Sheila was discouraged, perhaps even depressed. She told herself there was no reason to be down—after all, her life was stable and her family was doing well. She went to her doctor for help. The doctor opened his closet, handed over a package of antidepressants and said, “Take two of these and call me in the morning.” It’s that easy—or is it?
People spend billions of dollars annually on medications to help them cope with the stresses of life. These medications help many people to make it through each day.
Yet for some, such medications are not effective. The underlying problem may not be physical, as it can be in cases of depression, but spiritual. It may be that their lives have become empty and without hope. They lack or have never found true meaning in life.
In fact, this underlying problem affects most people to some degree. For many it leaves a general sense of unease. But for others it can lead to ruinous life choices.
This illustrates a fundamental human need not being met, creating a big hole in our lives. While some seek medications to deal with the problem, others turn to destructive methods. Some seek relief in a bottle, in illicit drugs, in gambling, in risky behavior or in any number of other vices.
What is this hole? Again, it’s an unmet need for hope. It’s a lack of meaning and understanding of who we are and what life is all about.
We need to understand that there is a God. We need to see why He made human life. And we need to understand who we are as individuals and what we were meant for—our purpose and the destiny planned for us.
That purpose is not found in any bottle or other addictive pursuit. Life’s meaning is found in the Bible, the Word of God. There is hope in the purpose it reveals—enough hope for a lifetime of meaning and fulfillment!
We’ll examine a passage of Scripture that describes hope and shows how to maintain hope even when things turn life upside down. It comes down to knowing we have hope in salvation through the life of Jesus Christ.
Assurance of hope through Christ
Because Jesus Christ came as the Son of God and lived a perfect life, died for our sins and was resurrected, we have the assurance of hope for eternal life as children of God, sharing in His glory. Here we find hope for a contented life of purpose and meaning.
The Bible shows us God’s purpose and plan for our lives. It shows us God’s will to redeem our lives through the death and life of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ died and rose from the grave is among the most important news you can have. The resurrected Christ can change your life!
His life in you today can lift the discouragement and emptiness from your life. His life can fill you with positive purpose, real hope and enduring courage. It is our choice whether we will let Him live in us today.
You may be thinking this is not reality—at least not your reality. You may be either too turned off to a religious message or feel you are too far gone to deserve God’s love and attention. Either way you would be wrong!
Every one of us must have hope so that we can live a stable life with purpose. Without hope we feel helpless, empty and without focus and meaning. And when we feel so empty—with such a big hole in our life—we are setting ourselves up for something else to fill the gap. And that doesn’t always go well. But you don’t have to take that path. God through Christ has provided a better way!
Justified by His death, saved by His life
In the Bible we have an encouraging passage that shows us the road to hope. It was written by a man who had learned just how big a hole he had in his life. He then dedicated his life to helping others fill theirs.
Look at what the apostle Paul writes as he conveys this truth. He says: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-10 Romans 5:8-10 8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
This passage gives us much to think about. We need to have a balanced, proper perspective that focuses on both Christ’s death and His life. His suffering and death constitute a very important part of God’s plan. His death provides us with the sacrifice necessary to be reconciled with God and have our sins forgiven. It’s very important!
But this only begins the process. That He lived again, was resurrected from the grave and lives today is necessary for us to have any hope of eternal life. We are saved, and salvation—eternal life—is God’s gift by grace.
This is the foundation for hope in your life—that Christ rose from the dead and lives today at the right hand of God as our High Priest. His life makes possible our hope of eternal life with God. God’s purpose is to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×)—to share His spirit life with the human race He created. Life has a purpose, and that purpose is for us to inherit eternal glory as a child of God and fellow heir with Christ.
This is why Christ lived and died as a sacrifice for you—that you might share the glory of a spirit life with God forever. By becoming flesh, dying and being resurrected, Jesus Christ paved the way for your future eternal life. This is the bedrock anchor of our hope in this temporary physical life.
When life throws curves
It’s been said that hope is buying into what we believe. And that’s true. Every day we encounter situations designed to help us embrace and rely on the beliefs we hold close.
What do you believe? Is it grounded in spiritual reality? When something bad happens to good people, how do you react?
When you and I pass into trying circumstances, whether health issues, or financial stress, or emotionally challenging conditions—how do we react? Does our faith keep us buoyed in hope, or do we crumble and abandon our faith and love for God?
Life is going to throw us curve balls. As a pastor I’ve worked for years with people committed to God who face the challenges of life. I’ve sat by the bedside of the dying. I’ve taken the 2 a.m. phone call of distress. I’ve counseled the addicted, the destitute and the down-and-outers. I’ve helped people put their marriage back together. I’ve stood by the grave with parents and watched as their stillborn child was lowered in the grave.
