Practicing Hope

 
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I’ll be the first  to say that I am a worrier. Anyone else? Let’s see if this sounds familiar: You notice some unusual symptoms and end up on WebMD, thinking you have some kind of terminal illness. I am not sure if it is the way I grew with my mom who worried about everything or if it’s just seeing the frailty of the human life, but I tend to worry a lot. If I get my mind fixated on a problem, it is hard for me to shake it off, and I often jump to the worst possible conclusions.

I start with this confession because I don’t want anyone reading this to think that my point here is “get your act together!” But I don’t think we should just accept worries or discouragement by giving them a dwelling place in our hearts and minds because we decided that it is just a “part of life”. In order to fight against worry, we must instead hope. Proverbs 13:12 puts it like this, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Worrying can choke our ability to live by faith, while hope fuels our faith. Worry can tempt us to take matters into our own hands, while hope leads us to trust the Lord. Worry focuses on what is not happening, while hope focuses on what is possible with God. Do you see the difference? We are meant to be hope-filled people. So what can we do? If I could boil it down to one phrase I would say, “Practice hope.” I would like to give three simples steps that help us confront  worry so that we can put our hope in God.

Be Honest

We must be honest with our worries and doubts in order for genuine hope to arise. I heard a pastor say once, “God does not want to bless the person you are pretending to be, he wants to bless you! So you have to be honest!” When we are busy pretending to have it all together or to have the right answers, we do not allow God to meet us in our greatest place of need. Think of the Psalms of David. How many times has David cried out to the Lord wondering, “God how long do I have to wait? Where are you? When are you going to come through?” And if we know the story of David, we know that God is faithful and does answer his cry for help many times. God often meets David in the middle of his crisis, and I would argue that He wants to do the same for you. So be honest with the Lord.

Repent

Once you are honest with God about your worries and doubts, it will likely expose an idol in our hearts. This may sound upsetting, but behind most of our constant worries or discouragements is most likely an idol that we have tolerated. For example, if the fear of criticism cripples my ability to function, it is likely that I have made the approval of man an idol. Repentance is taking that idol and removing it from the throne in our heart where God belongs.

What makes it harder is that more often than not, our idols are actually “good things” such as a big ministry, perfect marriage, or an admirable career. Yet if our hope is not ultimately in God, we will be disappointed. So when it comes to dealing with worry and discouragement, repentance is crucial. Too often we pray and ask the Lord to give us victory over the prevailing sense of worry or discouragement, but we do not repent of the idols that bring us there.

Hope in God

After honesty and repentance, our hearts are in the right place to hope in God. In Psalm 42-43, on three separate occasions David says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” I have found that for myself, this is the step that is hardest to take. I remember in college I was driving with my friend one day and I began to just unload all the worries and different struggles in my mind and my heart. After I was done sharing all the reasons why it was so hard for me, my friend turns to me and says, “You know Sam, in the end I would just say, trust in the Lord.” It was very gentle but it pierced me. I realized that I had a trust issue, and it was not easy to admit. I had to be honest with God, confessing that I found it difficult to trust Him as a good Father or a good shepherd. I repented for my deep lack of trust in God. It was an uncomfortable process but it was necessary. It was only after being honest and repentant that I was able to genuinely put my hope in God.

I have realized over time that the focus is not so much my trust but the object of my trust. If I can see that He truly is a good Father and a good shepherd, then trusting Him comes naturally. If we are confident of His love towards us, we will gladly trust God. If we are convinced that He never breaks His promises, where else would we put our hope? It is the object of our trust that matters! Our aim should be to taste and see that the Lord is good. In doing so we will find that hearts will only long to hope in God.


Samuel Cho (@samwisecho) is the high school Pastor at Thanksgiving Church and a Praise and Prayer intercessor for Catalyst.  He graduated from Biola University for his degree in Christian Ministries and from Talbot School of Theology with a Masters in Theology. He and his wife live in Anaheim and are loving it! One of their favorite things to do is hosting people at their apartment. Sam loves coffee and probably drinks a little more than he should. Many have characterized him as a "big friendly giant" and that is exactly who he is. If you ever want a friendly theological discussion or debate, he is your guy!  

 
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