My friend Deb Demty lives with her husband Paul near the beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. For several years now Deb has started nearly every day by taking a long walk on the beach with her dog, and most importantly with her Lord. As she does this, she admires the awesome beauty of God’s creation, and she converses with the Lord, offering to Him the praise He is so worthy of. Along the way Deb has taken and shared many beautiful sunrise pictures, including the one I have posted here, which she took earlier this week.
Sunrise pictures remind us of new hope, for a new day is beginning. Though yesterday may have been hard, and though last night may have been long and dark and difficult, this is a brand-new hope-filled day.
For people in every generation of human history, including our own, at various times life is hard. Haven’t we all experienced this reality? The reasons for this are plentiful. Life is made hard by the frailties of our humanity as evidenced in weakness, injury, aging, and illness, and especially so in mortality and death. Life is also made hard because of the contagion of brokenness and sin in this world, as evidenced in corruption, division, injustice, cruelty, war, and every expression of man’s inhumanity to man. Life can be hard because of so many uncertainties including deprivation, dangers, doubts, disappointments, despair, and deep and painful grief.
The Word of God and our life experience teach us that whenever life becomes hard, we deeply need hope, and in God’s grace, He offers it. And when we by faith receive God's hope, no matter what our current circumstances may be, we are blessed to receive God's peace.
Countless occasions are included in God’s Word when His people were suffering greatly, and life for them was hard, but in great mercy God offered promise and hope. The prophet Isaiah lived in such a hard time when people faced dangers from without and within. The people of God were suffering much hardship and adversity, in large part because of God’s righteous judgment for sin. Fear and despair were commonplace, and people longed for hope. In great mercy God saw this and in His unfailing love, God cared, even as He sees all of us whenever life for us is hard. And because God cares, with great grace and mercy He offered to His people then, and He offers to us now precisely what is needed. God offers hope to us, and to all who in faith look beyond the struggles and hard circumstances, to see and hear Him and to believe His Word.
As much as the people of Isaiah’s day may have wished it, and as much as we might wish it too, God has not promised to remove from us every trial, or to make life easy for us in every way. Rather, God offers to all who believe in Him hope that is tangible and real, and that endures, withstanding every circumstance and assault. God offers to us hope through the Lord Jesus Christ who has promised to be with us always, every moment of every day, through every step and every challenge. Hope assures us that God has made for us a way, even if we cannot yet see it.
To the people in Isaiah's day who were utterly hopeless, and to all who lack hope now, the Lord of all says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3a).
What a hope-filled promise God has given us! This promise is for us today and for all the days and years that lie ahead, that no matter how hard life becomes, our God offers His hope, for He is our savior and redeemer.
So let us listen carefully. Can you hear Him calling you? He calls each of us by name, reminding us that He is with us right now, and He will remain with us through all that will come, even when life for us is hard. Do you believe this? Do you know that Almighty God truly is with you, even in hard circumstances?
God has made this wonderful promise to us, and because He is by His divine nature wholly faithful and trustworthy, we are blessed now with hope. We are blessed to believe, and thus to know with certainty that we will not perish or be overwhelmed. Our Lord assures us that we can even pass through deep waters without drowning, and when the the fires of adversity rage around us, we will not be harmed or consumed.
Such hope is priceless, isn't it? It replaces panic with peace, and confusion with calm. Do we not rejoice and treasure this hope that is ours? Hope that endures and sustains us when life becomes hard, this hope can be ours only through faith in God. I testify to you and I rejoice before God that by His grace I have truly known God's hope. Through all that I have faced, I have had hope, even when life was hard! Do you also have such hope? You can, by believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and henceforth walking with Him through all of life. All who do this are blessed to know that in every moment and every circumstance, we are in God's holy presence, and we are blessed with confident assurance that because all of His promises are true, God will surely see us through.
In the home I grew up in there was singing every day, for every morning as a family we sang songs of worship to the Lord. Both of my parents loved singing hymns as a means of worship and expression of their faith, for they treasured and believed the truth, promise, and hope that many hymns expressed. One of my Dad’s favorite hymns was “Beyond the Sunset”, the lyrics of which were written by Virgil Brock. In my heart I can still hear my Dad singing these hope-filled words flowing from his heart-felt faith in the Lord Jesus:
Beyond the sunset, oh blissful morning
When with our savior, heaven is begun
Earth's toiling ended, oh glory dawning
Beyond the sunset when day is done.
