You’re in good company, because many of our Bible heroes when through their share. They knew what it meant to struggle, and then grab hold to hope. Because we’re human and we live in a messed up world we will live a variety of life seasons with all of their ups and downs.
David the guy that God said was a man “after my own heart” wrote over and over about longing, despair and fear, and at the same time learning to lean on and hope in God.
Psalms 42:1-11 ESV As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: "Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
If you’re in one of those seasons I want to share something that I read on Crosswalk.com written by Janna Wright that gives us four encouraging ways to rekindle hope from despair.
Note: Full scripture text and some edits added by me.
1. Lean into God’s Love
Despite what the circumstances seem to say during difficult days, God is still exactly the same – in love with you! His love remains constant and unchanging, the truest most vibrant kind of affection you and I will ever experience.
In tough times it’s important to lean into God’s love. Sure, you might be able to quote the verses, but how are you actually experiencing His heart for you today?
Take a moment to look around. Where do you see Him showing up for you? What little love gifts has He scattered around in your everyday life? What bits of grace do you see right in front of you?
A sunrise, a giggle, your favorite Bible with the pages all marked up, the story of what He did just last month to provide for you…these are all declarations – and proof – of how God unceasingly feels about you.
On the hard days (or months or years) we must lean into His love. Rest in it. Look for evidence of it everywhere. Trust it a little more each day. And new hope will begin to seep into ordinary life.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9 ESV)
2. Release the “Shoulds”
One of the enemy’s favorite tricks in the middle of discouraging times is “should.” “Should” can sneak up on you from unexpected places: a sermon, a well-meaning friend, your own thoughts.
And before you know it you’re feeling guilty that you aren’t godlier in this tough season, that you don’t really feel the joy of all things work together for good quite yet, or that you’re still stuck here when other people seem to have figured out the secret to living happily.
But the truth of the gospel is Christ took care of “should” once and for all on the cross. As a believer you no longer owe “should” anything!
In Colossians 2:13-15, Paul reminds us Christ triumphed over the enemy and all his guilt and shoulds for good! That means once and for all. Forever free!
Colossians 2:13-15 ESV And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Any “shoulds” thrown at you are no longer yours – not even the “shoulds” of behaving like a better Christian, or quoting more verses during tough days, or looking like you have it all together.
Letting go of the pressure and guilt allows hope to blossom into something lovely in your life.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Often when we wade through tough times, it’s easy to be bogged down by circumstances. What’s happening right in front of us looms so large it drowns out everything else.
But to grab onto fresh hope, you must stop and listen—listen for the sounds of hope that are already nearby. A beautiful way to do this is by returning to the hope-filled promises in God’s Word and listening for evidence of them in real life.
How is God giving you more sufficiency to face things than you ever thought possible?
2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Where do you see God’s pro-you attitude playing out today?
Romans 8:31-35 ESV What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
What particular circumstance you faced recently is proof of God’s gracious deliverance and care?
Psalms 34:6-8 ESV This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
The God who never lies wants you to claim His promises as your own and hear the sounds of hope rising around you.
Romans 8:31 ESV What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
4. Focus on the Right Question
It’s only natural in days of deep despair to question: Does God hear me? Does He see me? Where is He in the middle of this mess? Why haven’t things changed yet?
But there is one question that God longs for us to ask more than any other. In our quest for renewed hope, the real question that must permeate our thoughts is: Who does God want to be for me right now?
In the middle of the storm, when you’re struggling to keep your head above water and keep getting salt water in your mouth from the wave…who does He want to be for you?
It’s a question of where your eyes focus – on the circumstances around you, or on Jesus.
It’s a question that draws your heart toward His heart and helps you nestle into Him.
It’s a question that if you truly pause and listen for His answer, will always give you beauty from the ashes of your fight. And renewed hope.
Because the One whose name is “I Am” promises to be all we need, in every circumstance. He sees every heart hurt and disappointment. And whether the wind and waves instantly calm; or you ride the storm with Him a while longer – the Great I Am promises to be your comfort. Your security. Your confidence. And your forever hope.
Isaiah 61:3 ESV to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord , that he may be glorified.
Romans 15:13 ESV May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Janna Wright is an author and speaker she loves stories, sharing them often in her “biz-nistry,” Grace Thread, and her book, Grace Changes Everything.