Reigniting Hope: A Living Hope

Collectively, we watch with horror all the atrocities happening around the world. We struggle with what we see and hear. We grapple with our responses. We long for someone to do something to stop the wars, to make things right. And, if we aren’t careful, we can let fear, despair, and cynicism steal our hope – the hope we have in Christ. The hope that is Christ, who through His own suffering, has given us an eternal life to come and an empowered life today (John 3:16, 10:10).

As followers of Jesus, we’re meant to be people of hope!1 

🕯️Just because we’re surrounded by more ‘prophets of doom’ than we can count, we don’t have to lose hope.1  
🕯️Just because the 24-7 news cycle offers nothing but bloodshed and boundaries under fire, we have a choice to hope. 
🕯️Just because we can’t see Jesus at work doesn’t mean He’s not (John 5:17).

So, what does it look like to be a people of hope? What does it mean that we’ve been given a living hope? And, how does all this relate to what we experience in the world?

You can trust that I don’t have all the answers, but I know the One who does. 

And I can see that one of the reasons God gave me ‘hope’ as my word of the year is because He knew I’d need it – that we would need it. He has been trying to teach me how to put my hope in Him for over a decade now, and this year I finally slowed down enough to try to learn what that looks like. Yet, as the world faces war after war, threats and rumors of more war, earthquakes and hurricanes, droughts and endless fires, it’s easy to let panic take over (Matthew 24:6-8).

From Doubt to Trust

Panic and pain can cause us to doubt the Almighty’s character and presence. All our pent up feelings and swirling thoughts need an outlet, and He offers Himself as that place (Jeremiah 12:1 CSB). God welcomes our emotions and even our tirades – to wrestle and lament.

In this moment of history, I am learning to turn to God throughout my days with my heartache and questions. And as I do, I’m always met by His grace and love. I’m finding it to be true – that when I shift my eyes back to Him, my breaths come a little slower and my mind settles back into the truths that He is God and He is good. Even when hatred spews a bloodbath that shocks, God remains good (Psalm 34:8). 

Maybe that’s hard to reconcile. Just this week, JD Walt contrasted the idea of God being a puppeteer who controls all the strings of humanity to that of Him being an all-knowing director where the actors like us are meant to get to know the script of Scripture and Him so well that we can know His mind – and move through our parts of the story as He would.2 

That analogy has helped me watch what’s happening in the world this week with an anger aimed, not at God, but at the ones who’ve gone off script, who’ve chosen the path of evil. God’s not pulling the strings, but He is right there to help the ones who are left in the wake of such horrors. And God is with each of us, waiting to help us work through emotions and discern next steps.

So, instead of always ranting at God, I’m learning to take my pain and confusion to Him so He can help me carry the burdens, heal the broken places, and lead me in the ways I should go (Psalm 55:22). 

Photo by Basil James on Unsplash

From Why to Who

He’s also been speaking over my life about the dangers of getting stuck in the cycle of asking ‘why?’ Hovering on the question of why something has happened might feel fruitful in the moment, but like a plane circling an airport, after a while we either change tactics or crash and burn. Our hyper-focused, round-and-round ‘why’ keeps our eyes fixed on the problems, fuels our frustrations, and fills our minds with unbelief, our hearts with bitterness. But there’s another option: focus on the Who. 

The desire to understand why circumstances unfold the way they do is nothing new – humans have sought these answers for as long as we’ve been able to think and wonder and feel. The truth is, like Job, we don’t get to see behind the curtain to know why.3 And, even if we were given reasons, would there be an explanation adequate enough to satisfy our anguish? Is there a purpose that “could provide total relief from our pain?”3

Rather than getting stuck in the why-mire of bitterness, we can grab the opportunity to seek Jesus and His way through the muck (Hebrews 12:15). We can step-up to our call to contend for those who need God and His help most (Psalm 55:17).

Friends, we have a choice in our responses. To rail and to spew our angry words is to add fuel to the already volatile emotions of fear and hatred. From the pits of our own despair, we can cause more division and pain – even if that’s not our intent. 

To walk as Jesus does means we walk a narrow path – one that trusts when we don’t see a way, one that clings to hope in the face of the unthinkable (Matthew 7:13-14; Hebrews 10:23). “The harder calling, the narrow way, is to keep moving forward even when we don’t have all the answers or silver linings we desperately want.”3

To follow in the steps of our Suffering Servant is to enter into the difficult, the grief, the confusion, and the agony with Him – to lament and to trust – because He is sovereign (Isaiah 53). And good. He is the God who grieves with His creation and the One who redeems it all in the end (Psalm 130:7). 

