“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord our God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9
Hope is a funny thing. Without faith, it is impossible to please God and without hope, our faith grows very sick. It’s tough to have hope without faith, and while faith can exist in the absence of hope, it’s a jaded faith that doesn’t produce good works, joy, or endurance. What I mean by this is that hope is far more vulnerable than faith alone. It is very possible for me to have faith that Jesus is exactly who he says he is and that his blood has redeemed my life. Hope about what life holds for me between earth and heaven is another matter altogether. It’s easy to let the beatings of life knock the hope from our bones and when we do, sickness quickly follows. Sickness of the mind and of the spirit. I’ve been there personally and I hear from others who are there almost daily, “I am afraid to hope. I don’t want to hurt anymore.” This struggle breaks my heart.
We spend a lot of time waiting on the Lord. His timetable and ours do not line up in most cases. While we live out the ticking time differences of the eternal verses the temporal; faith, hope and courage are key components to daily living and so is trust. Trust is more personal than faith and it leads us to hope while courage is the component that ties all of these things together.
I met Jesus at 7 years old. I’ve never lost faith along the 29-year journey sense, but I have lost trust, hope, and courage more times than I can count. In those times I’ve found myself very lost, but in those times he has never lost me. This realization proves to me time and time again that I can have the courage to hope in his goodness and know that his goodness applies directly to me because I am his child. I’m not somewhere on the outside ring of his fatherly love. He knows me, loves me and he relentlessly peruses me even when I have no idea where he is. Such is the case for all of his children.
People ask me a lot, “Where is he, because I can’t find him in all the mess and darkness?” The answer to this is honest and often unhelpful; sometimes we just simply don’t know. But I promise he is never far from your side. He is never not fighting battles in front of you and behind you and he never ceases to be the guard that stands to your right and your left. The parameters of his presence may feel very far sometimes, but he is the parameter nonetheless. This is where we find our courage! “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried for help” Psalm 31:22. He hears because he is never so far that our voice is out of the range of his ears.
Courage is a choice but a calculated one. It requires collecting the data from all the times he has been faithful in the past and if we stop long enough to list those times, none of us will have anything shy of a full list. Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all who wait for the Lord.” Choose to let your heart take courage! Just prior to this, as David is looking at all the trouble that surrounds him he makes this statement, “Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city” Psalm 31:21. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. Look at your besieged cities in the past and you will always find that he showed his unwavering love through those circumstances. His faithfulness in those times will bring you courage in your current besieged city to wait for the Lord’s goodness. “But I trust in you, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…” Psalm 31:14.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” Proverbs 13:12. The truth is, hope is all around us but sometimes it’s deferred in specific ways because God is working in us. These times require us to look at all if his faithfulness that has been realized in numbers ways, chose to trust that he is working out our best as our father who loves us deeply. It is there that we allow ourselves to take hold of the courage we need to allow ourselves to hope. We have all the wisdom that we need to make these choices yet while wisdom is simple, it is not simplistic. These things are hard and they require a lot of discipline and intentionality as well as endurance. At the end of the day the words of John Mark McMillan ring true in my heart “The valley of the shadow knows our name. We have seen a night but we have seen the day. Dressed in the blood of love’s hot veins, we have overcome.” We have seen both beauty and misery. Both darkness and light and because of the redemption of the blood of Christ we have already overcome. Let this be your courage to hope and trust in the goodness of a Father’s heart for his children.