After many decades of slavery in Egypt, the time came for God to deliver His people, fulfilling promises made to their ancestors. However, after they got their hopes up when Moses returned with God’s message, Pharaoh doubled down on their burdens (“bricks without straw”), and attempted to remove any source of motivation. This Pharaoh wasn’t the only leader in history to try and quell the fear of rebellion through burying a repressed people in work, but it seems that he was particularly effective. When Moses came back with the next message from God, here’s how he was received:
So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.
Exodus 6:9 NLT
They had just run out of hope, having exhausted their will to believe that God would still save them. Their hopes had been high, but when deliverance didn’t come right away, they became discouraged again.
Thinking back through the low points in our lives, we may be able to relate to this. Maybe we weren’t part of a people group who had been enslaved for generations (on the other hand, there are definitely those in this world who are stuck in that situation). Still, there is the pain that won’t go away, or the heartache that steals our joy. We may have a job (or several of them) from which there seems to be no end, or a toxic relationship that we can’t shake.
Regardless of the cause, the trials of a fallen world can make us wonder if a rescue or salvation is ever going to come.
I can’t guarantee any kind of physical healing or being rescued from a human-created prison in this world (although God can deliver either, and I believe that those in the Body of Christ are called to help with both situations, where they can). This fallen world will continue to assault the innocent (and the guilty), and the curse of sin is still making itself known around us.
When the world is full of pain, and God’s timing runs longer than we want, the only place to look is beyond the limits of time. Even as we get through one day (or sometimes, just a few more minutes) at a time, there is hope to be found in the big, big picture:
For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
Colossians 1:4-5 NLT
The believers in the Colossian church weren’t receiving everything on a silver platter. As Jesus had warned, His followers experienced trouble. And, Paul (the author of this letter) was writing from prison. However, both Paul and the Colossian church had something that transcended their circumstances: they had hope. This wasn’t just a vain wish, either, but rather something that they could look forward to with confidence.
And, as this passage shows, from hope came faith and love. With the hope in something better, these followers of Jesus could continue to trust God more, and build their faith and reliance on them. With the hope (assurance) that trials on earth were temporary, they could show love to others, rather than only trying to be comfortable or entertained during their mortal lives.
In fact, with confidence in one’s reason to keep on going, trials can even produce more hope (see Romans 5:1-5).
Conversely, without hope, we can find it difficult to produce either faith or love. If we don’t see the bigger picture, along with God’s nature demonstrated in His long-term destiny for those who follow Him, we aren’t likely to have a well-grounded faith, and what remaining faith that we do have isn’t likely to change our lives. If we don’t think that there is anything to look forward to, why would we invest in loving other people when we could use that same energy for our own benefit?
So, while it is my prayer that you will find the security of faith (not just wishful thinking, but confident assurance) and be able to love others, I would have you first find hope: Hope in the trustworthiness of God to keep His promises. Hope in the salvation that Jesus sealed for us with His death and resurrection. Hope in the joy that awaits our lives in Heaven, with new bodies and without the pall of sin. That is the hope that I pray for you to have, today.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.