To be a true believer of Christ is to accept the reality that life goes sideways while God remains constant (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). It’s to trust that “in His great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). 

Friends, we aren’t just people of hope – we are a beloved people of a living hope. We put our faith in a Savior who lives, who becomes our hope, and who fills us with a love that heals our wounds and is meant to be shared. 

If there ever was a time to reignite hope, it is now. We are a people of a living hope!

Father God, You are El Roi – You see everything and everyone. You know the pain, the injustices, the truth. And You weep with us. We look to You now, and more than ever before, we ask that You would step into the mess, the muck, the mire – and help. Help those who are wounded, grieving, leading, afraid, and trapped. Help us on the outside-looking-in to find your strength within us to contend with prayers that are fervent and honest and filled with hope for everyone who suffers. Help us to grapple with the truths that while You are sovereign, You also give humanity free will – that while You are good, bad things happen in our fallen world – that while You are always present, we don’t always see or feel your nearness. Yet, You are almighty and good and always with us. Lord Jesus, we step back in total awe of You, our Savior who had to suffer and die for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. You understand the unfairness, the injustice, the pain of living in a broken world. You faced all that we face and died so that we won’t ever have to live without hope or power or saving grace. In You everything is possible – even faith, hope, and love in the midst of the unthinkable horrors happening in the world and in our lives. Holy Spirit, how grateful we are for the living hope that abides in us – because You dwell within us. We ask for extra grace and wisdom in this season, extra portions of faith and hope and love because we know that on our own we’ll spiral and spew and settle into a bitterness that breeds unbelief. With the power that You raised Jesus from the dead, we ARE people of hope. We choose to lean into the living hope we’ve been given in order to become Christ’s light in the world – not in our own strength but in yours. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief as we walk the narrow road and seek to be your hope in the world. In your name we pray, amen.
(inspired by Genesis 16:13; Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20; John 11:33-35; Isaiah 41:10,13; James 5:16; 1 John 5:14; 1 Timothy 6:12-16; Revelation 3:20; Psalm 34:8; Ecclesiastes 8:14,17;  Romans 8:26; Deuteronomy 31:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Hebrews 4:15-16; Matthew 19:26; Psalm 34:18; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 3:12-14; Ephesians 4:29-32; Romans 8:11; Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 9:24; Matthew 7:13-14)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – Dr. Todd Renner, at White’s Chapel Methodist Church in Southlake TX, encouraged us at Bible study this week to remember that we are people of hope in a world full of prophets of doom. His words are still doing a work in me.
  • 2 – JD Walt in the October 10, 2023 The Wake Up Call
  • 3 – taken from Amanda Held Opelt’s chapter on “Suffering” in her book, Holy Unhappiness,^ pages 175 and 177
  • A great source that equips us to contend in prayer for all the pain and losses and threats in the world is the Lectio 365 app, specifically their prayer on 10/10/23. (That link will take you into the app directly, but if you don’t have the app, it’ll take you to their website.) If you don’t have the app and just want that particular prayer, Pete Greig posted it on Instagram.
  • About our Flames of Faith, Hope, and Love playlist:
    • This week’s post took a turn as the world went sideways, but there’s so much more to this week’s passage that we didn’t get to unpack. Verse three of 1 Peter 1 tells us we’ve been given a “living hope.” But as Peter goes on, he has much to say about suffering and faith and trusting Jesus even when we don’t see Him. All his words, written thousands of years ago, have found their way to us today – for this season, for this such a time as this. It’s one way God reminds us He is still here, still with us, still sovereign, still loving us all:

      “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV, emphasis mine)
    • One of the songs on our playlist takes this (1 Peter) portion of Scripture and wraps it all up in a beautiful tune, allowing its truths to soak into us more fully. It’s called “Kept In Heaven” by Ri-An.
    • Finally, I happened to catch a timely post by a friend, Brandon Grissom, that captures so much of what we feel and hope and choose to trust in the midst of all our questions and pain. The song, “Always Good,” is by Hannah McClure at Bethel, and it could easily become our anthem in this season. So, I’ve tucked it into our Playlist right after “Kept In Heaven.”
  • On Wednesdays I’ve begun posting 5-7 minute teaching videos on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram (@shelleylinnjohnson).
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • It’s no coincidence that God laid the spiritual practice of stillness before us for this season. Getting still in His presence is really the only place of true rest and peace. It’s the way given to us to quiet our thoughts and receive His words — the place we can give His words space to do a work in us. It’s where we drop to our knees and use our “fighting words,” as Ellie Holcomb calls them, to contend for those who need God most and to pray for our own hearts and paths.
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash. Bits & Pieces Photo by Arjun Kapoor on Unsplash

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit


Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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