Hope for the Hard Days

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

Hope for the Hard Days

Dear Self,

If you were to position yourself in the stories right now, you would be Elijah by the brook (1 Kings 17), or Joseph in the jail (Genesis 39), or Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6), or his friends in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3), or the Israelites facing an unparted Red Sea, with Pharoah pursuing furiously from behind (Exodus 14). Isn’t that right?

Hope seems to be slipping away these days, doesn’t it? The oppression has dragged on so long. The scoundrels persist in wickedness, and the righteous are treated with contempt. Day after day, the tables remain unturned, and it appears the bad guys are in the driver’s seat, while God’s own are trampled underfoot.

But I just want to tell you. The story isn’t over. And God is not afraid of middles that look like the end to us. He knows how to make them into something so wonderful that they’re as hard to imagine as a firestorm consuming Elijah’s trenched and drenched sacrifice, Joseph being Pharoah’s right-hand man, Nebuchadnezzar giving all the glory to God, or Pharoah floating downriver, rendered completely harmless once and for all.

Here’s a little verse to tuck into your pocket for days like these:

“When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Saviour” (Isaiah 43:2 The Message).

Which comes just after:

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

You see, there’s this crazy reversal you need to bear in mind. Always remember that, what we see as endings, God sees as new beginnings. God is a God who turns darkness to light, inky blackness to a bourgeoning creation, a crucifixion to a resurrection. God knows that when the kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it’s not the end, but just the beginning of a plant much more beautiful than the seed ever was, plus a bountiful harvest. When you feel like you’re losing your life, there is the definite possibility that you’re actually saving it.

Know that when you see impossible hopelessness, God sees a situation ripe for miracles, and endless possibilities for redemption. As day follows night, so there is always something ahead to look forward to, something better than you could ever come up with on your own, if you leave it to Him and follow where He leads. “‘For my thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine’” (Isaiah 55:8 NLT).

You might want to keep in mind, though, that He doesn’t always lead along the shortest route. Joseph learned this when his long-awaited hope for a jailbreak promptly forgot him, and he was left to continue on as a faithful jail-hand instead. And Elijah was sent from a dried-up brook to a Sidonian widow, sojourning in both places for quite some time, before the fire and the rain fell from heaven, and the contest for the One True God was won.

The Israelites had their own experience along these lines. Though they went out from Pharoah in a triumphant entourage, God took them looping around to the Red Sea, rather than in a straight line through Philistine territory, lest they get fainthearted (see Exodus 13:17).

But sometimes looping around is not for the faint of heart, and patience and faith are some of the hard, but necessary, ingredients of hope.

What of the fact that patience with the looping path brought those Israelites up short against the Red Sea? Why a tiring journey to a dead end? Well, God knows that it is when all seems lost that He is most able to put His glory on display.

So, when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, and it looks like a dead end? . . . never, never give up. God knows how to part the Sea, He sends dreams to Pharoah at just the right time, and He is right there in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den with you while you wait for deliverance. God is never at a loss for how to redeem your situation, He just needs the time and space to do it.

With a God like yours, you can never lose. “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25 NIV). No matter what happens, He has the final say. Open-minded faith allows God to do His work in His way according to His timetable, rather than expecting Him to instantly do what you are able to come up with on your own. Patience says that timing is God’s business, and His will done in His way in His time is exactly what you always need.

So just wait for it . . . wait for God to do what He does best. God redeems and He delivers. Ask Elijah about the small cloud that delivered a torrent. Ask Joseph about the turn from forgotten to revered. Ask Daniel and his friends about the honour God received when their ordeals were finished. Ask the Israelites about a formidable Sea that yielded to become a dry path leading straight to victory.

And ask all those heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 about the deliverance they experienced even after those that could kill the body had done it. You see, even if the redemption and deliverance you hope for is incomplete in your lifespan, God works beyond your lifespan. This means His deliverance and redemption is guaranteed – in this life, or the next; with us as participants or spectators; in our generation or the generations that follow.

So, on days like these? . . . hope in God. Remember that, with God, what looks like a dead end is actually a new beginning. Deliverance and redemption are His specialty. And know that you will be okay when you let Him lead you further up and further in to His will for you. Patiently wait in persistent faith, and you will find new strength as you hope in Him.