There’s a wise biblical proverb that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)
Have you been tempted to give up on hope when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight? If so, I’d encourage you to consider these wise words by Franklin Roosevelt, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
I have been at the end of my rope a few times in life. Maybe you have too.
Moving through the fog
Max Lucado in “Live Loved” shares the story of Florence Chadwick. In 1952, Florence attempted to swim in ocean waters from Catalina Island to the California shore. It was a foggy day and the waters were choppy. Her mother was in a boat beside her, cheering her on to keep going despite her pain and exhaustion.
Finally, Florence begged to be lifted out of the water. When the mist cleared after a few minutes, she saw that the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference later she said that all she could see in the moment was fog and upon reflection, she felt that if she could have seen the shore she would have made it.
We need hope in fog, and in pandemics. Hope helps us withstand pressures, challenges, losses, and demands. Hope helps us to persevere — sometimes through the unimaginable. Hope keeps climbers continuing up Mount Everest when everything within them wants to give up. Climbers have their eyes on the prize — the joy that is coming at the summit.
Hebrews 12:2 says that it was actually “because of the joy awaiting Him” that Jesus endured the cross on our behalf. We were worth it to Him. He willingly gave up His life for us so that we could have an eternal hope that can never be diminished.
What’s the secret?
Through all the ups and downs in life — especially in 2020 — how do we keep our eyes on hope when we can’t see the shore? I think the secret is in the same chapter. Hebrews 12 begins with a challenge to run with endurance the race that has been marked out for each of us. To not let anything get in the way of us finishing. It will take perseverance, but our path is actually marked out for us by God himself.
Then comes the secret at the beginning of Hebrews 12:2. It reads, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” It is really difficult to do — to choose to look away from all of our challenges, stresses, disappointments, and fears.
However, I have discovered that it is actually harder on me and my sense of hope when I keep reminding myself constantly of my challenges. Or when I go over and over in my mind all that is happening to me, or my fears for the future. Keeping my eyes and mind focused on the bad, the difficult, or even the fact that there is no end in sight is sure to rob me of my peace and actually increase my anxiety and hopelessness.
Surviving the storm
It takes discipline for me to keep my eyes on Jesus, especially in the midst of a personal storm, but He is the secret of my peace. I have to deliberately stop some trains of thought and choose to focus on being thankful, Scripture, and speaking truth to myself.
I didn’t know how I would ever recover the day my mom passed away 29 years ago, 18 hours after she was diagnosed with cancer. In that time, and in moments since, I have learned to focus on remembering — keeping my mind on the faithfulness of God, what He has done in the past, and who He is in character.
Jesus is the one who has the power to calm my storms or calm me if the storm keeps raging. He gives eternal hope even if my hope is threatened. He can make a way when there is no way. He counsels me, teaches me, and He humbles me — and He also forgives me.
As Christmas approaches, my prayer for each of us is that we will choose to lift our eyes off of our circumstances or the fact that we cannot see the end and instead focus on Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour. As we celebrate and remember, and as we focus on worship and surrender all at His feet, I pray we will be incredibly encouraged as we realize anew that Jesus really is the hope of the world — just as He said.