Joyful in Hope

BY ERIC TSANG

A t some point in life, we all find ourselves  traveling through the gloomiest, darkest valleys of life. But God asks us to rely on Him, being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12, NIV).

This is a difficult teaching: not only to have hope but to rejoice in it, when life smothers every iota of happiness in us. When everything around us – our relationships, our health, our wealth, even our faith in God – seems to be crumbling, falling apart, how then do we thank God, joyful in hope?

Let’s keep in mind, though, that God is faithful (1 Cor. 10:13). God is not sadistic; in fact, our pain pains Him. What reason, then, would He have for allowing us to be crushed and broken?

Many times He takes our distress and molds it into an opportunity in which He can reveal Himself to us. As Pastor James Lee of Livingwater Church has said, “It is in the wilderness – a place of no life – that we meet Jesus.” God is a wise God. He never forces us to believe in Him, but He does use the circumstances in which we feel most close to death and desolation to show us the life abounding in Him. Our distress carries the tremendous hope of experiencing the grace of our Savior!

Now so far, this has all been easily said: God is merciful and will save us in our need. But when we are put to the test, all the verses we know can suddenly come to naught. Many times, our quandaries are so depressing that “reliance on God” seems insufficient. The troubles we face become more real, more tangible, more pressing, than a God who says, “Trust me.”

Sometimes, that may be the problem: we don’t fully trust in God. We know He is omnipotent, and that He saved multitudes of people; but we just don’t feel that He will save us – us personally. This happens the more when our prayers receive no response: it may feel as if we are only talking to ourselves and that even God has abandoned us. But the bottom line remains that God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Whenever we feel ourselves struggling in depression, we are in a fight against the Devil, but the Devil is not fighting us: he is trying to fight our Almighty God, who stands by us. My pastor once told me about a man who, instead of praying to God about how great his troubles were, would say to his troubles:

My God is greater than you!

Our Almighty God is greater indeed! He was the one who stood, in a pillar of fire, between Pharaoh’s army and the Israelites, protecting his people from anyone who would try to harm them; he is the God who gave David the strength to defeat Goliath; and He is our God – in whom nothing is impossible – and He stands between us and the Devil, saying, “You will not harm my child.”

The Devil tries to harm us, but as long as we are faithful, we are under the full protection of the Lord. Like chaff, the Devil stands no chance against God’s all-consuming fire. This is why God tells us to be joyful in hope. Hope is the knowledge and trust that He fights for us, that He will deliver us, that He is omnipotent and that He is faithful.

In this hope, can we not be fully confident that whatever is trying to hold us down is no match – at all – for Him who fights for us? And for this fact, can we not rejoice in Him? So let us, in whatever depressed stage of life, rely on Him fully, and like a dancing flame we will scorn the darkness around us. 

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