When we despair, and are hurting and in emotional pain, we often lose hope. We think things will never get better. A lie from the enemy! What is true is that God is with us every second we struggle in pain. He whispers in our ear to trust Him.
One of the most encouraging of all Scriptures is found in the Book of the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future full of hope.”
Why focus on a future the enemy wants us to believe is dark and awful? We have a Father in heaven who loves us beyond comprehension, who wants to give us “every spiritual blessing” as promised in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
During my career, when I headed company sales operations, I created the “Ten Attributes of a Winner.” The first one was “A winner becomes what they think about.”
I believe life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I think I will be successful, I will find a way to be successful. If I think God loves me, is protecting me and keeping me safe, I will act accordingly. Our entire life and attitude is dramatically impacted by what we think about our future.
God wants us to be filled with His Holy Spirit—filled so completely that our hearts soar toward heaven as we praise His name. We see this reflected in Isaiah’s beautiful image of eagle wings.
Isaiah 40:31 “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, / they will soar on eagles wings; / They will run and not grow weary, / walk and not grow faint.”
Do you want to renew your strength? When we feel hopeless and full of dread and are tired all the time, lacking the energy to simply move forward, but we believe in the future—believe something good is about to happen—our strength is renewed. We become “empowered” by the Lord to face whatever challenges we encounter in life. We meet them head on.
Philippians 4:13 “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
When we face trials, it often feels as if we are all alone. No one is standing by our side. The weight of the world lies heavily on our shoulders. Once again, we are receiving a lie from the enemy. What is true is that God is always there for us, helping us by guarding us.
We look for a “Superman” to watch over us and fly to our rescue. In reality, God is far greater than anything or anyone we can dream of. He watches over us and guards us from evil every moment.
Psalm 121: 7-8, “The LORD will guard you from all evil; / he will guard your soul. / The LORD will guard your coming and going / both now and forever.”
So much of life encompasses trusting in the Lord. The measure of our trust determines our level of anxiety and our degree of hope. If we believe God is on our side, that His promises in Scripture of loving and protecting us against all evil are true, we do not let our problems overwhelm us.
Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.”
Understanding why we have to suffer is difficult. Why must we endure so many trials in our lives? If God loves us, doesn’t He want to save us from all this pain and suffering? We ponder this great question from the depths of our human hearts.
But God’s ways and God’s thinking are far beyond our human comprehension. He has the big picture in mind. He wants to teach us endurance so whatever the world or the enemy throws against us will not penetrate our defenses and defeat us. He seeks to build our character so we become warriors to win souls for Him.
Romans 5: 3-5 “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
One of our biggest challenges and battles is the desire for immediate “change” in our lives. We want to be totally and completely in charge of what happens in our lives. In our impatience, we pray and nothing happens because God is teaching us a fruit of the Holy Spirit: patience.
Patience is demanding. It is difficult, often like a vise around our head, body and soul that seems too much to bear. Yet, God’s word gives us many promises. When we wait on the Lord, He will deliver in due time, according to His grace. Try resting in God and the promises in the word of God.
Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the LORD, / my soul waits and I hope for his word.”
Understanding that we represent Christ is an important reality of being hope-filled people. Do we depict hope in our lives or fear? Do others look at us when we are in the midst of trials and see confidence and belief that God is with us and helps us endure our suffering?
Many people, including my wife and I, have had major challenges with their children and loved ones. Hope is difficult when we receive horrific news regarding someone we love.
That happened to us when my daughter called to tell us she had lung cancer. Lung cancer? She never had taken a single puff of a cigarette! She didn’t even drink at all. Yet, our only daughter is given this challenge. The news became even worse when she called and said the cancer had entered her heart, and she believed she wasn’t going to survive.
When we face these challenges, we have two major choices: we can move toward God (consolation) or away from God (desolation). As for my wife and me, we chose then, and continue to choose, moving toward God.
People frequently ask how I can remain so calm in the middle of this crisis. Remain so confident in the Lord. The reason is my hope in the Lord. The Apostle Peter explains it well.
1 Peter 3:13-17 “Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”
When you feel hopeless, think of God’s great love for you—you, your family, friends and everyone! Open your hearts to receive the hope that will never disappoint—God’s everlasting hope.
When others would lament and give up, our hope-filled spirit in crisis becomes a great witness to friends and family and the world. When the God of hope takes over our lives, we enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. Peace the world can’t give us.
Guard your hearts and minds against sin during times of trial. For me, difficult times are opportunities to draw closer to the Lord through daily Mass and frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The devil wants us to give up and give in to our flesh. Often, people may turn to drinking, immorality or other forms of pleasure to numb the pain of suffering. Be on guard against the tricks of the devil. Instead of turning toward the world, turn to Jesus. You will never regret it!