How can we keep hope alive in such a world as we live in? God wants his people able to "abound in hope," to be buoyant and triumphant. But we are often surrounded in life by awful and merciless forces that seem they may overwhelm us at any moment. Although we try to remain hopeful, our hope may be undermined by depression stemming from disappointed plans or dreams, poverty or failing health, betrayal in relationships or cruel ingratitude, slighted love or deep loneliness. These, and innumerable more circumstances, flood over us like a hurricane that threatens to sweep us away and drown us.
Yes, life can be like a labyrinth. We wonder if we will ever find our way through. Life is a riddle; even the world's greatest thinkers and wisest philosophers have not been able to solve the problems ever present with us of evil, pain, suffering, and death. However, there is One, whose name is "Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6) who can resolve the riddles that plague us. As we learn to come to Him, and to align our lives with His ways, we can find rest in trusting Him (Mt. 11:28-29), for He is the One in whom "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
Inadvertently, we can open a door for the enemy to siphon off our hope - and our joy - by fixing our eyes in the wrong place. For example, we may strain our poor weak eyes trying to look into the future so that presumably we can control it. But in actuality, Jesus commanded us to leave our futures in God's hands, trusting Him with it without any anxious thought (Mt. 6:34). Our very anxiety - our worries, fears, and murmuring as we doubt our Father's loving care for us - can cause us to walk right into the jaws of trouble. Such a focus tends to produce a condition that ironically brings the very things we fear onto us like an avalanche (Job 3:25)! We cannot worry and trust at the same time. Worry robs us of trust, and a lack of trust in God positions us in a state of vulnerability.
To remain spiritually strong and healthy we need to live in a sustained atmosphere of trusting God. If we have the right foundation of trust, it follows that we will build praise to our trustworthy Father, as well as thanksgiving, onto that foundation, and our lives will be as an edifice that will stand. It is a vital spiritual truth that our praise to God sets up a mantle of protection that insulates us from our adversary. Not only does praising and being thankful to God clothe us in divine protection, but choosing to make it a lifestyle enlarges us spiritually as we are enabled to see all that is happening in our lives and around us from a different perspective, a higher - and truer - viewpoint. Our bodies can live a little while without food and water, but oxygen is something we must have all the time in order to survive. One pastor wrote that praise and thanksgiving to God are like the believer's very breath - that they are our spiritual oxygen!* To be survivors (and "endure to the end" Mt. 24:13), we need to lift our hearts in thanksgiving and worship continually. And as we thus bless our God, our lives will surely be lifted to a new level of living. Our hope will grow, and thrive, and be sustained as we trust in and appreciate Him - of whom it is written that "the government shall be upon His shoulders" (Isaiah 9:6).
* Pastor Jack Hayford