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Somewhere south of anchorage, Alaska, on the Seward Highway, my friend was lost and needed directions to Hope, Alaska, a remote fishing village on the Kenai Peninsula. He asked the old man at the gas station, “How do you get to Hope?” “Go to church and pray,” the old man answered with a smile, delivering the well-practiced line as if he were an Oscar-winning actor.

We would all do well to follow his advice. So many have lost their way to hope. Hopelessness and cynicism have become epidemic in our culture and in the church. Hopelessness is a sense of despair and dread. Hopelessness is correlated with suicide, depression, self-harm, and belief of being socially undesirable. Hopelessness has been an unrelenting teacher.

The lesson of these past few years is that government, the economy, politics, and social awareness will not secure our future. So, how do we get to hope? What does the road to hope look like? Like every journey, the road to hope begins with knowing where we are. If you are reading this and feeling so hopeless that you are pondering harming yourself, then call your pastor, friend, or family member. As hopelessness gets its voice, you will want to isolate and pull away from God and others. Suicide, isolation, and self-harm are never God’s desire for you. An honest look at your condition may sound risky in our culture of “be positive” and “just try harder.”

Hopelessness comes when our hope is in something unreliable or incapable of meeting the deepest longings of our lives. The unexpected road to hope begins with the realization that our schemes do not work and are not capable of taking the sorrow of this fallen world away. Ironically, hopelessness is the first step to finding real hope. God never intended us to be fully satisfied by the things of this life. God does not want lesser gods to preoccupy His children. We were created for relationship with God; therefore, we long for that restored relationship with God, as well as with others and ourselves. Once we take the pressure off our spouses, our kids, our jobs, or our governments to meet our deepest longings, then we can begin to enjoy them for what they can provide. We will never get to hope if we believe that merely changing circumstances is the answer.

The road to hope requires gratitude and prayer. It is impossible to have gratitude and hopelessness simultaneously.

The Bible speaks often about how present circumstances do not determine our hope. Living faithfully in exile is an invitation to see the bigger picture beyond the small hopes of temporary happiness. The road to hope begins with coming to the end of ourselves and our efforts to make our lives perfect. Despite obstacles and disappointments, we can live for a greater purpose and have ultimate hope. In the Bible, God’s people lived in exile, yet God promised them hope. Paul wrote about hope and encouragement from prison. The church grew in the midst of persecution, because its hope was not in circumstances but in God alone. The journey to hope begins when we come to the end of ourselves and focus on our identities in Christ as God’s image bearers instead of on mere circumstances.

We will never get to true hope by trying to fool ourselves into being satisfied with small, attainable goals. Hope is not found in small, selfish thinking. Moving toward hope requires that we embrace truth. That truth is that we are designed by God to live a story of His glory. The hopeless person does not think too big—he thinks too small. So, as the road to hope widens before you, realize that you have a purpose in your life. In Christ, you are a chosen child of God and therefore a part of the family of God.

Once we move beyond our circumstances and understand the grand purpose God has given us, a look in the rearview mirror is helpful. Remember how God has been faithful in the past. Read and study Bible passages that demonstrate His faithfulness. Look around—you will see you are not alone. Life is not meant to be lived alone. We must realize that others are with us, others also struggle, and others will need our help and encouragement along the way. Look closer still and we will see our true companion. Christ is in us and His Spirit is empowering us.

Along with a new focus, a grand purpose, companions on each side, and Christ as your strength, the road to hope requires gratitude and prayer. It is impossible to have gratitude and hopelessness simultaneously. To continue on the road to hope, we will need to thank God frequently in our prayers.

At this point in the journey to hope, we will notice some resistance. Hopelessness is a con man that keeps us from loving, trying, and dreaming—in an odd way, hopelessness can become comfortable for us. We want hope, but we want to be in charge. We want hope, but we want to justify not loving others and God. In the book of Isaiah, God invites His children to participate in His plan, to trust and live in His covenants, and to anticipate His provision:“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isa. 55:2)

As we travel toward hope, let us remember to keep perspective and focus on Him. Let us not squander our lives with goals that will not satisfy. The old man was right: “Pray and go to church.” There we will be reminded once more where real, eternal hope lies.

Not in Talk but in Power

Ministry in the Visible Church

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From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue