Two Ways to Keep Hope in Troubled Times
A Message To You In Troubled Times
The year 2020, to say the least, is a troubled year. My daughter asked me last week how long I thought it might be before the term “2020” starts to be used as a profanity. Like when someone hits their hand with a hammer they will cry out, “2020” instead of some other more common term! Given the way this year has gone so far, I could see that happening.
From the pandemic to politics, family divisions to financial burdens, struggling church life to starting school anxieties, most of us are feeling worn down and sick and tired of it all. It’s exhausting. And, as people who seek after God and his righteousness, as people who know God in our hearts, it is normal for us to wonder where is God in all this? What is he up to? When will he bring it to an end?
Of course, we aren’t the first of God’s people to live through a troubled time. In Isaiah 51, which was the Old Testament reading in many of our churches last Sunday, God gave a comforting message to his people who truly sought after him and his righteousness, who knew him and had taken his word into their hearts. In a very troubled time for them, God spoke to them to give them comfort and encouragement. In our trouble time, let me remind you of what he said as a comforting and encouraging message to you as well.
Two Ways to Keep Hope in Trouble Times
- Hold Fast to What God’s Done in the Past
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” Isaiah 51:1-3 (ESV)
To be clear, God is speaking directly to his faithful people. Not everyone pursued righteousness or sought him back then, just as they don’t now. But to those who do, listen to him. He says to remember where you came from. Remember how the God you know and love brought you out of troubled times before. Just as God brought a great people out of the once barren womb of Sarah, he can bring you out of this current barren wilderness and make it, “like the garden of the Lord.” Our God is a God who brings good out of bad. It’s in his character to do so. If he’s done it before he can do it again, and as his faithful people we can have confident hope he will.
As you seek the Lord in these troubled times, hold fast to what God’s done in the past. Make time to read and reflect on his good actions for his people throughout the Bible. Take time to remember and reflect on how God has brought good out of bad in your own life. If he’s done it before, he can do it again, and you can be sure he will, either in this life, or in the even-better-life to come.
- Hold Fast to What Will Last.
“Give attention to me, my people . . . Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.” Isaiah 51:4a,6 (ESV)
Again, to his people, to those who pursue him, he says: remember that the God you know and love is greater than whatever trouble you face. However big your problem is, God is bigger! While other people may look for hope in the heavens, maybe a sun or moon god, or hope in earthly things like handmade idols with no power, or in human governmental authority to make things right, all those things are temporary and won’t last. However, God is the creator of all those created things. He’s beyond creation. He’s bigger. And he will never wear out, he will never fade, he will last forever. It is as it says about Jesus in Hebrews 13:8, that he “is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As you seek the Lord in these troubled times, hold fast to what will last, God himself. Sure, hope for vaccines and earthly authorities to do right. But viruses come and go, nations rise and fall, our bodies grow up and wear out, but our souls and our relationship with God will last forever. Hold fast to your God who is the God who loved you so much that he sent his one and only son to die on the cross for your sin and raise him up on the third day, proving death itself has been defeated. The God you seek and know is the God who freely gave you eternal life in Christ and you can be encouraged by his message to you, “my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.”
As you persevere through this troubled year, hold fast to what God’s done in the past and hold fast to what will last. And lastly, listen to what your Savior and one true King Jesus says to his troubled followers, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1 (NLT)
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