To say 2020 was challenging is an understatement. The pandemic grounded me and my husband – the director of a mission sending agency – from our usual international ministry travels. It left me unemployed by canceling my speaking invitations to women’s retreats and conferences when large gatherings were banned. It stole time with our children and grandchildren, and it complicated everything surrounding my mother’s illness and passing.
COVID-19 ravaged and robbed the world of loved ones, jobs, homes and material possessions, health, and dreams. It even targeted our hope– the one thing we cannot afford to lose, according to John Maxwell. We can recover from other losses, he says, but “when a man loses hope, there’s nothing to do but bury him.”
One dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” But, for believers, hope runs deeper than an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking. The Holman Bible Dictionary says hope is “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favourable outcome under God’s guidance.”
So, how can we hang onto hope as we face ongoing challenges and a host of unknowns? I believe the key lies in placing our expectations not in circumstances but in God and His promises. Here are five biblical promises that have buoyed me through the storm.
God is with us.
Isolation and loneliness are significant issues, especially for singles and seniors, my mother included. Lack of in-person fellowship and conversation leads to feeling forgotten and, ultimately, to despair.
Some individuals express feeling abandoned by God. Their losses are so painful and their fear of the unknown so all-encompassing that they’ve lost their grip on God’s promised presence. “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 28:20). His promise stands true for us today. We hold onto hope because the truth is this: we are not alone even when we feel alone.
God is still sovereign.
God didn’t wake up mid-March, wring His hands over the world news, and gasp. He knew the pandemic was coming and how it would affect the world and you and me.
Circumstances are not out of control. God has plans we cannot understand, and He will accomplish His purposes. “I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:9-10). We have hope because God is still God.
God the Holy Spirit prays for us.
Sometimes our circumstances seem so dark and difficult that prayerful words escape us. That’s when we need promises like Romans 8:26-27 – “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Hope comes when we rest in the truth that the Spirit’s got us covered in prayer even when we can’t express what’s in our heart.
God will provide for our needs.
A plaque on the wall above my writing desk begins with text from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing.” A shepherd’s primary focus is his flock’s well-being, so he’s diligent to make sure his sheep have everything they need to flourish. Psalm 23:1 assures us that our Shepherd has equipped us to survive this wild ride. Need wisdom? We just need to ask in faith believing He’ll give it to us (James 1:5-6). Peace? It’s ours when we give Him our concerns and thank Him for all He has done (Philippians 4:6-7). Strength? It’s ours when we make Him our focus (Isaiah 40:28-31).
God will wipe away our tears.
This, too, shall pass. Someday, somehow, God will bring about a good outcome. No matter what the future holds, He will eventually make everything right. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).
Chuck Swindoll writes, “God keeps His promises. It’s a major part of His immutable nature. He doesn’t hold out hope with nice-sounding words, then renege on what He said He would do. God is neither fickle nor moody. And He never lies. As my own father used to say of people with integrity, ‘His word is His bond.’”
God holds out hope to us through His promises, and we hold onto hope by clinging to those promises.