope and why is it so important? As Chip Ingram notes, to many hope is basically wishful thinking. In America, we often tell strangers and friends upon parting, “I hope you have a nice day.” Or we say, “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. It would ruin the game.” What we are really doing is wishing someone well or wishing for something not to happen. But this is not hope according to the Bible. Hope is more than just wishing. You can wish all day long that God will heal you but wishing is not enough. Hope is an anchor- something that keeps us from drifting from God and the truth of His Word and Who He is:
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6: 17-20)
In this passage we see that the hope set before us is based on immutable (something that is not susceptible to change) things, including that God cannot lie, and Jesus who paid the price for us to have access to God. (There is a lot that could be said about this passage but I want to focus on how it relates to hope.) Since hope is an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, it is not a wish for things to get better. It is far more -something that is immovable, reliable, constant. Why? Because it is based on things that cannot be changed. Look at the above passage again and the things mentioned that can’t be changed: the immutability of God’s counsel, an oath God made, the impossibility of God lying, the sacrifice of Jesus and the blood He shed providing us access to God. These things can’t be changed whether you choose to believe them or not.
So how do you cause your flesh to rest in hope as Psalm 16:9 says? Hope is often thought of as something exciting as if we are almost restless with anticipation, expectant for something to happen at any moment. Indeed, my definition of hope is: A constant and unwavering expectation that God is Who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. Solomon again provides encouragement in this regard: “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.” (Proverbs 10:28) But what about when your hope is deferred and your flesh isn’t at rest? What about when you are so troubled you can’t seem to find rest anywhere? Is there any point in trying to hope for things to get better? Is there any point in trying to walk one more step of faith across the bridge? What if your faith is more suspended than the bridge you are trying to walk across? If your senses, feelings, and own thoughts overwhelm you to the point of paralysis or retreat? Why try and hope again when God seemed to fail you last time? Can you really find the strength to encourage yourself to hope in God when your soul is cast down and disquieted within you? (Psalm 42:11)
If you spend all of your time focusing on what you are desperate for or desire and not on the One Who can meet the need, how can you have hope? In other words, if all you are cognizant of is what you are without, how can you focus on Who and all you have? With a wrong focus your feelings start to overtake your reason and what you know to be true- that God is faithful. For if all you focus on is what you are without, you will become ever more desperate and despondent. You may then start to question God’s willingness and motivations, not to even mention His timing. You ask yourself why He seems to be withholding what you desperately desire or need. How can you believe God will move on your behalf if you believe that He is withholding His goodness and promises from you and you can’t seem to receive them no matter what you do or how hard you try? What are you to do if the path seems unclear as the storm clouds of confusion and the uncertainty of God’s timing seem to swirl around your head? I will address these questions in my next post.