As Christians, many things threaten to zap out our joy. A job loss, a sick relative, a wayward child, and a broken marriage, to mention but a few. As long as we are on earth, we are bound to muddle through various trials.
But how would God want us to respond when the world is closing in on us? Should we walk around feeling dejected, or should we chin up because of the hope we possess? Is it possible to exude joy through the varying seasons of life? Let's explore what it means to be joyful in hope.
What Is Hope?
The Oxford dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation or desire for a particular thing to happen. For instance, when we say, “I hope the sun shines today,” we have no guarantee that the sun will peek out.
We are merely expressing our desire for the weather. As such, the worldly interpretation of hope is a sharp contrast to the hope the scriptures talk about.
The kind of hope painted in the scriptures alludes to a strong and confident expectation. It implies certainty. This hope in God is so formidable that Paul exhorts the Roman church to make it the object of their joy.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).
We all know that the first thing that tends to fly out the window when we encounter bumps in the road is our joy. Yet Paul implies that we should not trade our joy for anything — hope should buffer us from sinking into despair. Here is what being joyful in hope entails.
1. It's the Ability to See What Others Can't
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people (Ephesians 1:18).
Although we have a glorious inheritance in Christ, not every believer can perceive it. The power bestowed on us is the same power that God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19-20).
But our spiritual eyes have to be open so that we can be cognizant of this inheritance. The two distraught disciples who were headed to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus.
It was until He sat with them and broke bread that their eyes popped open, and they were able to recognize Him (Luke 24:13-31).
When the king of Aram sent out a strong army to capture Elisha, Gehazi, his servant, was horror-struck. Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes, and only then was he able to see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-17).
When Hagar and her son Ishmael were on the brink of death, God opened Hagar's eyes, and she spotted a well from which she drew drinking water (Genesis 21:19).
To be joyful in hope, our eyes have to be open to the power and riches of God. Only then can we afford joy in the middle of the storm.
Jesus taught that the eye is the lamp of the body, and if your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. (Mathew 6:22). So, the question is, are your eyes open to the riches in Christ?
2. It's Having Your Soul Anchored
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:19-20).
Has your soul ever been crushed nearly to the point of despair? David often found himself smack dab in hardships, and in such moments, he would speak to His soul.
He could only keep his soul from languishing by putting his hope in God. In Psalm 42:5, he remarks, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Just like David, we often find ourselves in great distress, with our souls nearly crushed. The only way we can keep afloat is by putting our hope in God. Hope in God then becomes an anchor to our souls. Our souls are preserved.
In Psalm 16:10, David declared that God would not abandon his soul to Sheol or allow him to see corruption. Sheol refers to the grave. Amidst great distress, our souls will not be dragged to hell because they are anchored on sweet, blessed hope.
3. It Is Focusing on God’s Unfailing Love
The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).
God's love is unfailing. He loved the world so much that He offered His only son in order to reconcile mankind back to himself. Motivated by His unfailing love, He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Even today, God still pursues His children with the same unrelenting love. So much so that his word assures us that nothing can separate us from this love. Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword cannot drive a wedge between us and God’s love.
We can, therefore, confidently peg our hope on this love. We can put all our eggs in God’s basket. After all, if He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).
Paul prayed for the Ephesian church to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is (Ephesians 3:18). Understanding the intensity of God's unfailing love will inject hope in us and even have us dancing in the storm.
4. It Is Having Your Strength Renewed
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 30-31).
It's one thing to be strong and optimistic when all your ducks are in a row when there's no storm rocking your boat. But sometimes, when troubles come knocking, we abandon hope.
This state of helplessness happens to the best of us, causing us to abandon all hope. Isaiah states that even the youth grow tired and weary, but something different happens to those who hope in the Lord — their strength is renewed. Little wonder that they can afford joy in their turmoil.
5. It Is Becoming a Prisoner of Hope
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope, even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you (Zechariah 9:12).
The prophet Zechariah referred to the Israelites as prisoners of hope. When you are a prisoner of hope, you have purposed to exude hope despite your circumstances.
Hope has held you at ransom. Seeing that our God is omnipotent, the children of God ought indeed to be prisoners of hope. If he can raise the dead back to life, there is no situation that is impossible with Him.
Job emphasized that there was hope for a tree that has been cut down, with its root old and the stump dead.
At the scent of water, it buds and puts out shoots like a plant. (Job 14: 7-9). No matter how grim the situation appears to be, we should be prisoners of hope, never letting go of our optimism.
David declared, “As for me, I will always have hope, I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14). Paul urged the Hebrew church not to throw away their confidence, for it would be greatly rewarded. Whatever you do, don't lose hope.
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Keren Kanyago is a freelance writer and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, and the Christian Faith. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and/or shoot her an email at [email protected]