Do you feel it pulsing just beneath the surface? The panic, the anxiety, the sense that everything is wrong and you don’t know how to fix it? The growing, suffocating, crushing weight? Sure, it can be covered up with cheerfulness, laughter and the obligatory “I’m doing just fine, thanks.” But that only masks the problem. It’s still there, simmering, waiting to bubble up and grip your heart in its icy fingers. You know it’s there. And you have no idea what to do about it.
I recently ordered a license plate frame for my car. The message on it states “There is Hope for you. Don’t give up.” Not real flashy, not overly spiritual, but for me this message triggers something deep and primal. I think this is because, for so many of us, hope is a very small thing: it feels intangible, distant and almost ethereal when compared to the very real issues piling up all around us. The problems could be something as small as an overloaded week or as large as not knowing how you’re going to make your house payment. It could be thoughts that you know aren’t true but still they’re there, or it could be wondering if you’re heading for divorce. It could be a cold. Or it could be cancer. It doesn’t matter: they can all overwhelm and overcome us. In the real world, how can such a frail thing as hope survive against such adversaries?
But perhaps hope is more than our fears have made it out to be. Or maybe it’s really just a matter of where the hope comes from.
We live in a materialistic culture that prizes what we can see and feel and experience. I mean this in the sense of the “materialism” worldview, i.e. the belief system that acknowledges only things that we can interact with, that are here in front of us, that we can measure and touch. Now, chances are most of the people reading this espouse that there are things beyond this material realm, but no matter your beliefs I guarantee that if you live in the Western world you have been affected by the mindset of materialism. When you’re sick you rely on the doctor. To do something better you rely on the newest technology. When you’re feeling down you go to the mall or watch a movie or take to social networks to air your frustrations. It’s all around us all the time, and it’s only natural that after a while we’d come to be influenced by it. But what about when those things fail? What about when physical things, even people, are no longer enough? What about when life breaks and starts falling to pieces? Then we start losing trust. We start losing faith. And we start losing hope. Not only in the material world we live in, but in the God who we assume has left us to our own devices.
But the thing is, God never left us. He was there all along. We were just too busy to notice.
Job had lost everything. His wealth had been destroyed. His children were dead. His wife had, for all intents and purposes, left him. His body was sick and festering. His friends were accusing him, calling him a liar and fraud. He didn’t understand why this had happened to him, and he was delirious with grief. The consensus was that God had done this to him, and that God had abandoned him. But even then, Job said “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) Job went through incalculable loss, but even in his deepest bitterness and despair he believed that God would show Himself strong on his behalf. And in the end, what happened? Job audibly conversed with God. He experienced the unfathomable. And then everything that he had lost was replaced, and more besides. And the latter days of Job were better than the former.
Last Fall I found a lump under my arm. Not just a small lump, mind you, but one that seemed to me about the size of a sand dollar. I named it “Nebraska”, because it was about as big. This was not the start of some of the most trying months of my life, but it certainly is a good breaking-in point. My body was wracked with coughing, and I was consumed with an itching that overtook every inch of my skin. It got to the point that my whole body was bleeding and bruised from the itching, and I started throwing up regularly because I was coughing so hard. I lost a lot of weight. I then began to get fevers several times a day, which at least gave me a chance to sleep. Finally I was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I won’t deny it, I had a few dark times during those months. But I never lost hope in my God, my Healer. And He has met me where I am. I am not through yet, but since beginning chemo therapy my only side effect has been fatigue. All of my previous problems have evaporated, and I have not undergone any of the trials that I am supposed to during chemo. When asked what is going on I can only point to God because what I have been experiencing doesn’t make any natural sense. And God has used this time to touch lives — lives that I would never have reached otherwise. He has answered my hope. And He will answer yours.
May I exhort you with something? Dare to hope. Dare to believe against all materialistic reason in a God who still works in the world today. Dare to have faith in a man who died over 2,000 years ago and then rose again to live forever. Dare to trust in something besides the things we can see and touch, and trust in the unseen Creator of the entire cosmos. It is not too late for you. It is not too late for your family. No matter how dark your world looks, He can shine light and banish your nightmare. No matter how hopeless, He can restore and make all things new. No matter how big your problems, hope can be bigger if it’s in the right Person. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Psalms 20:7-8)
There is Hope for you. Don’t give up.