“Hope? I have no hope left for anything good in this life.” I had been clinging to it against all odds, but hope had died with the last baby. I was still going through the motions of everyday life, but I had lost all motivation to press forward. Forward towards what? More pain, more disappointment, more death? My faith in God was still intact, much to my relief, but I had quit on hope. It just hurt too much.
… You stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
God gently called me back to hope through His Word. The book of Hebrews was written to people who, like me, had already weathered some pretty intense storms. They had not backed down, they had not quit on their faith, and they had even joyfully accepted their hardships because of their hope in God’s coming kingdom. But having persevered through the first several rounds of suffering, they were losing steam. Life was so hard, the journey was so long, the cost was so high: how could they keep going?
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. … But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 10:35-11:1)
Those of us who travel this long, hard road need relevant, regular reminders that our hope is not in vain.
But what cause did I have for hope? My experience with hope was that it inevitably resulted in even greater disappointment. I had kept on sharing my faith with resistant people. I had prayed for my friend with cancer to be healed. I had persevered in hope that God could give life to this last baby, despite the discouraging ultrasounds. But none of it had worked. I still held on to a theoretical hope for the life to come, but that seemed so distant that it made little difference in the way I felt now. What good thing did I dare raise my eyes to in the here and now?
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
This call to hope was not a harsh demand; it was a gentle reminder. It nudged my perspective back up to the truest reality. Jesus walked this path ahead of me, and He made it to the other side. He, along with that great cloud of witnesses listed in Hebrews 11, kept putting one foot in front of the other, clinging to hope despite the constant barrage of circumstances that tried to steal it away. That journey was not easy for them—they still bear the scars—but they did eventually get what they had hoped for.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, … but let us encourage one another–all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I, like the believers in Hebrews, needed to hear that I was not alone in my struggle. No wonder the author of Hebrews encouraged them to keep getting together so that they could cheer each other on! And we are in that same company. All of us traveling this long, hard road need frequent, tangible reminders that, as much as it might not feel like it in the moment, our hope is not in vain. Our Prize is waiting.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23