When I first learned that I was to write an article for October, I remember feeling excited and hopeful. Surely, we would be past COVID by then. I envisioned that the article would be full of how we had gotten through this terrible pandemic together. My hope was in the pandemic being over.
But we all know what really happened…August and September came bringing increased numbers of COVID cases. Along with those cases also came more fear, disappointment, isolation, loneliness, depression and confusion to name just a few. My heart cries out like the psalmist,
“Lord how long? Save me, O Lord, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper, I sink into the mire. I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep waters and the deep waters overwhelm me.”
I imagine that many of you can relate to the desperation that the psalmist expressed. Or perhaps some of you have gotten to the point where you feel nothing. You have become numb as a way to deal with the onslaught of continual, confusing news. I am so grateful for the songs of lament in Psalms because they give us permission and a model in which we can come to God honestly and express our hearts.
In fact, there are more psalms of lament than there are any other type of psalm. This is an indication of the importance of reading and using these psalms to help us identify and move into and through our emotions.
How can we as people of faith struggle with harsh, seemingly unchanging reality and not lose hope? Thankfully we have an ancient text that gives us some great stories of God’s faithfulness to His people and how He delivered them as a people time and time again. He delivered the children of Israel out of bondage from the Egyptians and He led and guided them through the wilderness into the promised land. Just as the children of Israel traveled with a hope for something better, we too travel day by day with an eternal hope that is built in our hearts for something more.
God has put the hope and promise of something more in all our hearts… that longing cannot be fully met here on earth, but is a foreshadowing of what we will experience one day. He promises us a future and a hope. He promises to lead us into the promised land one day in the future and today in the here and now. We live in the “in between times”. We live after the first coming of Christ and we anticipate Him coming again.
To quote an entire paragraph from Dan Allender,
“Hope focuses not on circumstances, but on Christ’s coming and the redemption of our character. If my hope is centered on getting a new job, or being healed from an illness, then I have given my heart to something that is material and tangible. My heart will never become bigger than that in which or whom I hope. But when my hope is centered on the coming of redemption, I begin to take on His glory. As I become more and more molded by the far future, the now becomes more bitter and sweet. Bitter in that it is not enough, sweet in its foretaste of what lies ahead.”
So, what is Biblical hope? Biblical hope is different from what most understand hope to be. We hope that our team wins the game Saturday, we hope that it doesn’t rain on the weekend we are going camping. Those are more wishes and desires than hope, at least in the Biblical sense. Hope is confident expectation. Hope is the firm assurance regarding things that are unclear, unknown and invisible. We need not have hope for things that we can see, things that have already come to fruition.
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”Romans 8:24-25
There is anticipation in hope for the future and even hope in today. It is seeing our future and the future of those we love from the faithfulness of the past. We see how God has redeemed His people time and time again. He invites us to be part of redeeming this time in history in which we live. We can join Him by becoming who He has called us to become and answering His particular calling on your life.
Just for a moment, reflect on what stirs your heart… what gives you purpose and meaning? That is part of the mark of God on you. Maybe you like to make things, like to problem solve, like to reflect on beauty, love music, love exercise, like writing stories… all of those are part of God’s glory in you. You can bring those gifts into the world and those gifts provide some hope in the world today and give us a glimpse of what the glory in the future will be.
Hope is just like anything else in our life we want to grow. It needs daily attention; it needs the proper nutrition and environment to grow. We get to practice hope as we realize every day that we can look for hope in the day, and we can also bring the wonderful gift of hope to others we come in contact with in our corner of the world.
Never underestimate the power of a smile, a friendly exchange with someone as you go about the tasks of your day. The best way we can bring hope to the world is by loving God and loving others. Hope invites us to live for the future by pouring out ourselves for something bigger than ourselves. Hope is not the change of circumstances, but the confidence that our lives will be changed more and more into His likeness.
Christy Holding, LPC is a long time resident of Montgomery. She is a graduate of Trinity Presbyterian School. She received her undergraduate degree at Liberty University in 1976 and obtained her master’s degree in Counseling from Georgia State University in 1984. She graduated a BS in nursing in 1996 and has worked in hospice dealing with grief and loss. Christy’s practice at The Samaritan Counseling Center is primarily with those struggling with depression, anxiety disorders, and self-harming behaviors including eating disorders. Christy has a passion to see people walk in wholeness and freedom and experience the life they were created to live.