Hope in Discouraging Times

Several people have already asked about my response to the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill and its inclusion of abortion. Yes, I am deeply concerned about its effect on unborn children. However, even though this bill has passed, the righteous cause of the unborn is not over. The indictment against people who shed innocent blood is not over. The command of God is not over: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Be encouraged that the most direct and personal ways we can help unborn children and their mothers are still fully available to us. (See Fifty Ways to Help Unborn Children and Their Mothers.)

Here's an article I wrote a few years ago, called "The Gift of Hope." I think it's appropriate to share it now, when many people are feeling very discouraged about how things are going in the world and need some perspective.

There is a gift God has given his people in all ages that has enabled them not just to hold on, but to experience fulfillment even in times of great difficulty. This gift is hope.

Biblical hope is rooted in the fact that this life and its troubles are brief experiences relative to eternity. Paul said, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

The hope of the people of God is not merely a desire or wish. It is a confidence rooted in God's promise and God's faithfulness. It is a trust that is rooted in Christ's trustworthiness and the certainty of His wonderful plan for us. Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I'm going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).

Jesus gives us no false hope. He guarantees that a day will come when He will reign and all things will be new:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them to be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away' (Revelation 21:3-4).

(You've just read the end of the book. So now you know how the movie's going to turn out!)

The Bible shows us we are made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person, and Heaven is the place. The amazing central truth of the Christian faith is that Jesus went to Hell on the cross for us, so that by repenting of our sin and placing our trust in his atonement, we could go to Heaven with Him.

What is our ultimate hope? God's promise that because of Christ's redemptive sacrifice, the day is coming when all that is wrong will be made right. All that now hurts will be healed.

Hope is the light at the end of life's tunnel. It not only makes the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of the world into which we will one day emerge. Not just a better world, but a new and perfect world. A world alive, fresh, beautiful, devoid of pain and suffering and war, a world without disease, without accident, without tragedy. A world without dictators and madmen. A world ruled by the only one worthy of ruling. (See my book Heaven for more on this.)

What difference does hope make? All the difference in the world. A study was done in which one group of Israeli soldiers was told they would go on a march, but were not told if or when the march would eventually stop. Another group was told the length of the march. They knew there was an end.

Both groups were tested for their stress response. Although they marched not one foot further than those in the other group, those who did not know whether or when the march would end registered a much higher level of stress. Why? Because they had no hope, no tangible assurance that the forced march would end. They felt helpless, hopeless, wondering if they would ever be allowed to rest.

We do not know exactly how long we will be here, but we do know there will be an end. We will not march forever. We will rest. That is cause for certain hope. Even in times of greatest grief Christ leaves us with his hopeful assurance:

"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy...Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy...I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:20,22,33).

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries