Defiant Hope: The Power of God’s Unfailing LoveGod’s unfailing love and what Jesus has done for you have secured your hope and future.
Is hope just wishful thinking? Sometimes it is. “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” “I hope we have enough to eat today.” “I hope one day to be president of the United States.” We use the word “hope” in so many ways, making it hard to define. Sometimes hope can give us strength to persevere in hard times, but other times hope just seems to set us up for disappointment. Occasionally, we hope for too much; other times, we hope for too little.
In the Bible, hope is so much more than optimistic thinking. Hope is based upon the promise and provision of God. One often-quoted Bible promise is from Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” We love hopeful verses like this, because they are so comforting and encouraging. We want hope and a future, and it is so good to know that God’s plan is to give these to us.
But sometimes our plans get derailed. An unexpected diagnosis. The loss of a loved one. Being fired from work. Abuse. The list can go on. Sometimes even success can turn out not exactly as we planned. We may achieve everything we set out to accomplish, only to find that we are still aching for something more. Each of us knows the plans we have for our lives. And when our plans fail and our hopes are dashed, we question God. What went wrong? Why is this happening to me? How can God say that He loves me and let something like this happen to me? And, as the days stretch into months and years, we can give up on God and ourselves.
Pastor Troy Vaughn knows about hopelessness. He joined the Marine Corps at age 18, but his life fell apart several years after his father’s death by drug overdose. He, too, became addicted to drugs and spent seven years homeless in downtown Los Angeles. He describes that time as a season of being invisible and hopeless.
Then God spoke to him, and Troy got intensive help as a resident at a mission. God called him to start a ministry, become a pastor and serve in various ministries for two decades. Today he is President and CEO of LA Mission and boldly declares how God brought him from homeless to CEO, from resident to president. He is able to instill hope in those who are at rock bottom, saying to them, “I’m your future, because you are my past.” Because Pastor Troy has been where they have been, he can give them an imagination for what is possible because of God’s redeeming power.
Our Lord Jesus says the same to us: “I’m your future, because you are my past.” Our future includes the victory of Jesus, because we are His past. Jesus did not just stay up in nice, comfortable heaven, where no bad things happen, waiting to see if we would be strong enough to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, get our lives together and earn our way to salvation. Instead, Jesus willingly, even joyfully, left all the privileges of heaven to come to us. He chose to come not as a mighty king but as a baby born in poverty, whose parents had to flee the country to protect Him. Jesus lived such an ordinary life that when He began His public ministry, people in His hometown dismissed Him as a carpenter’s son. Jesus was also homeless: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NIV). In His hour of greatest need, His friends abandoned Him. He was beaten, mocked, stripped, tortured and killed—not because of anything He had done wrong, but in order to pay the penalty for all that we have done wrong and “break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV).
You are Jesus’ past. Jesus understands your pain, because He has been where you are. He has suffered. He was misunderstood and mistreated. He was disregarded and discarded. And by His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil. Jesus rose to life and became the “firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:18 NIV) and has guaranteed for us our future glory. Because Jesus shared our past, He promises that we will share His future. Our hope is built on what Jesus has already done for us and the path that He has opened up for us.
The life of Jesus shows us that bad things unfortunately do happen to good people. His resurrection shows us that bad things do not define us, because they are not the end of our story. Jesus and His victory define us. The difficulties and trials we face do not prove that we are worthless or discarded. God’s real power is shown in how He sustains us and redeems us in the midst of our suffering. God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 does not mean that no harm will ever befall us. We know this because this verse is part of a letter written to people who have just experienced a whole lot of harm. King Nebuchadnezzar had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, taken control, and carted the Israelites over 700 miles away to live in exile in Babylon.
Siege and deportation to the land of your captors where they speak a foreign language and have foreign gods and evil practices. In this place of hopelessness, what the Israelites want to hear is that exile will be brief. Instead, Jeremiah tells them the exile will be 70 years. There is no hope for an immediate change of their circumstances. But hope is found in the presence and provision of God, who promises to be with them in their exile, to bless their houses, gardens, families and neighbors, and one day to bring them back from captivity.
Do you feel like you are in exile, alone and without hope? If so, know that this is only a part of your story. Stop condemning yourself. Reach out to someone for help. Your hardships are not the sum of who you are; they do not define you. Neither your past mistakes nor the sins committed against you define who you are. You are defined by the God who loves you, who suffered before you, who suffered on your behalf, and whose suffering has been transformed into the glory that He promises will one day be yours. He also provides His people to help you every step of the way.
God specializes in turning people’s lives around. Even amid deep darkness, God is still with you. This means that you can have a hope that defies your difficulties. We do not deny the pain and suffering in our lives, pretending they do not exist or that they are not so bad. Instead, we must confront all the sin and brokenness in the world—and in ourselves—and defiantly declare that our hope is in the God who rescues and redeems. We defiantly take the risk to reach out to one more person to ask for the help that we need.
Ultimately, our hope is not based upon our human efforts to drum up defiance and perseverance. Our hope is built upon what Jesus has already done for us, and on God’s steadfast and stubborn love for us. Receive the hope that comes from this promise of the God who will never let you go, no matter how broken, invisible or hopeless you currently feel:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10 NIV).
God’s unfailing love and what Jesus has done for you have secured your hope and future.
Illustration by Janie Hao