Part of the allure with religion is that aims to provide hope in the midst of chaos. We are taught to believe that with God, anything we want to receive is possible… it’s just a question of probabilities. We hold steadfast to the idea that when one door closes, another opens because God is always in control. And then something happens… we look down the hall and all of the doors are shut.
This is why I hate prosperity preaching, or any other doctrine that resembles it. It’s the type of doctrine that allows us to believe that our outcomes are guaranteed based upon our actions. It puts an unnecessary emphasis on what we receive, detracting from what it really means to have a relationship with God. Such theology causes us to lose hope. We can’t understand why people work hard and get laid off. It doesn’t make sense when we treat others with love only to be hurt in return. Life becomes a strange set of circumstances as the basis for our faith slowly shatters.
Fortunately, hope was ever meant to be grounded in Earthly results. Notice throughout the book of Psalms for example, we read about a hope that is not for anything, but instead in God. Psalms 33:18, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy.” Psalms 31:24, “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.”
To take it one step further, if faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)… and our hope is in God, then faith is the substance of our relationship with God, the evidence that He exists in our lives though we have never seen Him. For 1 John 4:12 tells us “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”
If we haven’t taken the time to form a meaningful relationship with God, we’ll be searching for hope in all of the wrong places. We’ll think the power to fix the broken is in our hands. We learn from the story of Job, that worshiping God should never be based on what we have or the desire to replace what is missing. Instead, like Job, we serve God because He is God. Our relationship with Him cannot be commoditized. We don’t have the same currency nor do we understand the exchange rate.
So when it all goes wrong, what role does hope play in our spiritual lives? Romans 5:3-5 tells us “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” To understand the impact of hope, you have to understand what comes before it. We aren’t supposed to hope we get through trials, we’re supposed to know we get through them according to God’s will. That builds perseverance, a tenacity to keep going in the spirit of strength, humility, and selflessness. We build character because we are no longer survivors, we are now conquerors. And in doing all of this, we learn how to let God’s spirit abide in us as His desires become our desires. The only thing we will hope/want to happen is what God intends to happen. Veering off the course becomes less and less of a distraction, and our hope becomes cemented in God.
As good as that sounds though, we still have doors to face. With God abiding in us, we discern that a door shut, is not always a door shut. Sometimes we are instructed to walk away. Other times, we are called to knock that door down. We learn when to be patient for some doors to open, or we accept that there are no doors for us, only the windows to Heaven. As we reach for handles, we hope that what happens next is God’s will. That is the only hope that doesn’t disappoint because God’s will is perfect. It provides us with divine strength that supersedes what can feel like Earthly hell. It’s what allows us to always walk forward, despite our emotions, because God’s way becomes the only way. So stop focusing on the outcomes, and start paying attention to the journey. There is so much to be learned as long as God is leading the way.
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