I'm a big fan of multiple genres of music, and there's a song that was released some years ago that speaks about being "stuck in a moment." That's probably a concept most of us can identify with to some degree. Sometimes our circumstances can feel so "all-consuming" to the point that it's hard to see beyond them. We get stuck in a moment. Instead of seeing what's further up ahead, we struggle to see much further beyond the four walls that surround us.
When we experience seasons like that, it can be rather easy to become discouraged and even depressed. In those moments, we might even be tempted to lose hope. There's another song I first heard in college that says, "Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better." But is that really true? Should we give up hope? I don't think so.
When we read the counsel found in God's word, we can see that He desires that we experience genuine hope. He wants us to be hopeful people, but how can we maintain hope if our present circumstances seem hopeless? I think there's an answer to that question, and in Romans 5:1-11 we're exposed to at least four significant reasons why we shouldn't lose hope, even if we're tempted to.
I. We can have peace with God
When someone offends you or hurts you, how long do you hold on to the offense? Not long ago, someone I've known for many years did something that directly impacted me and offended me. I was hurt, and when I'm hurting, it's easy for me to become defensive or protective of my heart in an attempt to prevent myself from getting hurt further. It's also easy to hold a grudge which can unfortunately do damage to or sever a friendship.
As this was going on, the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that I was holding on to anger in an unhealthy way. When He convicted my heart of this, I made the decision to pray for this friend every day. In the process, I watched my anger melt away, and I can honestly say I'm rooting for this brother in Christ to do well in life.
It's one thing to experience conflict with a friend or family member, but imagine if that was the nature of your relationship with God Himself? Sadly, that's exactly what used to characterize our relationship with Him. Hostility. Separation. Conflict. But now, that can all be different. Instead of living in conflict with God, we're offered the privilege to live at peace with Him. In Romans 5:1, Paul tells us that this peace has been secured for us through Jesus Christ. The moment we place our trust in Jesus, we experience peace with God. The hostility is eradicated and the separation ends.
Living at peace with God is one of the greatest privileges we experience as believers in His Son. It's also something we should remind ourselves of regularly. This world throws a lot of things at us that try to compete with our sense of peace, but the gospel reminds us that true and lasting peace has been forever secured for us by Jesus.
That being the case, we do not need to lose hope. No matter what we may experience in this world, the peace God graciously offers His children isn't going away. Likewise, He reminds us that we can therefore rejoice in all circumstances.
II. We can rejoice in all circumstances
One of the hardest things in life to adjust to is change. Every so often, right when we get comfortably settled into our routines, we're handed a surprise. Jobs change. Finances deplete. Illnesses show up. People we love pass away. But we can take comfort in the fact that God never changes. He is worthy of our hope, and since we have obtained confident access to His throne though faith in Christ, we can also trust Him to help us stand firm in the midst of adversity. This Scripture reminds us that we come into His presence by faith, stand in His grace, and rejoice in hope. The same Lord who called us unto Himself is the same one who holds us firmly in His fatherly grip.
Being convinced of these things changes our perception toward current difficulties and future struggles because the Lord helps us to see beyond them and trust that there's a long-term purpose for them.
My wife has a co-worker with a very interesting life story. During the course of his life he's experienced some rather traumatic events, some of which occurred as a soldier in the midst of battle. Yet to interact with him, you'd never realize he's seen what he's seen, or been through such horrific things. He's been interviewed multiple times by people who study post-traumatic stress because they're intensely curious about why he's so well adjusted and at peace. His answer for them has been the same every time. He has learned how to rejoice in his suffering because his hope is anchored in Christ.
As a child of God whose hope is anchored in Christ, we can actually rejoice in our sufferings. Our suffering has a purpose. If you're currently going through a season of suffering, don't waste it, rejoice in it. God is doing something good in you and for you. He's orchestrating your sanctification. He's producing holiness in your life. He's using your suffering to teach you to endure. He's using your endurance to make you a person of character. He's using your character to produce a deeper sense of hope in Him, and He won't disappoint you.
In fact, as added confirmation that our hope in the Lord is not misplaced, He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us. He quietly and confidently assures our hearts that the gospel is true and that we are part of the kingdom and family of God forever through faith in Jesus Christ. He also remind us, in our seasons of complacency or uncertainty, of the abiding love of God. Like a steady stream that never runs dry, the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts continually, and makes us confident that God's love isn't conditional or fickle in nature.
III. We can be confident of God's love
What's the most consequential thing anyone has ever done for you? I was reminded recently of something a friend of mine did for me that actually may have saved my life. During the first week of our freshman year of college, we were riding as passengers in another friend's car. She was in the front passenger seat and I was sitting behind the driver. He almost ran a stop light, but she noticed it and screamed. He abruptly stopped, just in time to avoid a car hitting my side of the vehicle at high speed. I'm convinced that my life was spared in that moment.
It's one thing to save the life of a friend, or even give your life for the sake of allowing another person you love to live. We've all heard stories of parents that have given their lives for their children or soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to save the lives of many others. But would you sacrifice your life to save the life of someone that hated you? Would you die in the place of a mass murderer? Would you give your life for the person who ridiculed you or bullied you as a child?
Yet that's what Christ has done for us. At just the right time, He came to this earth, took on flesh, lived the perfect life we couldn't live, then died on the cross. He who had no sin took the death penalty upon Himself that the ungodly deserved. We didn't deserve this act of sacrifice and substitution, but that's what we received anyway.
Isn't it interesting to consider how nonsensical the notion that the love of God has to be earned to be obtained, or deserved to be kept, when we hold that notion up to this passage of Scripture? Christ came to die for the ungodly. God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for us when we were sinners, not when we were righteous.
When we consider the nature of what was done for us at the time of Christ's sacrificial act, we can again be reminded of why we should never lose hope. If God was willing to show us His love while we were still dead set against Him, is He not also willing to show us His love now that we have come to know Him through faith in Christ? He isn't our adversary. He isn't set against us. In Christ, we have been reconciled to our Heavenly Father.
IV. We can be reconciled to God
To reconcile something means to take something that's far away and bring it near. When we were lost in sin, we were far from God. We were distant from Him. We worshipped our own unrighteousness and had no desire for the true righteousness that only He can supply. But the blood of Christ that was shed on our behalf changed that. He shed His blood for our sin so we could be declared righteous through faith in Him. The wrath of God that was upon us was placed on Him instead.
Through Christ, we are reconciled to God. We are brought near to Him, adopted as His sons, and saved from divine condemnation. We are no longer enemies of God. Now, we're His family.
In Christ, we have peace with God, we can rejoice in all circumstances, we can be confident of God's love, and we are reconciled to our Heavenly Father. I don't know if you consider yourself an optimistic or pessimistic person, but if you've been going through a challenging season right now, I hope the Lord will use these reminders from His word to remind you not to lose hope, even if you're sometimes tempted to.
© John Stange, 2018