Even now I pray for and counsel people dealing with cancer, stricken children and depressed lives. Let’s be honest—bad things happen to even godly people every day. When it does, there’s one place I take them to explain what God is doing. I take them to the passage in Romans we read earlier.
Finding peace with God
Let’s look at another portion of this passage. It shows why hope is built on the truth that we are saved by the life of Jesus Christ: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Romans 5:1 Romans 5:1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
Peace with God. Think about the level of anger, hatred and division that we see all around us. Political division. Religious strife. Racial division. You can see examples any moment on television or the Internet.
It affects each of us. Do you find yourself restless, agitated, suspicious, angry for no reason? Look around at the talk we hear, the feelings expressed. It affects us. It keeps us from being at peace.
Someone came to me once who was having emotional problems. As we discussed it, we came to one solution that did help in her case—she turned off the argumentative, polarizing radio programs she listened to on the commute to work and home each day. In her case, it was causing her distress. How about you? Are you at peace? Perhaps there is some other cause of distress in your life.
Paul in this passage is showing how deep inner peace begins when we see we have in God a father and in Jesus Christ an elder brother. That changes our whole life.
Paul goes on to say, “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:2 Romans 5:2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
American King James Version×, NLT)
Once we enter a real relationship with God, we have His favor and goodwill. He looks at us like a good father does to his children—with affection and love. We don’t need to fear we might somehow be thrown out of the house if and when we’re bad. God doesn’t work that way. He is not abusive.
Trusting through trials
Another woman was once discussing with my wife how she had packed up her stuff and left her home the night before because her husband was upset with her. She had packed up a cherished item with other things that were going to be donated to charity. Nothing physical happened; he just didn’t want his cherished item given away.
It meant something to him but not to her. Because she had been in other abusive relationships, she interpreted his disfavor as personal and left the house. When he apologized and explained that his love didn’t change and that he was only upset, she realized she had overreacted. My wife told her she had to learn that in such a relationship you will hit times of disagreement, but you don’t run away. You stay and work it out.
This illustrates a key feature of our relationship with God. We stand in God’s grace. When trials hit, even when we know we might be at fault, it doesn’t mean God has left or forgotten us. We face the problem, admit wrong if necessary, and move forward.
Now Paul gets down to the hard part: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials …” (Romans 5:3 Romans 5:3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
American King James Version×, NLT).
I don’t know of anyone who is happy when something bad happens to him or her. Personally, I like a peaceful, uncomplicated and settled life. But we all know that bad things happen every day. And sometimes they happen to us or someone close to us.
Trials and problems are a part of life. God doesn’t promise us a life without challenges. This life is a preparation for another life to come, and when we understand this we have a key to life that leads to hope.
Paul continues with his comments about problems and trials, noting that “we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 Romans 5:3-4 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
American King James Version×, NLT).
Trials build endurance, endurance builds character, and character builds hope.
How to keep going
Here in short form is the biblical answer to how we work our way through a trial without giving up on life, on others or on God. We have to be patient, knowing we still have God standing with us. He has not left us, but we have to remain standing and find out what He has for us to learn. And we will learn through all the experiences of life.
We cannot escape this fundamental part of life. No matter how “good” we are or think we are, no matter what we believe or don’t believe, we’re going to pass through difficult experiences. The key is to face them with grace and with God. Face them and determine to work through them to the end, whatever that end might be.
When we’re patient, we’ll develop positive experience. Trials will end and we continue on. The hard times pass and with time we heal. It’s then that we’ve learned something about ourselves, about God and about life.
We also then have experience. With that experience we better know how to work through the next difficulty. With that experience we’re also prepared to help another person going through the same thing. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5 Romans 5:5And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
American King James Version×, NLT).
With hope, we can meet each trial with determination and get through it. God uses our trials to fulfill His promise, to perform His salvation. We can see each trial to its end. And if the end is tragic, hope can pick us up and move us down the road and help us get back into the game.
We can encourage those who are going through trials. Our hope becomes a beacon for others. We honor God by enduring and not turning tail and running from Him or from life. Hope keeps us from anger and denial.
This life is filled with challenges. Sometimes these challenges will push us to our very limits—physically, emotionally and spiritually. But thankfully we aren’t limited by our own strength. As Paul explained, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×). In fact, Christ lives in the hearts and minds of believers to help us succeed (see Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×).
Remember that when the burden feels too great to bear and you’re in danger of losing hope, hope remains alive because Jesus Christ is alive. You can fill the hole in your life with a new hope that only a relationship with God through Christ can provide.
You are created in God’s image, and He through His risen Son can help you in any challenging trial and difficult period of your life. These challenges are opportunities to grow in the undeserved favor of God in Christ.
The hope that may be missing in your life comes through the knowledge and assurance that we are saved by His life —the awesome, invincible life of Jesus Christ, the life He wants to live in us.