How to Take Heart and Find the Best Hope Ever
Yep, we’re going to be the first family to not survive middle school. It will be us. We’re not going to find time for homework, much less the dreaded science fair project. . . . Isn’t that like us to think the worst, especially about harder things in life? How can we take heart and find hope when we face difficult circumstances?
Last week, I attended a middle school orientation. Hundreds of parents filled the bleachers of the school that will educate their independence-seeking 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The principal told us these years would be exciting. He said it again, and again. Probably a dozen times. Soon exciting became a euphemism for torturous, dreadful, insurmountable.
Earlier start hours. More challenging academics.
I walked to my car convinced we would be the only family in the history of the school district to not survive middle school. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has nothing on us. All those hundreds of families? Their kids will excel in math and rock the dreaded science fair project. We, on the other hand, will be the first to not find time for homework, much less figure out how to test a hypothesis and make a poster presentation. How many times can we be tardy until they get in-school suspension?
I laughed at myself and my catastrophizing.
But isn’t this like us in more serious situations, too? When our kids are struggling, a relationship goes south, or the diagnosis we were dreading becomes reality, it is very hard to step back and see beyond the current circumstances. Even a bad argument can throw me for a loop.
Then we catastrophize, which only makes things worse: We become convinced that our kids are headed to prison, we will never have a friend again, and it’s time to plan our funeral.
In all seriousness, these situations can be incredibly painful. Sometimes life is agonizing and we tumble down a spiral, for in the back of our minds we know that the very worst really can happen. In these dark times, it is healthy to acknowledge the pain and cry out to God.
When we do, we will find that Jesus gives us the best hope ever and a peace that transcends any human understanding.
Shortly before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus told His disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
What does that mean, and how can it help us take heart?
Jesus spoke those words on a Thursday night, the one we call Maundy. Less than 24 hours later, He would be hanging on a tree, writhing in pain as He heaved for every breath, His flogged, wounded back scraping up and down against the rough wood.
How He held Himself to that cross on our behalf is beyond my comprehension, but this part I know: Jesus saw the bigger picture. He knew the plan that had been formed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). From our Good Friday Tenebrae Service, The Seven Last Words:
Yet there is goodness
There is a cure for sin
a cure that does not promise magical solutions
but promises that the pain of sin is not the end,
that when all this is over
when the suffering is finished
that the final word is not torture and defeat
but life — life springing out of the ashes
life transformed and fulfilled in Paradise.
Our pain is real. At times, it is excruciating. Unlike our Savior, we cannot always see the life at the end of the tunnel. We gasp and heave.
Eventually, we cry out to God: “Where are you? Why are you letting me go through this?”
Jesus tenderly answers:
“Fix your eyes on me. Let me handle your burdens, your grief. When the earth seems to be giving way, remember that your hope is in heaven. It is the very best kind of hope. Because you didn’t earn it. You can’t. But I did. I did it all for you. Take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 46, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 16:33)
Your story does not end with the problem child, the failed relationship, or whatever you are facing today. Jesus redeems it all, uses it all. Your story continues on in the loving arms of Jesus, in His unfailing grace.
As we wrestle with our anxieties and difficult circumstances, we can take heart that this earth is not our home. One day, we will find complete peace in the eternal presence of Jesus. In the meantime, this side of heaven, as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we can trust that He gives us the very best hope, a hope that is not dependent on current circumstances but on His work done on the cross.
He has overcome the world.
So I am looking ahead to an exciting first year of middle school. Maybe we will thrive after all. . . . How many tardies are we allowed again?
Over what in your life do you need to remind yourself that there is hope? Be sure to dig into God’s Word with us in today’s reading, followed by questions to reflect on today and throughout the week.
Digging into God’s Word: Take Heart and Find the Best Hope Ever
Let these words from the Bible encourage you to see beyond your current circumstances to our true and lasting hope. I encourage you to read all of Romans 8. For your convenience, portions of this power-packed chapter are included here.
Portions of Romans 8 (ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Digging Deeper: Take Heart and Find the Best Hope Ever
Treasure this time with the Lord. Reflect on or journal about the following questions, listening for what God has to say to you.
1. Look back at Romans 8, printed above or in your own Bible. Which verses give you hope for your current circumstances? Write them down to refer to throughout your week. Thank God for giving you hope that is lasting.
2. If you typically see the worst in a situation or can’t see your way out, consider what steps you can take to remind yourself of the hope you have in Jesus when you are going through tough times. What does it mean to you to learn that the Bible calls Jesus “our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1)?
3. Ask God to help you take heart, to show you reasons to have hope. He will hear your prayers and is faithful to see you through.
4. Remind yourself of the sure hope you have in Jesus by worshiping with these songs. Choose one or all of the songs to listen to, or come back to these songs throughout the week.
Jesus Christ Is Risen Today! (in honor of Easter)
Because He Lives (Amen, Matt Maher)
Forever (We Sing Hallelujiah, Kari Jobe)
Find the Series
You can find the entire series on Hope here: Hope Springs Eternal
Click these links for a few favorites from this series:
Free Printable on Psalm 103!
A few weeks ago, we finished a series on Leaving a Legacy, which focused on living out the characteristics that God models for us in Psalm 103. For a printable on What Psalm 103 Tells Us About God, click this link:
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