Sunday, January 2, 2011

Living with Hope

Recently I received a copy of Nick Vujicic's book Life Without Limits from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for free, with the catch that I would have to write a review about the book. Originally, my intent was to simply read the book and write a perfunctory review like I do for other books I receive for free under similar circumstances, and then publish my review on a blog where I rather lamely review books. However, upon starting to read the book I realized this book deserved more than a rather sad "This book was a good read, and I give is 3 out of 5 stars" sort of review. It has inspired me to write about hope here instead. I have written out a sad "this book was a good read, and I give it 3 out of 5 stars" review for the book in my book reviews blog, but here I want to expound on that by talking about hope. More specifically, I want to talk about the hope Christians should have.

This book came at quite a perfect time really. My mother was preaching a sermon series on the hope of God at the time I got the book, and so the book fit in quite well with her message. On the flip side, a friend of mine seemed to be going through a rather dark time in his life around the time I received the book where he seemed to have lost all hope. And to top it all off, I stumbled across the song "Your Love Never Fails", as performed by Jesus Culture about a day before this book arrived. It's as if God is trying to tell me "Life sucks sometimes, but always place your hope in me, Hollie." I feel like God timed it so that this book would arrive in the mail at just the right time.

In this world, we are quite often confronted with situations that seem rather hopeless. Be it getting a bad grade on a test, breaking up with someone you loved, losing a job, losing someone you care for to death, whatever the case may be. When we are hit with something bad, our flesh's natural inclination tends to be to react negatively. While there is nothing inherently wrong with letting out an "Aww man!" when something bad happens, it is unhealthy to linger on negative feelings. When we do react negatively for longer than necessary (meaning if our negative attitude lingers to the point of making us melancholic or depressed), that is because we have placed our hope in the wrong thing. That is, we have placed our hope in something worldly.

For example, when my friend died last year I became melancholy. I wouldn't say depressed, because I don't think it was that serious, but I did allow myself to linger in the negative, and that just caused everything else that went wrong in my life after that to amplify the melancholic mood. Instead of putting my hope in God, trusting that He would take care of me even in my sorrow over losing a friend, I had allowed myself to live with a hope that my life would always be happy-go-lucky. When that hope was shattered, I had nothing to fall back on because I had put my hope in the world, which always disappoints.

But the Bible tells us to put our hope in God because He gave us Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9 tells us to be hopeful because Jesus Christ was resurrected for us, and even though we "may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials," we should rejoice because God has prepared a place for us in heaven. So yes, life may be difficult on earth, but God will always love us and He has prepared a place for us to spend with Him in eternity. We have an inheritance that will never perish waiting for us in heaven, so we should base our hope on that, be hopeful and excited for the day we will be with God in heaven.

I know that it is hard to have hope in God when we are in trials, because it is hard to look ahead and imagine that things could possibly get any better. Putting your hope in God isn't easy, but it is worth it. Personally, I have started to refashion my thinking so that whenever I have a negative thought I will try to think "Hope in God. Hope in God." It's not a well-articulated thought, but simply by thinking those three words, it helps to keep me from falling back into the melancholy I suffered last year. You don't have to know how God will work things out, you just have to trust and hope that He will.

Isaiah 41:31 is the poster child scripture for hope. For context, one could read verses 30 and 31 together. "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (emphasis added). When we put our hope in God, something supernatural happens. It is as if a weight is lifted from your shoulders when you really and truly decide to stop dwelling in worldly hope and place it all in God's hands instead. God is not a God of defeat, or depression, or melancholy. He is a God of victory and freedom and joy! If one hopes in God, then one cannot help but be drawn away from feelings of negativity.

And with that said, I'll leave you with this song to listen to.

[as an inconsequential aside, this is the post I was referring to in my "Happy Holidays" blog post]

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