Christian Hope and Freedom From Fear (Part 1)

Some Hopes Perish

I have plenty of hopes. When one is fulfilled another steps in to take its place. I have one child, I hope for more. I have a small home, I hope for a larger one. My husband and I have achieved the hope of running a business- we hope for greater success.

Some hopes go unfulfilled for a long time- some maybe forever. Some hopes seem to betray us, and once they are fulfilled we find they are not what we imagined. Some hopes are gained, only to be quickly lost, and we feel the pain of having once had it to be greater than to have never seen it fulfilled at all.

Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

In Job’s immense suffering his common complaint was a loss of hope. “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope (7:6).”

When we examine what we are hoping in, we will discover what are living for. If what we’re hoping in is perishable, then no matter how wonderful it may be to attain on earth, one day it will surely perish.

Job 11:20 “But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”

Proverbs 10:28 “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.”

Proverbs 11:7 “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.”

Hope is essential to human existence. Without hope people dwindle into despair, and lack even the desire to rise from their beds. There are so many false hopes being paraded before us in our culture today, and sadly even in our churches.

“Believe in Jesus and He will heal your illness. Give to this ministry and God will cause your business to succeed. Come up to this alter and God will restore your shattered marriage.”

This is not an article about the prosperity gospel, so I will only say that this is unbiblical and harmful to people who are hurting. What I want to examine is why the Christian’s hope needs never to perish, even when all earthly desires go unfulfilled or even shatter all around us.

When trials come my way I want to be like Job was when he later claimed: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15).”

 What if?

 Earthly fears trap us into endless worries and anxieties. We are weighed down by “what if” questions and imaginations about “worst case” scenarios.

The bible prescribes far greater tools for our anxieties than optimism, naivety, or positive thinking. In our affluent culture we are so conditioned to comfort, security, and assistance, that to imagine a blow to our comfortable lives and attainable goals is most shocking and unpleasant to us.

But let us, just for a moment consider this: If your greatest “what if” fears happened would your greatest hopes perish? Would your faith sustain you? Do you believe in a God who is worthy to be worshipped, and in a hope that can endure even if your “worst case scenarios” come to pass?

As Christians, we can experience freedom from our fears, but it is not by pushing them out of our mind and imagining that life will always be perfect. We must accept that we do not even have the power to “add a single hour to (our) span of life (Matthew 6:27).” James says “…You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that (James 4:14-15).’”

God is in control of our tomorrow. If He wills- we will live and carry out our plans. On the contrary if He wills- we may die, or His plans for our life will prevail over our own. Our lives are not ultimately in our control, but in His.

What you believe about God’s goodness and sovereignty will determine whether this news gives you greater anxiety and even resentment, or whether it holds the key to deliver you from the power of worry in your life.

How are Hope and Fear Related?

 I never saw the correlation between hope and fear until recently. For several weeks I found myself feeling deeply discouraged and lacking fervor for life. I love to be happy and like everyone else I try to create circumstances for myself that I imagine will bring the greatest joy. Hindrances to the level of enjoyment I desire in this life are generally not welcome. I’ve been married for 4.5 years and estimate I’ve spent 75% of that time with some kind of physical pain. I somehow came out of a long season of pain and spent one year feeling great, doing the things I love to do. Then I got pregnant. Four months into the pregnancy my pelvis went out and now that my daughter is 7 months old it has yet to be remedied regardless of all the money and time I’ve spent trying to fix it. True to my bodies’ rebellion against me the demands of lifting and carrying a baby often leave my back and shoulders sore as well, and I have found it difficult once again to do many of the things I enjoy. It doesn’t make it easier to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight either.

This is not the only thing happening in my life, but it is the one I will mention. If you have experienced chronic pain then you understand the potential it has to dash at your hopes and dull your joy. Even happy moments feel tainted by your inability to move a certain way, or by the pain that simply won’t relent.

I began asking the “what if” questions. What if getting pregnant again landed me in a wheelchair? What if I can never run with my children? What if I never “get my body back” again? Whether the fears are realistic or not, they have the power to suck the life out of you and truly turn you into a miserable person to yourself and everyone around you. The belief that if I could not right my body I could not enjoy my life was gnawing at every moment of my day and quickly dragging me down. I know all too well where that road leads and that it is not God’s will for me to live in despair.

Through this, and other life circumstances I have been examining where my hope lies. Are my greatest hopes and expectations to have X number of children? To look and feel physically fit? To be successful? To have the “right” kind of home?

Luke 12:15 says “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Life does not consist in our possessions, and it also does not consist in our health, fitness level, number of children, size of home, or measure of success. Life does not consist in so many of the things we put our greatest expectation and hope in. When we live striving for something other than Christ and storing up treasure in heaven, our joy has an ever wavering foundation. We put our hope in things that will never satisfy us completely and eternally.

God says “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live (Isaiah 55:2-3).”

Jesus isn’t the means to an end. He isn’t the object by which we can attain a greater good of prosperity and our “best life now.” He isn’t just the “means” by which we go to Heaven rather than Hell. Jesus is the end. He is our greatest good, and all our hope and all our expectation needs to lie primarily in knowing Him and one day standing face to face with Him. We ought to live always for the hope of hearing Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:23).”

When I lose sight of Christ and put my mind on the earthly things that so easily entangle me, I begin to lose hope and my endless imaginations of “what if” scenarios trap me in fear. Maybe you can relate to this.

*See Part 2 for ways to gain hope and overcome fear

 

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