“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)
Hope. What a precious commodity. When present it lifts our very soul as if gravity no longer exists. The blue of the sky seems endlessly radiant filled with twinkling stars of optimism that beckon us to embrace everything we see before us as we eagerly and delightfully ponder and dream about what could be. Our dreams are no longer bound, but come to life with a voice all of their own. Not only do we feel unlimited and unrestrained, but we believe in unlimited possibilities as we longingly and confidently gaze at the horizon’s welcoming arms of exhilaratingly saturated colors.
Sadly, hope’s immense, life-giving value often goes unrecognized and unacknowledged so long as we have it. But, oh, when hope is gone or nearly depleted, well, that’s a totally different existence for a hurting and mournful soul. Even the brightest of sunny days seem completely uninviting as we ponder what could’ve been but has now been seemingly lost forever. Our world seems to be growing frighteningly smaller by the moment. The very life we used to hold so dear is being squeezed slowly out of us as each breath becomes an increasingly labored and audible sigh of regret and loss, yet another link in the heavy chain of ever-growing self-pity that seeks to further bind us saying, “Why………….…go…….……..on?”
Is there not one who will set us free from this sentence of perpetual despair, from this quicksand existence that pulls us further and further down until all but our faces are visible in the gloom of the muck we now call our life?
Surely this loss of hope is what Paul was feeling as he wrote in 2 Corinithians 1:8-9a (NKJV), “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethern, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves…” (emphasis mine)
Think about it for a moment: this is Paul, called by God to miraculously transform the spiritual landscape for Gentiles by proclaiming Jesus as Savior, who in so doing was led to write so much of the New Testament, and who is now experiencing such despair that he no longer can see a future beyond his next few breaths? How and why can this be?
What is the application for our own lives thousands of years later as we struggle to maintain hope when we face struggles that attempt to rob us of all hope as well? The very next words of v9b-10 (NKJV) answer these questions saying, “…that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will deliver us.”
So great was Paul’s deliverance and comfort that he had received from the Lord who is able to even raise the dead, that he felt compelled to talk about it first before addressing his seemingly hopeless, all-consuming former circumstances.
Immediately preceeding these verses of despair, we read in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NKJV) where he boasts in the Lord proclaiming, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”
Later in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NKJV) Paul again affirms his beliefs when he says, ““And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Becoming weak in order to be strong and at the same time rejoicing and praising in such: Now there’s something the world cannot and will not teach you and if missed or avoided has the potential to create misery and sorrow, or as Paul says, despair, in a person’s life.
Perhaps you’re in a difficult situation similar to Paul’s experience in which you too feel all hope has been lost. The truth is you have lost hope in hope. Navigating down the unforgiving and hardened concrete highway of your life you are surrounded by the restless storm of humanity caught up in their own fight for survival. Each is caught up in their own lives and worlds as they speed by without giving you so much as a second thought.
Ironically, we are alone in the midst of many, each of us feeling as if we’re a castaway on a deserted island often unnoticed by even those closest to us. As your eyes desperately seek to make contact with those around you only to be greeted by a blank stare your heart cries out, “Is there not one who can help me? Will you help me, please?” Sadly, they are seeing, but not seeing, hearing, but not hearing, and as the reality of this sinks ever deeper into your soul your heart beats a little less enthusiastically with a little less purpose with each missed opportunity of hope.
“I am done…it is over…I am broken and ruined,” you say to yourself. And then mercifully appears in the lane alongside you a guiding and gleaming reminder there is One who hears each of your cries for help, there is One who knows your pain and suffering because He too has been there, there is One who captures your tears in a bottle and holds them next to His heart for they are dear to Him, there is One who not only seeks to deliver you out of your despair but actually can do so, there is One whom stands by your side and who alone is your rescuer and deliverer for your grieving soul.
For far too long you realize you’ve been holding onto that last deep breath of yourself as the murky waters steadily rise around you for fear it would be your final moment.
But what if that last breath you’ve so desperately clung to all of this time if once given up was actually a necessary step towards hope? What if your last exhaled, heaving gasp of yourself rather than signifying the end was the beginning of the path called hope you have longed and wept for so many lonely days and nights ? What if that long, last breath of yourself you just expelled heralded your first inhalation of true life through Him as He intended it to be all along for you? No longer is it your breaths filled with so much hopelessness, but instead His breath of life that sustains you.
Friend, now that you have Him firmly in sight steadfastedly fix your heart’s gaze on His cross and determine to wholeheartedly follow Him wherever He might lead for true hope can only be found in Jesus, the strong wrecker for your weak and wrecked soul.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
“Therefore we do not lost heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)