This present trouble – our county, this world, my own aching heart… It can feel like a smothering weight. It is easy to look at what is happening around us and feel overwhelmed, sad, concerned and a bit lost. Our country is divided. There is so much violence and hatred. We are losing something precious. It feels like people are becoming more nationalistic, not just in the U.S., look at India, Myanmar, Germany among others. Being an outsider is becoming more and more a problem. We are hunkering down with our tribes and saying anyone outside of our point of view is bad.
I argue this is happening because we have lost our sense of hope.
We have lost a sense of something bigger than we are. We have lost our sense that tomorrow can be any different, better, or more equitable than today! We have become the center of it all and, let’s be honest, we are very broken beings to moor our hope to.
This present trouble can weigh heavy but it is but a breath in the context of our world. That does not mean it does not matter, but it does mean it is not as catastrophic as it might seem. We live in the constant state of the sky is falling, but we can take a step back from that any time we want.
To take a step back calls us to reaffirm what/who we ultimately trust.
Where is our hope?
If our hope is in countries, governments, power, money, an issue, comfort, status, or importance than the world will always feel like shifting sand. We take each event as central to our identity and survival and lose the ability to see beyond our momentary troubles.
If you feel like you are lost on the merry-go-round, the news cycle makes you want to bury your head, you are getting more and more sad, feel more and more isolated and that things are getting more chaotic and broken, again I ask: Where is your hope — really?
Hope: noun: desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.
If we hope in what we can see, if we hope in governments, if we hope in popularity, relevance, acceptance, money, position – it leaves us ultimately hopeless. We put our hope in things that cannot sustain and crush under our weight. The end point is always shifting and we grasp harder and harder to what sustains us less and less.
That is why everything is so dire for us right now. We have taken our hope off of God and put it on ourselves and what we can control. We look to others to champion our way and then cannot handle when they falter. We cling tighter to our political ideals, our sense of cultural identity, our nostalgia for how it “used to” or “should” be, instead of recognizing we are clinging to a sinking raft. Fear creeps in and we blame. We cut off anything that is different, that challenges us, that we can make into a threat – when in reality we need to reevaluate what we have put our hope in.
What you hold onto in our hearts, what we ultimately place our hope in determines everything else. If we hope in things that are here and now, we react to every little thing. We exist out of scarcity, and slowly die on party lines and issues that are more cliches than anything real.
But if our hope is in something that war, politics, power, and man cannot break down, if our ultimate sense of worth does not lie in being right, in winning, in getting our way, if what we cling to goes beyond the walls of a church building to the One who created it all then we are able to find an unmovable point on the horizon and what happens around us does not define or deflate us. We realize our worth does not depend on who wins the election or moves in next door, but rather are we living the lives of service and love Jesus commanded us to?
When we place our hope in more than we can see, we are able to engage from a place of neutrality because an issue does not make or break us.
We can listen, question, and engage others because our hope is not in a person, issue, or law. Others can differ from you and yet you can stand and work stand side by side because hope is bigger than one issue, bill, position, or need to be right.
Ultimately when our hope is in God, we see those around us as people, not villains or outsiders to be blamed and hated but as God’s creation — all of them! And we realize we serve a God of abundance who says all are welcome and equal at His table.
Now I know there are big issues affecting our world that we need to engage and do something about. We need to work to end racism, hatred, violence, our broken justice system, genocide, human trafficking, sex abuse, the vulnerability of poverty! But if my hope is tied to any part of those issues I cannot work to truly end them because my identity, sense of victory, importance, sense of belonging, etc. does not manifest itself in the outcome of one bill, one elected official, an object or my access to it, or how someone chooses to greet me during the holidays.
When our hope truly lies in God, we stop living with a “winner and loser” point of view. We stop hoarding what we have. We stop seeing other people as something to be feared. It is only when we admit we are not the center of it all and therefore need to ground ourselves in the One that is – that we can honestly come to the table and work towards true change.
So… where is your hope?
Take some time and reflect. Ask the Lord to show you the places you have let become too big an influence in your life. What is your reaction to the state of our world. It is okay to admit you feel powerless and things feel out of control. Spend time quietly with God asking Him to give you a sense of His peace and power. Then do it again tomorrow. Strongholds are hard to break, but we can ultimately believe in a God that is bigger than whatever troubles us.