hopeHave you ever lost hope?

That’s something we might think when life piles up around us, when things are spiralling out of control, or when we’ve heard news that we didn’t want to hear.  Losing hope means that we’re running out of options and we don’t see a clear way forward.

But, what is hope?

A dictionary definition of hope goes something like this:  Hope is a feeling that what is wanted could be had, that the desired outcome will happen, or that tomorrow is brighter than today.

Hope in terms of faith is the confident expectation that God will do what God says He will do. And that hope is the root of faith.

But what happens when you lose hope?  Is that the end of life as we know it, or is there a way back?

Losing hope usually involves the situations of life that face us.  At the heart of this feeling is the notion that we are suffering, hurting, in pain, exposed, left hanging out to dry or that this is the end.

But, is there something bigger than what we are feeling in the moment? Is there a way to see hope even in the worst of days?

In scripture, the books of 1 Peter and 2 Peter are written by someone who lived through his own moment of losting hope.

Peter left everything that he had to follow after Jesus.  For three years, he watched and learned and had the chance to see miracles.  He even experienced one when he got out of a boat in a stormy sea and walked on water.  Well, he walked on water for a moment, took his eyes off Jesus and fell beneath the water.

He boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the messiah.  Then, he denied knowing Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ trial and all but disappeared on the day of the crucifixion.

Peter is restored by Jesus and will go on to become the leader of the first church.  People lined up in hopes that Peter’s shadow would pass over them as he walked by because they had hope that it would heal them.

Peter’s journey was one of bold, even bordeline arrogant, faith and moments of intense falls and failure.  He is someone greatly equipped to give us perspective on the issue of hope.

That’s what we find in 1 Peter 1:3-9.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Yes, that’s one long sentence!  However, it point us to God, to Jesus and to the hope of resurrection.  The phrase used here is “living hope.”  That suggests that there is an opposite, a “dead hope.”  Dead hope would be the life without God and the promise of something bigger.  A living hope, however, is so much bigger than what we experience in the moment.  It’s lasting. It does not perish or spoil.  Basically, Peter’s saying that God has us covered.  But, it goes even deeper than this.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

What is it that often makes us lose hope?  It’s the situations that we find ourselves in.  It’s the times we’ve been hurt, when we’re greiving, when it seems as if life really isn’t turning out the way we expected it to.

We lose hope when the pain, the emotions, the depression, the anxiety is blocking us from seeing the world that exists beyond the edge of our feelings.  Peter says that even the faithful will “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”  Those trials help us to see that the hope in God and the faith that comes with it are more valuable than anything we know.

And, when we come through the trial, through the moments when it seemed that hope was lost, we find ourselves in a position to truly praise Jesus.

Peter ends it with this description of Jesus that points to Jesus as the source of hope.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter had the chance to see Jesus, to be around him and learn from him.  Peter failed Jesus and was restored by Jesus.  Yet, Peter knows he is writing to those who have not had the opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh.  That’s why he writes, “though you have not seen him.”

He points to two things about hope for those who have not seen Jesus in the flesh.

  • You have not seen Jesus physically, but you love him.  Sometimes in the middle of trials and those moments when it seems hope is lost, we make prayers along the lines of “God are you still there?  Are you listening? Do you still love me?” Peter is saying that the love of Jesus is not based on us or our ablity to see it.  Jesus loves. Period.  And, even when we think we have lost hope, we have not lost the love of Jesus.
  • You have not seen Jesus physically, but you believe in him.  This might be the toughest one to wrestle with. Some parts of scripture will only make sense to those who have a relationship with Jesus.  Peter is writing to those who have expressed belief in Christ.  When we believe in Christ, it gives us an opportunity to be filled with “inexpressible” joy even in the midst of trials and pain.  Joy is not a feeling — it is rooted in hope that extends beyond the present circumstances.  Believing in Christ, loving Christ, leads me to a place to be able to experience joy even when I am not happy.

So, what does Peter point to as a place to look when we feel we are losing hope?  He wants us to recognize the love of Jesus that does not change in spite of our current situations and he points us to hold on to our belief in Christ even when it feels like our world is falling to pieces.

That sounds great on the surface, right?  But, doesn’t this have to be rooted in something deeper?

Absolutely.  That’s why Peter attached the idea of living hope to the single biggest message of the early church.  Loving hope is powered by the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection changes everything.  And, it even changes the way that we see the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Jesus went through three of the worst days ever and managed to walk out of an empty tomb on the other side. In that resurrection, Jesus provided the answer to the biggest questions in life:

  • What’s my purpose in life?
  • What’s the solution to my sin problem?
  • What happens when I physically die?

It is only in light of resurrection that we find the true ability to hope, to love and to believe.

Frederick Buechner wrote about this power of resurrection in his book, The Final Beast.  He says:

“The worst isn’t the last thing about the world. It’s the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It’s the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring. Can you believe it? The last, best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints, sometimes our hearts even. Yes. You are terribly loved and forgiven. Yes. You are healed. All is well.”

Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.  Resurrection means that there is hope even in the middle of pain and joy even in the heart of grief.

Even when you feel all hope is lost, all hope is never lost.

ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it.  You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at reignitemystory@gmail.com or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.