Today, we’re so excited to feature an excerpt from Craig Groeschel’s book, Hope in the Dark. Don’t forget to attend the Thrive Conference this fall to see Craig Groeschel speak more on hope!
Hope is a funny thing. When you truly trust God, you have something to look forward to, a kind of divine anticipation for where he’s taking you. You also have a security you can rest in, the certainty that no matter how bad things seem, he’s still in control and on your side. And you have a desire for change—probably in your circumstances, but more important, in your heart. You want to be closer to God. When you add up all these things, you get the kind of hope that allows you to climb up beyond your present circumstances and confusion.
Proverbs tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (13:12 NLT). The Proverbs also tell us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18 KJV). There’s something about the power of hope that fuels us and enables us to persevere.
It’s amazing what you can endure when you have a reason.
No one illustrated this better than Jesus. When he knelt in the garden of Gethsemane, he knew what he would have to endure. The beatings. The scourging. The mocking. The torture. The humiliation.
But Jesus continued moving forward. He remained faithful to his Father.
How did Jesus do it? The writer of the book of Hebrews gives us a glimpse. Hebrews 12:2–3 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (emphasis mine). Jesus just needed one reason to press through the pain. One good reason to stay. What was his reason? It was the “joy set before him.”
You were the reason he came.
If you don’t even know where you’re going, what’s the point of continuing to press forward? Without hope, it’s hard to get out of the valley and stay out.
What are you looking forward to right now, today? Maybe it’s the ham and Swiss sandwich on rye bread that you’re going to have for lunch. Meeting your friend after work for a double espresso at your favorite coffee shop. Attending that party at your sister’s house this weekend. Going to the beach for vacation next summer. Seeing the expression on your child’s face when they open the present you just bought them. Getting your annual bonus.
There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to any of these. But usually the things we look forward to and anticipate, the things we hope for, are short-term moments of gratification. After all, we can have virtually anything we want sooner than almost any other people in history. Fresh peaches, even during the subzero temperatures of January? No problem. A car loan despite your dismal credit rating? Lots of places will be happy to help you. Ask your phone to give you turn-by-turn directions to the party, and your phone talks back to you!
But usually, the things that mean the most require time. Building loving relationships. Trusting someone. Watching your kids grow up. Finding a fulfilling job. Sure, the little things might get us through the day, the week, the month.
But only the hope of the Lord can get us through life.
True hope both requires and relies on security, a firm foundation in the power that is the basis for that hope. As the author of Hebrews explains, leading into that Faith Hall of Fame that we walked through in part 2, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV). But we all know how hard it can be to exercise our faith when we can’t see any concrete reason to base it on. So by its very definition, it seems like faith is doing something for which you have no logical basis. And without the character of God—and our relationship with him—as our foundation, we might as well be hoping in Santa Claus or our iPhone.
No matter what we see and feel, God is more real than anything else in our lives. And I realize that all of these abstract ideas and concepts can start to seem confusing or feel detached from the flesh-and-blood, bills-and-bankruptcy trials you may be going through. But they do matter, and Scripture explains their relationship this way: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3–5).
Here’s my take on this progression from suffering to intimacy with God: When we’re suffering through hard times, we take God at his Word and believe that he’s still in control, with a specific purpose in mind. So we keep going, relying on him. As we keep going, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, we become stronger. Our faith grows, our maturity grows, our trust in God grows. When we’re stronger, then our hope is in God’s goodness, not in our circumstances. We learn not to trust in our senses but to trust in God’s promises.
If you still want to believe, then God will meet you in the midst of your efforts to believe. Even if you throw your Bible across the room, as Anthony Graves did, or shake your fist at God or question him, as Habakkuk did, God will honor the passionate sincerity of your pursuit. If you really want to experience God’s closeness and care for you as you go through trials—and you desire that more than you hope your circumstances will change and your comfort will return—then he will come alongside you with each and every step.
Taken from Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel Copyright © 2018 by Craig Groeschel. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.