Looking Forward

December 29, 2022

As we are closing out 2022, we can’t help but reflect and realize that for most of us it has been a very difficult and challenging year. The last few years have held such difficulties for the entire nation and world that all of us have had what they keep calling “unprecedented problems,” making another hard year very wearying. You can name your struggles. There have been disappointments, deaths, financial struggles, relational issues, dreams that seem to be saying they will never happen—losses of all descriptions and sizes.

One thing we would likely agree on—life is challenging with its many ups and downs, disappointments, and delights. It seems to be up and down, going rapidly from high to low.

In the midst of my own reflections, I find my mind returning over and over to the hope-filled words written by Paul to his friends and fellow followers of Jesus in Rome. He wrote it about 25 years after the resurrection of Jesus. Paul was continually facing challenges and hardships, and the believers in Rome did as well. But Paul was focused beyond the challenges. He encouraged his friends in that direction and prayed for them with great faith: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV

Suffering can be so hard for us. Whether the pain is physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual, the most natural result is that it becomes heart and life-dominating. It will wake up with you in the morning, whisper worries in your ear all throughout the day, and delay your sleep, making you toss and turn all night long. Maybe you don’t sleep at all. It is consuming.

You will tend to compare yourself with others and the comparison always leaves you in the negative. You feel like you have it worse than others, maybe ARE worse off than others, or you don’t understand why you have the struggles you have when others worse than you are in good shape. You develop resentment and envy, and your relationships are affected. You develop your own stories about what is happening and why it is happening, and little of it may even be factual. You struggle with God over why He has allowed all this.

You likely are not aware of it, but your suffering, the pain it produces, and your resultant envy and resentment of others will lock you into a view of life that has a disastrous past and a painful present. That’s bad, but not nearly the worst part of it. The worst part is that not only is your past painfully tainted, your present marred by the hurt of it, but you are functionally without a future. There is nowhere for you to go, no way out.

When you get stuck in a place where you believe that what is right now will always be, you are living without hope. When you believe that the past, present, and future all are one stream blending into another, and that what is will always be, you are making a serious mistake. Even if your life has been so unbelievably charmed that you assume it will always remain the same, the future will eventually show you disappointment that you don’t know how to handle or redeem. You need hope as your foundation, not the way things are.

If you believe that the suffering you have now will always be, you are dooming yourself to no functional future. The days ahead will not be anticipated or enjoyed. You need to tell yourself over and over again the truth that what is will not always be. This is vital to understand, to believe with all your heart, and to preach to yourself again and again: What is will not always be.

Why is this true? Because we have a God of love who has put movement and change into the universe. He is always working. Tomorrow will always be a new day. One day when you least expect it, things will change.

But you must get on page with Paul if this is going to happen for you. You must decide to believe in God’s loving wisdom and His plan for you. As you believe in Him, as you trust that His intentions for you are always good and that His wisdom is greater than yours, He will fill your heart with an abundance of hope. You won’t have to be the little engine that thinks and hopes you can. You will be a [person filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and in any situation, you will find your heart rising. You just know it—things won’t always be the way they are, God is working right now.

Choose to believe. God will make you abound with hope.