For my Dad who is now in heaven, the sunrise has already come, for he is now with his Lord in glory, with all the saints of God who have gone before us. But we who remain on this side of the sunset, still awaiting the sunrise that is soon coming, we are called and blessed of God to live every day in the certainty of His hope. And so, whenever life for us is hard and we are facing uncertainty, or grief, or pain, or weakness, or loss, it is through faith in the Lord that God fills us with hope.
So, what is biblical hope, anyway? It is not mere wishful thinking, for if it were, it would be of no help. The hope that God lovingly gives to all who believe in Him can be defined as “the confident expectation that what God has promised He will surely do”. This is real hope.
Placing our faith in God means that we truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His sacrificial death for us on the cross to forgive us and atone for our sins, and that we believe in the truth and power of His resurrection and His triumphant victory over sin and death, which He accomplished for us. Believing this means we fully trust Him to grant to us the glorious and promised gift of eternal life. We know with certainty that He will surely bring us into His glorious presence in Heaven. This is our confident expectation and certain hope. And if we are blessed to trust Him for everlasting life, surely we can also trust Him for our daily life, even when life for us is hard.
If we should ever reach our darkest and lowest point, even still in faith we know our God is still with us. Our Lord has made a promise to us, and He never forgets it, nor will He ever. He has promised to be with us forever (Matthew 28:20). God is present with us always, and in His presence all who believe and love Him are blessed to receive His peace and comfort, even when life is hard. Our Lord then takes us by the hand and leads us through, over, or around the seemingly hopeless muck and mire of our situation, setting our feet on solid ground. Our hope is in Him.
So if you find yourself now or in the future in hard circumstances, perhaps because of a painful divorce, or the death of someone dear to you, or because of the loss of your own health or the health of someone you love, or perhaps due to financial need or employment uncertainties, or if for any other reason you should face struggle or disappointment, and life for you becomes hard, I am praying now that you may believe and know with certainty that God deeply loves you. He knows your needs, and He offers hope. God’s hope is never dependent on our circumstances. His hope flows to us from who He is, and from His enduring faithfulness.
As election day approaches in the USA, emotions and tensions run high among people of various political viewpoints. Some carry deep fear should the election results not be as they prefer. But does such fear reflect real faith and hope in God? Do we really think that God’s faithfulness is limited or dependent on particular political outcomes? Surely God is faithful and able, no matter the circumstances!
God wants all who know Him to put our ultimate trust and hope in Him, no matter what our circumstances are. This is expressed poetically in Psalm 20:7-8, which says “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” Yes. Biblical hope means that no matter our circumstances, and no matter how hard life becomes, we are making a faith-filled decision, that “we will trust in the name of the Lord”. We do this because our hope is now and forever in God.
Reflecting on this theme I have been remembering a day when I was a young pastor, and my Lord taught me a vivid lesson on the treasure of hope in God, even when circumstances are hard. It was February 9, 1981. I recall the date because this happened on my birthday. I received a call from a nurse who was providing home care for Viola Bessette, a woman in our congregation who was suffering from cancer. The nurse said Viola asked if I might be able to visit and bring her holy communion. I immediately agreed.
When I arrived I found Viola in her hospital bed. She was weak and in some discomfort, but we shared wonderful fellowship and conversation together. Then at Viola's request the nurse and I helped her walk to the kitchen table. There I read from God’s Word, and we shared in the sweet remembrance of holy communion. As we did, God met us.
We then helped Viola return to her bed. After the nurse had settled her in, I returned to the bedside for a parting prayer. I sensed in the Spirit that it would not be long before God invited Viola into the glory of His heavenly presence, and it was clear that Viola knew this. Her circumstance was hard that day, for she was weak, sick, and dying. But clearly Viola was not alone, for her Lord was very present, filling her with faith, hope, and love. Her parting words to me were filled with obvious hope. Smiling brightly she said, “Pastor Steve, you and I are both going to see Jesus. But I am going to see Him first”! Amen. Later that night Viola breathed her last, and she saw Jesus.
Like Viola, through the years I have been very blessed to walk every day and to take every step with God by faith, and I too have known His sure and comforting hope, in every situation and season of life, even when life has been hard.
Toward this end, I pray for all of you these precious and hope-filled words of the Apostle Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Amen.