This first week of Advent we focused on the idea of HOPE. When we talk about hope in relation to faith in Christ and as it is used in Scripture, it’s more than tossing coin in the proverbial wishing well. Hope is something we are sure is going to happen, but it can only happen if and when God moves. Sometimes the word for hope is translated as waiting. Those who hope in (or wait upon) the Lord shall renew their strength, says Isaiah.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my previous post with all the teaching materials and videos on Hope as presented by the Lawrence County Youth Network. But right now I want to take a little time and answer these discussion questions for myself. If you’re feeling up to it, let me know how you would answer these questions by leaving a comment below.
Share a time when you felt hopeless.
Honestly there have been many times. Most of them have to do with our job situation. For instance, when I graduated from Harding University, it took me about a full year to find my first full time ministry job. Our situation as it involved our jobs and our infant son was about to get really complicated, but God pulled through with just what we needed when we needed it.
Ironically, that youth ministry job wasn’t all that great. We prayed for God to let us know if he wanted us elsewhere or if he wanted us to stay there. Long story short, God made it abundantly clear that it was time to make a move. So after three and a half years we moved down here to Mitchell – which is a whole other story in itself.
But most recently, it’s been really difficult not to feel a little hopeless during this year. I’ve been struggling with general anxiety and mild depression. It’s gone in cycles on and off for months. This has been a really hard year, and it’s been really difficult to remain optimistic about things. But just like always, God will provide. God will get me and us through this.
Talk About a Time You Felt Hopeful
I think for anyone who is a parent, there is no better analogue for the Christian hope than that of an expectant mother and father. There’s just so much that can go wrong. Life really is a miracle, a gift, a blessing. So when the day finally comes and nerves and stress are through the roof, when it’s all over there is a new, sweet life in your arms.
Share a Place in Your Day-to-Day Life Where You Feel a Sense of Hope.
As strange as it may sound, I feel more hopeful when I scroll through my Twitter feed. I have definitely curated my feed so that most of the people I follow are pastors, authors, theologians, activists, podcasters, YouTubers, etc. They are some of the most creative, caring, informed, deep thinking people I know of. So for me, when I get on Twitter, I get a glimpse of all the amazing things God is trying to do in the world through his church, through the arts, and through social media.
Explain an Area Where You Wish You Had More Hope
I wish I had more hope for the political sphere in our country. The rise in support for authoritarianism, fascism, and militaristic violence against people you disagree with. Our political alignments are becoming more extreme. I wish I had more hope for the future of political discourse, but we seem to be broadening the gap between us rather than building bridges. I wish we could all work together to combat the pandemic, climate change, the opioid crisis, the increasing wealth gap, racial tensions, etc. But so many people have picked their side and are unwilling to reach across and work together. Christ came to free us from all that. I want to side with the Kingdom of God with no other political allegiance. I just wish more of my fellow Christians felt that way.
How Does the Message of Jesus Offer You Some Sense of Hope?
Everything will end. Politics, the News, sports, jobs, the economy – it all changes. Nothing stays the same. Even the great American experiment will end. I’m a fan of the phrase, “Your now is not your forever.” That can apply to good times and bad. It can apply to a season of life and to the powerful nations of the world. Everything ends.
But Christ and his kingdom are forever. His is an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken. Christ is the king on the eternal throne. Christ Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We worship the Great I AM (I was, I am, I will be). For me, the great hope in Christ is that I get to be part of something that will outlast me, something WAY bigger than myself. I have hope in life eternal yet to come. I have hope that nothing in all of creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ. I have hope that there is nothing I can do to make God love me any more, and there is nothing I can do to make God love me any less. Life is full of changes, storms, trials – but hope is the anchor that keeps us secure no matter what may come.
Talk About What You Think It Means to Find Hope in Jesus
There is a series of stories in the Gospel of Mark. If these stories truly happened in the timeframe and chronology presented in the Gospel, then this was one BAD day. Jesus and the disciples found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm on the lake, and the disciples thought they were going to drown. Then they finally reached shore in a graveyard that was inhabited by a demon-possessed man who ran out toward them. When they sailed back across the lake, they were led to the funeral of a little girl who had died. On the way they were inconveniently stopped by a woman who had a chronic, terrible medical condition.
Each case seemed utterly and completely hopeless. These people had NO OTHER CHOICE but to cry out to Jesus. And each time when they were going through the unimaginable, Jesus came through. He stopped the storm. He drove out the demon. He cured the disease. He raised the dead. And every time in my life, when my back has been up against a wall with no way out, God has come through. I’m not saying that Jesus promises us an easy life. Quite the contrary. He may not calm every storm that comes your way, but he will stay with you through the storm and won’t abandon you. The greatest promise from God is, “I will be with you.”
Come Up with Some Practical Ways You Can Share a Sense of Hope
I’m learning that there is a big difference between belief and trust. I know a lot of believers who don’t really trust God. If we want the world to know the hope that we have, then we must do a better job of living a life of trust in God. What does that look like? Here are some ideas.
- Before you vent about something, pray about it.
- Stop posting things you know are going to cause a rise out of people, sparking outrage or arguments.
- Don’t degrade yourself or others so much online.
- Encourage those you see who may be struggling.
- Realize there is no prayer too small or too big for God.
- Post inspiring Scriptures, but then also post a caption about WHY it is meaningful to you.
- Be happy when other people are happy. (How many of us actually get jealous of other people’s happiness?)
- When someone is feeling down, you don’t always have to cheer them up. Sometimes the best thing you can do is be present with them through the sadness.
- Trust that God knows what he’s talking about, he’s got it under control, and that no matter what happens he will be with you.
What would you add to the list? How would you answer these other questions? Let me know in the comments below.
Merry Christmas everyone!