Just over four years ago, I lost my job at a Christian periodical through what was politely termed a “force reduction.” It was a dizzying experience, both in that strange feeling the newly unemployed can get — sort of like floating weightless over a pit, with your legs flailing in search of solid ground — and in the amazing speed with which the Lord rescued our family from financial distress.
He did this by rapidly providing my lovely wife, Christine, with a full-time job after she had been out of the paid workforce for a dozen years. Among other things, her gracious, cheerful, can-do attitude enabled me to pursue a challenging but rewarding freelance career.
Well, it’s happened again. This time, however, Christine’s position has been eliminated, and now we will both be seeking full-time jobs, eager to see what the Lord will provide for us and for our three children.
And I mean that word, “eager.” I really do! No lie: Losing a job and having your family thrown into turmoil is no fun. In fact, it’s terrifying! But having seen what God has already done in our lives, it would be kind of stupid to start doubting his love, power, and grace now.
If Jesus really is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), then it’s a pretty safe bet that he hasn’t changed that much over the last four years. We are truly eager to see what is next, whether that’s remaining in our adopted hometown, Wheaton — which is our strong desire — or moving to a land yet unseen (Hebrews 11:8). We’ve done it before. We’re open to whatever God has for us, trusting in him and in his good plans. It’s hard, but God never promises an easy life.
I suspect that Christine remains more marketable than I am, but a couple of job possibilities already have been presented to us — to both of us. One seems so good and so fitting, in fact, that we have said that we “don’t want to get our hopes up.” Well, why not? Just focus on that phrasing for a minute — “don’t get your hopes up.”
For a Christian, that’s blasphemy, isn’t it? Think of the presumption: We’re afraid to hope because we think God won’t come through, that he’ll drop the ball, or that he’s parsimonious with his provision, that he wants us to suffer needlessly. Is God really like that — Someone not to be trusted with our deepest hopes and fears? As I said … blasphemy.
We, of all people, ought to be getting our hopes up, and keeping them up, all the time. We have a God who is all-powerful, who is the very essence and source of love, and who is the fountain of all wisdom. Why in the world shouldn’t we have hope in such a Person? In the Bible, our hope is based upon God, who has already proven his love for us. As Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said only three things remain — faith, hope, and love. (They’re related but not identical, and they often appear together in the life of believers.) Well, we talk a lot about faith and love, but we don’t quite know what to do with hope. Maybe we’ve reinterpreted it to mean a sort of a weak-kneed wish for pie in the sky. It’s hope in the sense of “I hope I get a good grade today even though I didn’t really study”! There’s no foundation for that kind of hope. Our hope is solid, because it’s based on the covenant-keeping Lord of Scripture, who is our rock (Psalm 18:2).
This isn’t a prosperity gospel, however. I’m not saying that God is obligated to give us whatever we want — such as a great job — if only we have enough faith. How could I, given current headlines? Christians are getting mowed down in Syria, Kenya, and Pakistan, just to cite three examples. Yet are they without hope? I think not! As Scripture says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). No, whatever life or the devil throws at us, however terrible, it comes at the permission of God. We have hope in all circumstances, in this life and the next (Romans 8:18).
The question is, what are we going to do in the face of calamities as big as ethnic cleansing or as small as a job loss? As one who faces the one and not the other, I choose to hold onto hope. The Book of Hebrews encourages us “to hold fast to the hope set before us. … a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:18-19).
We Christians talk a good game when all appears to be going well — when nothing throws a roadblock in front of our pursuit of personal peace and affluence. But what is anchoring our soul when something bad comes our way … when a storm blows in? What do we say? And what do we do?
I choose to act as if this “Christianity thing” is real and that it makes a difference, in good times and in bad, so that people who see my response are so intrigued that they ask me to give a reason for the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15). I don’t always succeed, but that is the goal. What’s yours?
One of my models in this approach to the hard things of life, which we all can expect, is the late Tony Snow, who died of colon cancer. “The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death,” he wrote a few years ago, “things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies.”
I want to eagerly live in a “world shorn of fearful caution,” too. Don’t you? It can be dizzying for sure. But that’s what hope is all about.
Christian, it’s time to get your hopes up.
Stan Guthrie is author of the new book, A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know. Stan blogs at http://stanguthrie.com.