Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Leaning Into Hope

Do you ever have those times when all the concerns of family, life, finances, job, friends, schedules, school, appointments, and physical needs seem to pile up on you? If this ever happens to you, how do you feel? Tired, agitated, angry, anxious, and fearful? Most of us have very busy lives, but every now and then, I think most of us also have those moments when we get a good glimpse of all the different concerns we are juggling at the same time, and we wonder how in the world we can keep managing it all!

Lately, those of us in the United States are becoming much more familiar with the meaning of "apocalyptic." With the economic meltdown, the uncertain direction of American political power, and resurgence of the threat of a terrorist attack in this country, we find ourselves able to relate to phrases like "the sun being darkened" and "the moon turning to blood." Whatever can be shaken is being shaken, and Americans who are used to being secure and confident in everything from money to government are being shaken in ways they never imagined to be possible.

Panic in the face of an overwhelming reality is a danger for everyone, and Jesus points out that this can cause us to lose focus on God and what God is doing for us. When we lose this focus, we lose hope. And hope is what makes us able to meet all the challenges in our lives, to face all the difficulties, and to handle all the problems. In speaking to His disciples about the importance of hope in an apocalyptic world, He said: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)

Now, we don’t think of ourselves as people who are necessarily into “dissipation” or “drunkenness,” but what about the “anxieties of life?” How many of us find ourselves in an all too familiar relationship with these? If we focus on our anxieties without looking at the promises we have in Christ, then our lives can start looking pretty bleak. This is how important hope is! Hope that is real and not just wishful thinking comes through knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. It is trusting Him not only with our problems, but the problems of the entire world. This is what gives us the strength to live above our circumstances rather than under them, and to not be overcome by the “anxieties of life.”

I think of it as “leaning into hope.” I may be weak and tired, but I can lean on God’s promises in Jesus Christ, and they will hold me up. I may feel like quitting and giving in, but God’s promises call me to move forward, so I “lean into” what God has for me in the road ahead. Hope is a vision of the future that gives us strength for the present, and God gives us this vision when we know Jesus, and keep getting to know Him better through prayer and meditation on the Word. As we live our lives in the security and confidence that comes only through knowing Christ, the world can see clearly what Christ can mean for those who follow Him. It is in times like these that Christ followers have a special opportunity to display the life-giving, hope-giving grace of God in ways that are attractive to people who are drowning in the world.

Many studies have shown that people tend to become depressed and “weighed down” more during the Christmas season than any other time of the year. Perhaps that is why so many people tend to increase their “dissipation” and “drunkenness” through partying and excessive shopping. It is an attempt to fill that emptiness of soul that only hope in Christ can fill. I believe the Spirit of God is calling us all to make this Advent and Christmas season truly filled with joy, peace, and love by not relying on our own strength to meet all life’s challenges, but instead to receive the abundant strength of Jesus Christ.

Let’s all “lean into hope.”

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