Written by Elizabeth Mak, Art by Christy Tang
What does it mean to abound in hope? What comes to mind for me is to know that today has a purpose. It is to be confident in a future reward, to believe that todayâ€™s sorrow will someday be swallowed up by deep resounding joy, and to live fully in the assurance of what is to comeâ€”life with Christ. The prospect of someday being in His Presence, being with Him, communing with Him gives me hope. Donâ€™t we all need this hope in order to see beyond the scope of mere circumstances? To walk with the assurance that somehow and in someway, our brightest future will someday fruition into reality?
When we read the Old Testament Scriptures, we see that the Jews had to wait hundreds of years for their Messiah. He was the One they truly needed when idolatrous kings led them astray (1 Kings 12:28) and deceived them into thinking broken cisterns could satisfy them more than their God, the very spring of living water (Jeremiah 2:13). He was the only One who could call them back to their homeland after they had been shamefully carried away by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 29:10). And He was their only hope for restoration when they saw the Temple in Jerusalem lying in ruins (Isaiah 64:11, Lamentations 2:6-7).
So finally, when He came, King of All, with power to overthrow all earthly and spiritual authorities, He came in the most unexpected of ways: as an infant born in a cold and filthy manger, surrounded by sheep and livestock, without a roof or walls to shield the night wind.
For what purpose would such a magnificent king have to come into the world by such humble means?
His purpose was loveâ€”to bring hope to a people fettered by the chains of sin and death. We had no hope because our great debt of sin drowned us in a sea of utter separation from God wherein we could never fully atone ourselves before Him. But Christ, in order to save us from our hopelessness, chose to suffer by taking the worldâ€™s sins upon Himself and atone for us all. So for the joy set before Him, He allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross. Though He had never sinned, He endured the shame of being dealt a criminalâ€™s deathâ€”taking the punishment that was fully oursâ€”upon Himself, by the hands of His own people, the very ones He came to save and redeem. We have hope today because He loved us while we were still sinners.
Jesus, therefore, was a perfect model in what it means to â€œrejoice in our sufferings, knowing that perseverance produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shameâ€¦â€ (Romans 5:3-4).
Though not a popular message, the truth is that suffering is part and parcel with the Christian walk because it is through suffering that we learn obedience. In the passage above, Paul was speaking to the Christians in Rome who were enduring persecution at the hands of Roman emperors. Christians were being blamed for evils they did not commit, shunned by fellow Roman citizens, and even killed as criminals. But in the midst of this persecution, Paul assured these Christians that sufferingâ€”though shameful nowâ€”would not put them to shame in the end. Instead, their suffering would purify their faith, counting them worthy to suffer alongside their Savior. Furthermore, their suffering taught them to endure, built character in them, and grew hope within their hearts.
True hope is costly, even though the word itself is often thrown around today without much thought. Early on in our Christian walk, we learn that hope is not about putting on a happy face and acting like everything is just fine. As human beings we go through real problems. We know people struggling with debilitating sickness, loved ones who have succumbed to the inevitability of death, and those enduring the quiet desperation of everyday hardships. To some extent, we can relate to the many sorrows of the Old Testament Israelites. We too share that same longing for the hope of a Savior.
If you are currently in a place of sorrow, hardship, shame or just frustrating circumstances, know that youâ€™re not alone. Many of Godâ€™s people before you and even Jesus Himself had to walk this same roadâ€”the narrow path that leads to life. Despite how dark this valley gets, God is with you, leading you through to the other side and ordaining this road for a good purpose. He wants you to endure in trusting Him. And as you do so, your character will grow day-by-day. Truly, hope is on its way.