Saturday, September 12, 2009

this is no paper-plate hope, it is Real hope

Where have you lost hope today? Where in your life do you feel despondent, unresponsive, unable to see the hand of the Lord working? I think if we’re all brutally honest, not a day goes by without some area or another of our lives being affected by temporary hopelessness. You might say, wow, that’s a strong word to put on it: hopelessness. But really, that’s what is happening, even if it is just a momentary thing. It’s not just other people that struggle with hopelessness, people without Christ, but more often than not it’s we, the believers in Christ, who struggle the most with hopelessness.

Throughout the storylines of the Old Testament Israel repeatedly loses hope in God. Reading the Exodus narrative and Jeremiah or Isaiah show Israel on this roller-coaster-like faith journey. One minute they are up, doing the will of God, following and obeying His commands. Then they turn aside and turn inward to themselves (see: Aaron and the golden calf, ex. 32). They lose hope. It’s not the nations outside of Israel that have lost hope, because they have never had it in the first place. And it’s the same with us today. It’s not the unbelievers who struggle the most with hopelessness, because they have never tasted true hope found in Jesus Christ. We are the ones who have met the all-powerful Living God and have let our lives remain the same.

In my last post I mentioned how we can let our sinfulness become the controlling narrative of our lives. How when we focus so much on ourselves, it leads to us filtering our lives through ourselves and not through the lens of God and His promises to us. I think this is especially problematic for those of us who are more introspective in nature. Even good, healthy introspection, examining one’s heart, can turn into unhealthy self-centeredness if it is not done with God’s grand narrative as the backdrop.

When we take away the promises of God and have no framework of His amazing faithfulness, we are left with only ourselves, and that’s enough to make anyone hopeless. It’s the controlling narrative of God’s faithfulness, though, that has guided the Church ever since Jesus came and declared the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Think of those lengthy Psalms (104 & 105, for instance) which retell the story of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Think of Isaiah 40, where God, through Isaiah, reminds the people of Israel that he has never left them, that He does not grow weary, and that He is their everlasting God.

Remembering the faithfulness of God gives us hope for every aspect of our lives. By meditating and dwelling on His faithfulness, our fluctuating levels of self-confidence turn into complete God-confidence. We do not live in the power of ourselves, but in the power of God, so how much confidence we feel in ourselves doesn’t matter anymore. God-confidence chooses to remember the faithfulness and the promises of God, giving us hope and boldness in the name of Jesus Christ. God-confidence was a central ingredient of the Church in Acts. It ceases to matter if one person has more ability than another or if one person seems to continually make the same mistakes. God-confidence washes away our self-centered attitudes about our lives and puts the focus back on God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ, which turns our despondency and hopelessness into life-changing and life-giving hope.

What does this entail, though? How is this kind of God-confidence something that can become the controlling narrative of our lives? There’s no quick solution here. It comes down to absorbing oneself in the Word of God, His eternal promises and plan of redemption. It comes down to choosing to worship and pray, even when we don’t feel like it, knowing that God is not interested in our ideas of efficiency. He just wants us. All of us. Here we are, much like Moses felt right after God told him he would be the one to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites. But it’s God’s response that matters, and it is a response that has resonated throughout the Scriptures to bring hope and promise to lives that otherwise are broken and despondent:

“But Moses said to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He (God) said, “But I will be with you.” (Ex. 3:11-12)

No comments: