Sometimes life gets complicated when we least expect it. Are you struggling with disappointment or uncertainty? Worried about a friend who is sick or in trouble? Maybe you are concerned for your parents who obviously need help but refuse your efforts? Me too. It is during such times that I am always grateful to cozy up to the Scriptures for comfort, perspective and the HOPE that I have lost sight of.
Does that sound odd? Living in a culture that seems to be all about creating diversions to avoid thinking about problems, I suppose it does. Yet Forbes.com reporter Melanie Lindner suggests that much of the booming “self-help” industry is fueled by people seeking an age-old need:
“Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs–13.6% more than they did back in 2005.” Lindner continues, ” Who buys into this stuff? Mainly middle-aged, affluent females living on either of the two coasts. What are they getting for their money? In a word: HOPE.” (Published 01.15.09)
Can money buy hope? Not really. Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless says the most likely customers of self-help products are the same people who purchased similar products within the previous 18 months. Our problem? In becoming our own gods, we look to contrive a self-made hope that can never satisfy.
But there is HOPE (tons of it!) if you just know where to look. Consider this gem the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:
“ . . . everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (15: 4)
By God’s design, the Scriptures are a gift to us that provide HOPE as they teach and encourage us to endure in our faith. According to the Oxford dictionary to endure is “to suffer patiently.” I appreciate the reminder not to give way to despair in my disappointment. Instead I (we!) can choose to suffer patiently (even expectantly) as God works out His perfect plan. The blessing that is worked out in this process is a quietness of heart we refer to as HOPE. It is hope, centered on the singular goodness of our Creator, that brings light into dark places.
Just a few verses down in Romans is another verse that has been a source of light and, yes, HOPE in some of the darker seasons in my life. I offer it to you and pray that you too will experience God’s perfect peace as you endure to His Glory.
“May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)