There are times and stretches of time in our lives when it seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and no hope of something better. Or, even if we can envision something better, it appears to be forever out of our reach. God seems distant and disinterested as we view our faith as more of a nice thought than anything of substance. What do we do when everything seems so messed up and out of joint with both ourselves and the world in general?
What I wish to offer here is not any sort of quick-fix solution to magically solve all problems or a list of platitudes that just tell us to feel better, for hope is not built upon such things. Instead, what I aim to do is present starting points, a series of “square-ones” as it were. These are facts that help us to take our next step in the right direction and, just as important, help us to not give up.
1) Jesus Christ is in Heaven.
Yes, this seems like a rather vanilla statement, but we ought not to lose sight of what it entails. Christ has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven: He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world and was elevated to the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 8:1). There, having returned to His place at the Father’s side and opened the way for us to be reconciled to our God, Christ makes intercession for us to the end that we share in the fellowship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Hebrews 7:25, John 17:20-26). We are never so far removed from God that we cannot reach Him and He cannot reach us. When we come to God and throw ourselves upon His mercy, we have Jesus Christ as our Advocate, to speak for us and support us.
2) The Spirit dwells in us.
Though Christ is in Heaven interceding for us, we have not been left alone. He, Himself, promised that a Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come to us and abide with us (John 14:15-18). Through the Spirit’s indwelling, God dwells in our hearts so that He is always near. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us in life to help and to guide us. He is our advocate as we live on earth, reminding us of our true North and directing us closer to God. In the midst of our weakness, in our hours of darkness, He also helps us by speaking on our behalf when we do not know what to say (Romans 8:26). God is near to us even in the thick of the fray and is active in our lives even when we feel far from Him. The Spirit helps us, speaks to us, and makes God known to us (John 16:13-15).
3) We have the power to choose.
Because of what God has done for us, we are no longer slaves to sin or ignorance. Instead, we have the help and tools before us to make meaningful decisions in our lives. We can choose what kind of person we are going to be and what we are going to make of our current circumstances. We can choose to remain faithful even when we feel so distant. Even when we feel powerless, we are still able to make choices of eternal significance. When we stumble and fall or are plain knocked down, there are always at least two options: to stay down, or to get back up. This is a choice that we and we alone can make. We make it countless times throughout our lives and we make it especially often when we are struggling with sin or facing a difficult life situation. No matter how many times we have to make it, it is always ours to make.
The points above remain constant, regardless of where we find ourselves in our Christian walk. The worst thing that we can do is give up and succumb to despair, for then we have shut out hope ourselves. However, if we can keep the above in mind, it will help us to remember the eternal hope we have and, in light of that hope, continue to put one foot in front of the other in our current situation. This may be seeking out the help we need, it may be continuing in prayer despite being pressed by desolation, it may even be as simple as choosing to smile.
In spite of the darkness that may surround us and give us a bleak outlook on life, there is a light and power within us of great and eternal significance. It is a light and power that is cared about by God and that He wishes to nurture and grow. He has given us a key role in this process. We can choose what to do with it at any given time and the hope that is thereby placed before us is a solid footing.