Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When You Are About to Lose Hope

Are you losing hope? Are you discouraged?

Perhaps your heart aches for a wayward child.
Your marriage may seem all but over.
You are alone and feel as if your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.

Are you mad at God or feel that He has let you down?
Is your health headed south with no chance of an upward turn?

Perhaps you have seen counselors, doctors, and tried various medications, but nothing is improving.

What do you do? Is there any hope?

Trust me: I know what it feels like to lose hope. I write this blog from personal experience. I am actually writing this blog more for me than anyone else right now.

Here are some things I suggest for those who are about to lose hope. Don’t try to do them all. Just pick one or two that you can apply right now, and then add others later. Here we go:

1. Somewhere in your situation, sin is probably involved. It might be your sin. Or it might be the sin of another that is affecting you. In either case, allow the sin to magnify the beauty of God’s grace. Think about it: it is an amazing truth that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20). In other words, the more sin there is, the more grace that can come … IF the sinner confesses and repents of his/her sin (1 Jn. 1:9). This is how good the Gospel is! Anytime we experience sin, even if that sin causes us great pain, we need to allow that sin to magnify our view of the cross of Jesus Christ. To the depth that we realize the seriousness of sin is the depth that we will appreciate God’s love and grace!

2. Rest in the truth that only God can change a heart. If your situation involves someone who is frustrating you, only God can change his/her heart. Other things might help bring this about (e.g., counseling, speaking the truth in love, prayer, etc.), but the bottom line is only the power of the Holy Spirit can ultimately change a person’s heart, including mine! I am dealing with a wayward son right not, and I keep coming back to this truth. I am going to do everything I can to influence my son, but at the end of the day, I can rest in God being the only One who can change him from the inside out. “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). For those struggling in marriage, this truth is very important. You cannot change your spouse!

3. Lean on the body of Christ for support. Take advantage of the strength available through the body of Christ. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:10). God wants us to lean upon our brothers and sisters in Christ when we begin to lose hope. For this to occur, we have to do something that few are willing to do: being humble and transparent to share our struggle. As long as we keep our pain inside, we forfeit the body of Christ being able to support us. When we share, then various members of the body can reach out to bear our burden. Share your pain, and receive the support of others.

4. Turn to God in prayer. In Psalms 73, Asaph is in turmoil. He envies the wicked; he feels that his obedience has been for naught; and his struggles are not making sense to him. The turning point comes in v. 17: “It was oppressive to me until I entered the sanctuary of God.” It is only as he gets alone with God that he gains a proper perspective. The same is true for us. We must get alone with God when we are struggling. We must get in the Word when we lose hope. Only then will we gain a godly perspective of our situation. Furthermore, when we come to God in prayer we must be sure to:

5. Be brutally honest with God. When we struggle, feel confused, or get angry it is important to “pour out your heart to God” (Ps. 62:8). God knows it all, so if we are not honest, we are only hiding those emotions from ourselves. Get them out. Blow some steam. Express your honest feelings to the Lord. But, at the end of the day, we must be willing to submit to God and not develop a demanding spirit. A demanding spirit is when we demand that God do what we want when we want it. On the other hand, faith is trusting God to do His will in His time. I find that when I am honest with God in prayer, often it leads to confession, because in my honesty I often see my sin.

6. Persist in prayer, because it often takes time to overcome the forces of darkness. Spiritual warfare is very real when we are losing hope. Satan is the master of discouragement, condemnation, and darkness. God is the giver of encouragement, hope, and light. Demonic spirits must be defeated in prayer—persistent and fervent prayer. We have to pull down strongholds and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). In Daniel 10, God heard Daniel’s prayers on the first day he prayed, but it took 21 days to overcome the Prince of Persia, a demonic spirit over the region of Persia. We mustn’t be surprised when our battle with unseen powers takes 21 days (or more) to overcome.

7. Search out a “wounded warrior”. A wounded warrior is someone who has been through something similar to our difficulty, but has come out the other end better instead of bitter. There is only one letter different between better and bitter. Better is because of a focus on Emanuel, whereas bitter is focused on “I”. 2 Cor. 1:3-8 is one of my favorite passages. In it we learn that God comforts us in our struggles so that we can comfort others who need it. I love the church, the body of Christ, because she is filled with warriors whose faith has endured great hardship, and thus can now help others. Another word I often use is “wounded healers.” The best healers are those who have been wounded themselves, but experienced the healing power of God. They are the best ones to turn to when we are wounded but not yet healed.

8. Ask God for encouragement. This may seem odd, but specifically ask God to give you some encouragement. He may do it through a song, a scripture, an encouraging word from someone, or just emotional relief. God as a father has great compassion for His children. I know this because I feel this for my children, and I am an imperfect father. God is a perfect father and wants to gives us hope when we are down. Recently I was struggling and asked God to encourage me. That day I received an email from a missionary, telling me something that greatly encouraged me.

9. Ask God to reveal to you something you need to see. Sometimes our discouragement is due to carnal thinking, sinful choices, negligence in the Word, etc. If this is the case, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal this to us so we can repent. “He who hides his sin shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes it shall find mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

10. Cling tightly to the God of all hope.
This may be very difficult to believe right now, but Romans 15:13 is still true: “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.” So, what is it about God that gives us reason for hope? Let’s consider just a few of the many reasons:

a. As a loving and caring Father, God has compassion on His hurting children. I know how I feel when my children are hurting. My heart goes out to them. God’s heart goes out to us when we are hurting. He wants to come to our aid, and He will. He is a “very present help in time of need” (Ps. 46:1).

b. God is faithful to bring us into the next chapter of our life. We can all look back and see His faithfulness in our past. His faithfulness in the past assures us that He will be faithful again in our present and future.

c. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebr. 13:5). Never let this truth become a cliché. Think about it! The God of the universe, the Creator of the world, promises to be with you always, everywhere, no matter what. You have God with you at all times!

d. His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23). This means with each new day, we get new mercies … just for that day! In other words, whatever we need for a given day, we can experience His fresh mercies. Did you notice the passage says “mercies” and not just “mercy?” God’s goodness is plural—more than one! We need plural mercies, and God gives plural mercies.

e. God is all-powerful. This means He is able to do miracles, to change circumstances, to bring things across our path that we need, to change the heart of others, etc., etc. No obstacle is greater than God. No person is more powerful than God. No challenge is bigger than the Lord.

f. Jesus understands what it is like to suffer. One of the most amazing things about the incarnation (i.e., God becoming a man in Jesus) is that our God can totally relate to every struggle we face. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in every way, as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebr. 4:15-16).

g. God is worthy of praise. Take time right now to worship and praise Him. When we put on the garment of praise, it often dispels the spirit of despair (see Isa. 61:3).

Don’t give up. Help us just around the corner. Ask God to show you what part of this blog you are to apply to your life right now. Let me know how God works in your life. Email me at davidholt08@gmail.com.