Even as I begin to write this, my heart is breaking for all those who feel lost and without hope. I recently lost a friend to suicide. When I got the news, my first reaction was, “Why God? Why didn’t you tell me it had gotten so bad? Why didn’t you put it on my heart to call him and speak hope into his life just one more time? How could you let this happen to someone I love? Why wasn’t the love of his beautiful daughter, family, and friends enough to hold him together?” All these questions for God came flooding out of me like a river that had overflown its banks due to the breaking of a dam. The broken dam was my broken hope, the overflowing river was my emotions gone out of control. When my friend lost his hope, it began to cause me to lose mine. When hope began to run from me, so did my faith in God. While God didn’t answer my questions concerning my friend, He did show me these very important lessons on faith and hope, and I want to share them with you.
You see, faith and hope are closely tied, they are almost one and the same. When you lose one, you inevitably lose the other; but when you find one, the other is close behind. This scripture in Psalms 42:11 says it so perfectly; “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!” See the progression, discouragement comes (faith being lost), then sorrow (hope goes with it). But the psalmist wouldn’t settle for this state of mind. He put his hope in God, then praised Him again (faith restored).
What we must understand about hope, is that we have two very different areas we place it. The first is what I will refer to as, “Earthly Hope,” and the second, “Heavenly Hope.”
All of us, every last living, berating, human being has Earthly Hope. This hope can be found in several different areas; Hope that our children grow up to be successful. Hope that we’ll finally get that promotion we’ve been waiting for. Hope that our sick loved ones will get better. Or even something simple such as hope that our husband or wife has a smile on their face when they see us today. While there’s nothing wrong with Earthly Hopes, they tend to fill our minds and consume our hearts day after day; so much so, that we have very little room left for Heavenly Hopes.
Heavenly hope, unlike Earthly Hope, cannot be stolen, lost, or broken as it can when a child leaves us, maybe due to anger or resentment towards us as a parent, or maybe even taken from us due to death. Or when that promotion never comes, and is passed on to somebody else. Or watching your sick loved one lay on a hospital bed, breathing their last breath as you hold their hand, and watching them go with no power to stop it, wishing they could just hang on for a few more moments to share your love with them. Or when your marriage is falling apart and you don’t even look forward to seeing your husband or wife any longer.
No, Heavenly Hope is not determined by these things. It won’t mock you as the tears fall from your eyes, or leave you in your current state of misery. Heavenly Hope will do just the opposite! It will carry you through ANY storm, bring you through any darkness, dry every tear from your eye, and never leave you comfortless. You see, Earthly Hope can be ripped from you without warning, at any moment, and come for more whenever it likes. You can do NOTHING about this when it comes, we are all in the same boat on this one. We all live on this earth and are subject to the changes of life. This is why the Bible sates so clearly, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Your eye(what you see and desire) is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good (Heavenly Hope), your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad (Earthly Hope), your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! So don’t worry about these things, saying, `What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers (those without faith), but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry (put your faith and hope in) about tomorrow, for tomorrow (this life) will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:19-23; 31-34 NLT).
Concerning the fact that we ALL live on this earth, and both bad and good come for us all, the devil knows this, and plays on it as much as he can. To the young person he whispers, “Don’t you hope to be popular and fit in with everyone else?” To the college and career aged he whispers, “You don’t really hope to turn out like one of those crusty old people who have no fun in life do you?” To the single mom or dad he whispers, “Does it really matter who I’m with just as long as I have hope to be happy again?” To the husband or wife he whispers, “Come on, can you really keep hoping he or she will start to notice you, and treat you like you’re special again?” This is when he comes in like a thief to steal away your Earthly Hopes, so that your Heavenly Hopes will also begin to fade.
For this reason, Jesus makes it very clear when he says in Matthew 5:45, “...For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Good may come and boost your Earthly Hope, and just as quickly, bad may come steal it all away. Our faith and hope cannot be placed in Earthy Hope, we must learn to care less about the hopes of this world, and more about the hopes of heaven. This is also why the Apostle Paul warns us “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT). Also Colossians 3:2, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
One last scripture that I’ve grown to love as the storms of life wage war on my Earthly Hopes. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:6-7).