God is invisible (usually).
Faith is intangible (mostly).
The future isn’t here yet (obviously).
The very nature of our Christian beliefs can be rough at times, especially when we are in these physical bodies, surrounded by a culture that exalts everything you can see, hear, taste, smell and touch.
When you wake up in the morning and your body aches, that’s real. When you get to work and your customers start in on everything you haven’t done right, that’s real. When you turn the key and your car doesn’t start—again—that’s real. When you get another call from your kids’ school and have to leave work early to meet with the principal, that’s real.
But when our emotions are crazy, Jesus saying, “I will give you My peace,” may seem out of reach. We may wonder how God will “supply all our needs” when we need so much. When God feels distant for weeks, months or years, we start to wonder how we’ll ever feel close again.
The evidence of our five senses will try to overwhelm our belief in the invisible.
We Still Believe, But…
We follow Jesus because we believe the Bible is true. We know that God is really there, and He really cares about us, and He really promises to take care of us. But at some point in our lives, we will experience an opportunity to lose hope. There will be a time when hope is hard.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble..." - John 16:33 (NIV)
See? Even Jesus acknowledged trouble as a fact of life. He didn’t say, “You might have trouble,” or “some of you will have trouble.” He said, “You will have trouble.”
In my own life, I’ve had trouble. I’ve been let go from jobs, I’ve been in the hospital for emergency surgery, I’ve been depressed, I’ve lost friends and gone long stretches without any friends, I’ve struggled to find meaning and direction. There are times when even though I believe, even though I know God is with me, I still feel very distant from Him.
How I Found My Way Back to Hope
When God (and everything else in life that I’m longing for) is far out of sight, there are two things that consistently have provided a lifeline leading me back to a place where I can see the invisible again.
It may get old hearing this, but I find hope in reading the word of God. When hope is hard, I look to the accounts of people who had hard times, and I take encouragement from seeing how their stories worked out. I read about David, knowing that he was chosen as king and yet hunted and persecuted for years by King Saul. I read about Esther, a girl taken from her family to be part of the king’s harem and then finding out he was going to wipe out her people. I consider her days of agonizing and fasting before risking her life to ask for the king’s help to overthrow his own edict. I find hope seeing that their difficult situations eventually resolved.
When answers and hoped-for events seem long in coming, I read about Abraham, who waited 25 years before his promised heir showed up. I read about Moses, who spent forty years living apart from his people before God called him back to deliver them from Egypt. And though God miraculously showed up and did amazing things, that didn’t mean the fulfillment of Moses’ calling was going to be easy. What a struggle he encountered, leading a rebellious people for another forty years before they finally were ready to enter the promised land.
I remind myself what Jesus said immediately after He warned about the troubles of life. “But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 again)
TAKE IT TO HEART: If you need hope, take the time to search for it in the testimonies of others. When your own landscape is empty of hope, borrow someone else’s!
Even when I’ve been isolated from others, out of church or friendless, I found encouragement reading testimonies of God’s people. Articles online, books from the library or on my own shelves, and nowadays, YouTube videos and preaching videos available freely on the Internet and social media. Encouragement is available if we just choose to look.
Thankfully, there are also many times that I have had at least one good friend or family member that I could reach out to and talk to when I need encouragement. Looking back, it was more often that I simply didn’t reach out than a case where there truly wasn’t anyone available to me. Having someone willing to listen, and willing to share their own experiences makes a huge difference. So does a hug and a hand on my shoulder while someone prays for me. Huge. Difference.
TAKE IT TO HEART: If you have any other Christians in your life at all, try reaching out when you need encouragement. If you attend our church, I’m certain there are plenty of good people to choose from who would be a great encouragement to you. Don’t miss out on the chance to have someone pray for you.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
What has helped you when you found it hard to hope?