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Hope for the Hurting
I’d like to share with you today something that has been on my heart concerning this whole issue of hope, because we’re living in a world of lost hope, a world where hope seems to be in short supply.
This is something that became personal with me several years back when my brother put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger.
My brother was a remarkable man. He was smart, funny, loving, caring, and giving. If there was a need, he always wanted to fix it.
So what happened? Why couldn’t he fix what was going on inside of him? As much as I knew my brother, I really don’t know why, and there’s no way for me to know, or for that matter anyone to know. So let me share with you what I do know.
The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, this is where my brother was at, and unfortunately never got to the second part of this verse that says, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV)
When hope is lost, when our dreams are shattered, or left dormant and undeveloped being imprisoned by our character, manipulated or paralyzed by other people’s opinion and actions, broken due to heartbreak, or hidden beneath the shattered ruins of past mistakes and sins, we become attacked by the dreaded “D’s,” that is, despair, discouragement depression, and death.
This was my brother’s story. He had great dreams, wonderful plans of what he wanted to do and become in life, but life got the best of him and got in his way, and he didn’t know what to do or which way to go. And so, he turned to what most people turn to during these times, and it’s one of the things that does the greatest damage and exasperates the problem, and that is, he turned to alcohol. For others it may be drugs or any other number of addictions that people turn to.
But this doesn’t need to be the end of the story. God has great dreams and plans for our lives, dreams to give everyone a future and a hope. And so once again, I go to my go to verse about the hope that God gives.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)
This is what we’re all looking for as we wonder about what our future holds, and so we look for some type of hope, to get us through these uncertain times.
As I was thinking about what to write for my brother’s funeral the pad of paper I pulled out had these words already written at the top, “Hope Springs Eternal.” In other words, there is always hope. When things seem hopeless, hope springs eternal, there is always hope.
The classic example of someone who would have had no hope for their future would have been Abraham from the Old Testament. Family was big in those days, and having sons and daughters showed prosperity and God’s blessings. But Abraham had no children because not only was his wife, Sarah, barren, but they were well past their ability to have children, with both of them being over 90 years old.
But this didn’t stop Abraham from having hope. Look at Abraham’s testimony.
It says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18)
Looking at his circumstances Abraham could have easily given up all hope, but contrary to, that is, opposite of his human instincts, Abraham held onto hope, because his hope was in God, not in the circumstances. Instead of turning to wine to numb his lost hope, he turned to God and remembered His promises, knowing that God’s promises are always true.
And so his hope was in God, and he continued to believe in Him, thus living his life to the fullest, giving his frustrations and fears over to the Lord, knowing that God’s thoughts and plans for his life was that of peace and not of evil, to give to him a future and a hope, not leaving him hopeless.
God created all of us and put inside us a dream. You could say that God created us with a divine design in mind. While it may not be evident to us right now, especially with everything that is going on, it is there nonetheless, and to get this divine design we can’t leave the designer, that is the Lord God, behind. It is in Him and Him alone where all hope for life comes from. And it is from Him that hope springs eternal, because He is the Eternal One.
And when we find this out, and know this for a certainty, then hope will no longer be deferred, but it will be like a tree of life, where true joy overtakes our lives and hope is restored.
Hope is to our spirits what oxygen is to our body.
It’s been said that we can go 40 days without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air, but we can’t last a single second without hope. That’s why I said that hope is to our spirits what oxygen is to our bodies. When we don’t have enough oxygen to breathe, we die. And when we don’t have enough hope, our spirits die. Hope is therefore an essential to life, because when hope is gone then life, for all intents and purposes, is gone as well, and we’ll never live this life as God has designed us to live it..
Every one of us has a dream and plans as to what we want to become and what we want to do in life. The problem is that life just seems to get in the way, and hope gets lost in the process.
God has great dreams and plans for our lives, dreams to give us a future and a hope, just as He said and just as He promised.
But such hope can never be achieved through what the world calls hope. In the world hope is more like wishful thinking. We say, “I hope so,” or “I hope it is true.” Further, the world defines hope rather pessimistically, like one person who said, “It’s wishing for something that you know you ain’t never gonna get.”
So worldly hope is nothing more than an abstract concept with no substance to support it. But hope as defined in the Bible isn’t wishful thinking; rather it’s a confident expectation and certainty.
Why The Difference? It all comes down to the object in which that hope is placed.
As far as the world is concerned, it places its hope on the human race evolving and getting better. But as we have seen over countless centuries of recorded human history, humanity’s not getting better, but rather quite the opposite. Humanity has gotten a whole lot worse.
Yes there are glimpses of humanity as God intended, I have seen it, and there are also great advances in technology and medicine where we are able to live longer and more productive lies. But the human heart is still the same as it always has been, and remains wicked and it’s only getting worse. Even from the very beginning it was this way, as the Lord saw the wickedness of man and how great it was, and how every intention of the human heart was continually evil (Genesis 6:5).
