When all you have is hope

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Faith: an opinion piece by David Braye

Pity poor Job, the Biblical character whose story of despair and desperation is found in the book that bears his name.

After experiencing every possible calamity that could come his way he repined: “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26).

Yet, as we reflect upon Job’s sad state of mind at this point in his life, we would have to admit that there have been occasions in our own lives when the tumultuous waves of adversity and despair have swept over our lives, leaving us in an abys where we would have to echo Job’s lament.

The Psalmist knew such agony of spirit and life and with a “no holds barred” philosophy expressed his anguish — “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God’” (Psalm 42:7); “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breaker have swept over me” (42:9).

Undoubtedly we have all experienced, or perhaps are even experiencing now, a sense that our world is being turned upside down, when everything that has given us comfort in the past is being torn from us.

Yet, even at times when through our experiences we could easily echo the sentiments of Job, we need to remember that the same Psalmist, after echoing his lament, maintained his confidence and trust in God.

Speaking to himself in angst he said: “Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will praise him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11 & Psalm 43:5)

Readers may not be familiar with the name Frank O’Dea, but would no doubt be familiar with the beverage purveyor he co-founded — Second Cup — a favourite of many in the St. John’s area.

O’Dea tells of his experience in the abyss of alcoholism resulting in estrangement from family and life on the streets of Toronto, to his recovery and his success as an entrpreneur in the book entitled “When All You Have is Hope.”

O’Dea came to the realization that having hope would give him courage to tackle each day and problem as it came. And what we need to realize is that God is the Hope to the Hopeless.

 The question may well be asked — what does hope look like?

Hope is having a sincere faith, trust and confidence in the character of God; in his person, in his promises, in his provision; in his providence; in his ability to do the seemingly impossible.

When it seems that we are at the end of our rope, “at wit’s end,” God will strengthen and sustain us.

One writer so eloquently expressed: “Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope motivates when discouragement comes. Hope energizes when the body is tired. Hope sweetens while bittereness bites. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. Hope believes when evidence is eliminated. Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping. Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing. Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking. Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging. Hope dares to give when no one is sharing. Hope brings the victory when no one is winning”.

Are you able to place yourself in any of those scenarios?

I am sure most of us have experienced moments in our lives when all seeems absolutely hopeless, but then we realize as did the Psalmist that even amidst the turmoil and endless barrage of life’s “unexpected,” we can have hope when we trust in God.

Yet, the naysayers have their endless barbs of ridicule ready when we express our faith in a God who loves us and cares for us.

The German economist Karl Marx pontificated that “religion is the opium of the people”, and by extension, his remark could easily be paraphrased, “Hope is the opiate of the people.”

Critics of Christianity often accuse believers of using an intangiable idea like hope as a placebo to give a boost in difficult times, and they have a point.

Medical reasearchers often make use of a “placebo” — a sugar pill — when doing controlled studies of the impact of medicines. Subjects who receive the placebo sometimes exhibit a “mind over matter” — the very thought they are getting something tangible provides a boost to their response.

Hope is intangible. It occupies no physical space, it can’t be proven by science. It is, indeed, a nebulous concept defying adequate definition.

As if anticipating these objections, the author of Hebrews compared intangible hope to a tangible object — a ships’ anchor.

Hope, the writer of Hebrews states is both “sure and steadfast,” (Hebrews 6:19), exactly as we think of a heavy anchor that keeps a ship from drifting.

Hope may be intangible, but its affects are not. Even when hurricane force winds, and the “perfect storm” of circumstances come our way, keeping hope fixed on Christ’s presence keeps us firmly in place.

That’s no placebo affect.

Yes, Frank O’Dea was correct. At times all we may have is hope, but as the Psalmist suggests, we need to “Put (y)our hope in God” (Psalm 42:5) — in his person, in his promises, in his provision.

The Psalmist on another occasion wrote: “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

When all around is seemingly confusion in our lives, even if we feel like Job, who in the midst of unprecedented calamity expressed — “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26) — we can have hope, hope in a God who loves us more than we can imagine.

Hear what the prophet Zepheniah had to say, (incidently one of my favourite Bible verses) — “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zepheniah 3:17)

Imagine that. Now that’s a reason for hope.

David Braye is a student of God’s Word. He is a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador diaspora now living in Ontario.

What is God’s place in our modern world? It seems that everywhere we look these days, God is either being blamed for our ills or His very existence is being questioned. Despite the apparent decline in church attendance in the Western world, religion continues to play a huge role in many conflicts and wars around the globe. How does a person derive comfort or even come to believe in God in today’s society? We welcome your submission that addresses these and other aspects of faith that readers will find uplifting, comforting and thought-provoking. Your piece should be a maximum of 500 words in length and delivered no later than Monday at noon for publication the following weekend. You may submit your piece to mvj@thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: Toronto, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario

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