by James Rudy GrayHope Enables Us to Bear
Hope is a powerful force in a person's life. Hope means the expectation of a favorable outcome. The New Testament word for hope is even more emphatic, implying confident expectation or anticipation: something that we know will happen, even though it is not happening at the moment.
In counseling, one of the most helpful things we can do is to give another person a reason to hope. Most people in emotional distress want relief. Hope brings relief. Panic-type thinking leads to impatience and poor judgment. To be anchored in hope is to be positioned to make better judgments.
Christian psychologist William Backus believes that misbeliefs trigger many different types of hurtful behavior and wrong thinking. If, for example, we struggle with our own sense of worth, we may tell ourselves when we fail at something, "I failed. I am no good." A more biblical approach would be to train ourselves to choose to think the truth. When we fail, we could then say, "I failed but I am not a failure. I will learn from this. I will grow. I know God loves me." If we need to repent, we should repent, but we must remember that at the core of what repentance means is a change of mind, a turn-around in our thinking and therefore in our behavior.
Sometimes we need to change our circumstances.
Sometimes we need to adjust to our circumstances.
Sometimes God uses the circumstances to change us.
Everyone likely has some things in their lives they would like to change. The key is what we tell ourselves about those things. Sometimes our best approach may not be insisting on change but accepting what we cannot change. Someone once said, "You cannot create the waves, but you can learn to ride the surf."
What we think is vitally important. Christian faith is a thinking faith and the great battle that is constantly being waged is about how we think. When we think with hope, we bring stability to a crisis; encouragement to a difficulty; motivation for coping; energy to adjust, or change and patience to accept.
Too often people who are hurting or stressed simply want relief or change and they want it now! Patience is missing; yet Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 that perseverance leads to proven character and proven character leads to hope and hope does not disappoint. Hope is not seeing what is there but having confidence in what is coming.
In Romans 8:18-25, Paul reminds us that the sufferings of this present time cannot compare with the glory that is coming. The confidence that God is in control, loves His people, and has something better waiting for them can move us from hopelessness to triumphant thinking. Romans 8:25 says, "If we hope for what we do not see; with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." When we hope with Spirit-empowered thoughts, we grow in patience. We patiently endure difficulties with a perspective that enables us to continue to live healthy Christian lives instead of being in bondage to troubles that can cripple us emotionally.
R. C. Sproul said, "Impatience is a sin that affects us in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Some of the most serious distortions of Christian truth are a direct result of people's impatience." Impatience triggers bad choices, whereas hope creates the attitude for good responses. If we hope, we will persevere in challenging times.
A Christian is saved by grace through faith. We walk by faith. Our salvation is not by hope or through hope, but it is characterized by hope. Scripture shows us that our salvation is past, present, and future. It is that future aspect of our journey through life where we hope for what we do not see. We also hope in the present, where we struggle with the pains and realities of a sin-cursed world. Hope is the assurance that even in hurtful times, the future is bright with God's blessings. God is good all the time. Hope believes that and uses it to make a positive difference in the life of God's child.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.