Yesterday, I wrote about an analogy that has been helpful to me when I begin to entertain the thoughts that lead to depression. If you haven't read that one, go back and look it over. Today, I want to write about the last sentence of that post: Hope is a decision.
What do I mean by that? Isn't hope just an emotional thing? We hope for a cure for disease and pain; we hope our favorite team will win; and we hope that our children will be successful adults. But the hope I’m talking about is a totally different kind of hope, and I’d like to share that hope with you today. The hope that I speak of is the hope that we as believers have in Christ. When we put our hope in Him, it means that we trust that He will be glorified in whatever circumstance we are dealing with. This hope is pretty much summed up in the following passage:
Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 ESV
Let me see if I can break this down for you. Basically, it breaks into three parts: The hope of God’s glory; the hope of our sanctification; and the hope of heaven.
First, as believers, we hope and desire that God would be glorified in all of His creation, and especially in our own lives. We love Him, and are grateful that He saved us from our sin, and so we want to glorify Him with our lives. That is the purpose for which we were created, according to Isaiah 43:7. When God is glorified, we fulfill our purpose. The only thing we have to do to reach that fulfillment is to strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to glorify God with our responses to the trials and joys He places in our lives. This is a hopeful thing!
Second, we have the hope of our sanctification. This means that our trial will make us more like Christ. If we respond rightly, it will produce in us endurance and character. The literal meaning of this word, character, is “a proof of tried worth.” In other words, when we respond rightly to our trials, we prove our worth in Christ, and His worth to us. We show the world His goodness and His glory. We show them that any sacrifice is worth knowing Christ, because we value His love so highly. We show them what a great God He is by trusting Him in our circumstance, and persevering with joy.
Finally, the hope of heaven gives us the strength to persevere. We are all sinners in the hands of a just God. He would have been perfectly just to leave us in our sin, ultimately leading to an eternity separated from His love. But that is not your story, my friend. By His mercy He saved you, not by works of righteousness that you had done (Eph 2:8&9). There was nothing you could do to save yourself. You would have had no knowledge of your sin, nor desire for a Savior, if your loving Father had not swept in at just the right time to stir up your heart toward repentance and to provide atonement for your sin. He gave you the great gift of the Holy Spirit to draw you to Himself and to strengthen you to submit to this trial you are facing right now.
Are your emotions circling the drain today? Have you allowed yourself to become so focused on your circumstance and yourself that you have forgotten where your true hope is? Be reminded of it today, and allow yourself to be scooped out of that vortex by the love of your gracious Heavenly Father. Make a decision right now that you will not give in to your fleshly bent toward self-pity and depression. Remember that you have the hope of glory: Christ in you!