And frankly, the whole concept of the world getting better would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragically false. The crime rate, acts of terror and violence, and environmental disasters, both natural and man made, are not only up, but are adding up.
Therefore, the world can offer no hope at all, because the object of its hope, that is, humanity, is flawed.
One important element of regaining hope is our need to stop devaluing ourselves and understand that we all have great value.
For 150 years or so most of the scientific community has been devaluing human life through what is known as evolution. And what we need to understand is that evolution is not scientific, rather, evolution it is a faith-based system.
In fact, that is why it’s called the theory of evolution, and that’s because it is based upon assumptions unsupported by scientific methodology, which is what a theory is, its unsubstantiated fact based upon observation.
The reason I bring this up is because if evolution is to be believed, then life has no meaning, life has no value, which means that there is nothing valuable about us, because according to evolution we’re nothing more than elevated pond scum. Life is then devalued under evolution, which is why so many people walk around with lost hope taking their lives as well as the lives of others because life has no value.
An eighth grade science teacher stated, “All life, including human life, is nothing more than a series of electronic impulses and chemical reactions, and there is no scientific evidence for the existence of a soul.”
When questioned about life after death, he said, “Hope in heaven is nothing but wishful thinking for which there is no evidence – it’s pie in the sky, bye and bye.”
What we need, therefore, is to see ourselves as God sees us, which is at the heart of the maxim we repeat every time we gather on Sunday Morning, and that is that we are greater in the eyes of God than we are in our own eyes. And while our hearts may condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows what truly lies within.
So how does God see us? In God’s eyes we are of great value because He has put that value in us.
God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
God created us with an inherent value, and that’s because we’ve been created in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself, and because of this, the Lord now dwell within us as He promised He would.
Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)
And so we need to stop devaluing ourselves, or as we state in our maxim we need to stop condemning ourselves, because God is the only one who knows who we truly are. He’s the only one who knows the tremendous value He has placed within us.
This is why the Apostle Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 NKJV)
What this means is that we are no longer under God’s condemnation as believers in Jesus Christ. The key is in understanding that condemnation is a legal judicial term. That when someone stood condemned the judge would sentence him or her to some sort of punishment.
The Bible says that we are all sinners, and that there is no one who is righteous enough for heaven; there never has been and there never will be outside of Jesus. The Bible also talks about what that sentence of condemnation is, and that is death.
The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a NKJV)
And so all humanity is under the condemnation of sin, and the judgment that must then be passed down is the death sentence.
But this is where Jesus steps in, and where hope comes alive, because when we come into that relationship with Jesus Christ we are no longer condemned but justified, that is, we’ve been pronounced not guilty because the penalty price for our sin, which is death, was paid for by Jesus as He hung upon the cross, taking our place and dying the death we all deserve.
Therefore, if God says we’re no longer under the law’s condemnation, which is death, then we’ve got to stop placing ourselves under it. Now look at what the Apostle Paul goes on to say.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)
And while we know this as true and a reality, there’s another reality at play here, and that is there has still been a loss, an abuse, or disappointment we’re dealing with. What about that?
Well there is hope, and that hope understands that not only has Jesus paid the penalty price for our sins and that the Father has pronounced us not guilty because of it, but that there is also a great and abundant life still to be had and lived here on earth.
It’s what I call having A New Normal.
A New Normal
Now I know that this has gotten a lot of airtime since COVID-19 hit, and so many people, from politicians to psychologists, have been using it to explain the changes that have gone on, and to spin what they want to see happen, which is something that I am not buying into.
But I have used it in my counseling sessions for the past 25 plus years, with those who have dealt with loss of some type or another. It was something I brought out when I was asked to speak to the organization, “Families of Murder Victims,” and the loss they were dealing with, some for many years.
So, what do I mean by this when I use it?
Let’s say you lost your arm, and now you only have one arm. Does that mean you can’t live a full and fulfilled life? The answer is obviously no. Will life ever be the same as it was before you lost your arm? Again the answer is no, but there can still be an abundant and fulfilled life.
Again, what do I mean?
While nothing will be the same as it was, God has got a new normal for each and every one of us. Yes, we’ve had a loss. Yes, we’ve suffered abuse. Yes, we’ve endured one disappointment after another, and are depressed and ready give up, but it doesn’t mean that things can’t be made new, that we can have a new normal.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)
We can be made new and whole once again, not only emotionally, but we can become new spiritually when we come into that saving relationship with Jesus, and become restored and refreshed by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
And so, hope does spring eternal, and we can have our hope restored by looking to Jesus instead of the circumstances of life.
This is the message I wanted to share, that our lives can be changed from hopelessness to hopefulness, from the feeling of having little or no value to an understanding that we have a great value.
What I want to do, and what has always been my desire is to help all of us walk along this journey of faith, this journey to true spiritual transformation and regain our hope once again.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study