Jesus: The Anchor of My Hope
Kerry Plantz - Soul Care Counselor
Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year. I love the lights and decorations; the smell of cinnamon pinecones in the stores. I love having family and friends come together and celebrating with delicious foods and thoughtful gifts. I’ll confess, we have even put up our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving because the anticipation is so great, we just want to enjoy it as long as we can! So many wonderful memories are created around the Christmas season.
However, not everyone feels this way around Christmas time. For some families, this time of year will bring deep sadness and heartache. I think of the family who just discovered their loved one may be enjoying their last Christmas because they have stage four cancer, or some other disease that will inevitably take their life. I think of the couple that anticipated a first Christmas with their new baby, but instead will only be celebrating the memory of the short time they had with that child. I think of the family that is struggling financially, and while they are doing their best to make it a special time of year, they struggle to put food on the table or presents under the tree the way they wish they could for the people they love the most.
Despair - the absence of hope.
If we stay there long enough, we begin to get merely a glimpse of the tip of what despair feels like. Despair is the absence or loss of all hope. It’s the moment you’re no longer mad or sad or confused or even discouraged - you’re just simply existing. I believe this is the feeling the Psalmist expresses when he says:
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
– Psalm 43:5
He says his soul is downcast and disturbed, and he questions it. He tells himself to, “put [his] hope in God”. The road to despair is paved with crushed hopes. We hope our loved ones live long and healthy lives. We hope we have children and that they are happy and healthy. We hope we will make plenty of money and be able to share with the people we love. The problem is that our hope is only as good as the object we place it in. While all of these hopes are good, they are not promised or secure.
God - the giver of hope.
The only thing we can place our hope in is God, His promises, and His proven character. God is the only one who will never let us down. He will never disappoint us or turn away from us. His promises are secure and forever. He has proven from the beginning His faithfulness to us from generation to generation. This hope is a hope that is certain. We don’t have to “wish” for God to be good to us. God is always good to us. We have a hope grounded in the proven character of God, the truth that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). The God of the world gave up His only son to redeem us, how can we not trust Him with all other things?
I remember in one of my darkest seasons of life, feeling despair and realizing I had truly lost my hope. I knew my God, but life didn’t make sense anymore. In that season, a very wise and loving woman asked me, “Has God provided for you in this storm? Has he sustained you and kept you through it in ways you never could have imagined? Then why, my friend, are you doubting that he will continue to do this very thing going forward?!” She was right! I had lost my hope in the goodness of my God who had proven himself to be only good to me.
Moving from despair to hope.
So, how does someone move from despair to this hope? How do we tell our aching hearts to cling to him once again, when everything seems to have all fallen apart, or when we are so disappointed from unmet expectations of what we thought our life would look like? How do we remember the promise of his goodness when our loved ones are hurting? Here are some very practical steps to walking yourself out of despair and into hope again:
Step #1 - Confess and surrender your crushed hopes to the Lord.
Be honest with yourself and God about what you wanted. Confess the very thing that you have been holding onto so tightly, and surrender these dreams and desires back into his hands and control.
Step #2 - Remind your heart of God’s promises.
God has not forgotten you. He doesn’t want to harm you, and his is still good. God is not out for his own glory at your expense. God’s glory is his goodness on display through our lives, and while he will bring beauty out of all the sin and suffering in the world, he is not to blame for the evil in this world. God is still good, and he is still working all things together for your good as well.
“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
”Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.”
– Isaiah 49:14-16
Step #3 - Worship your way out of despair and into hope.
Spend time in the presence of the Lord in prayer, cry out, sing, and read his word. Let God comfort your heart with the truth that he is with you. He will not leave you in this season, and he is not hurrying you through it. He is near and he is full of love and comfort for those who mourn.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, our of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song
of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
– Psalm 40:1-3
Jesus - the anchor of hope.
Healing takes time, grief is a journey, and God is patient and loving in that journey. This Christmas, if you are experiencing a grief that has turned to despair in any form, remember this truth - God sent his only Son into this world to fulfill his promise to you. He allowed his own Son to be born and die in your place because He loves you so very much. Let your hope be anchored in the promise that you have a God who has always been faithful to keep his promises and will finish what he started.
You have a God that gave you the best gift of all, Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of promises in the past, and security of promises in the future. All of the promises of God find their “yes” in Jesus Christ (2 For. 1:20). This Christmas, if your eyes have drifted to the brokenness, pain, and suffering in your life and in the world around you, fix your eyes on Jesus, and remember your hope is secure and anchored in the very truth that God always does what he says he’ll do.