“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. “ Prov 13:12
I really do believe that we begin to feel physically sick when we don’t have hope. Sick in the heart translates to sick in the body too is my personal experience. I think that somewhere in every heart, there has to be hidden the treasure that: God is bigger than any situation I face, things are going to get better, God can make a way. Each of us should have this rock steady hope. But just like any rock can be eroded by wind and water, so the trials of life can erode away our rock of hope.
To erode means to cause to diminish or deteriorate, to become worn or eaten away, to grind or wear down. None of these sounds like an instant process, it happens over a period of time, usually unnoticed.
Our hope can erode without us realising it.
What in our life, causes our hope to erode away, here are a few I have recognised in my life:
- The first one to erode our hope is the need to understand “why?” Why is this happening to me? Even Job asked why? Job 7:20-21. But in the context of an all knowing, all powerful God, sovereign, the question is not so much why, but for what purpose? We spend so much time, trying to understand why, instead of trusting through relationship the source of our hope. So often we run to the tree of knowledge and understanding in our life gardens, instead of running to the tree of life (a relationship with the Lord) which gives us what we need to live. We seek to know the purpose of pain and all we are going through, rather than the presence of God, His love for us and His desire to commune in relationship with us. It is only in the context of this relationship, that “why” gets meaning.
- The need to understand why, often leads to a need to blame someone or something. We blame God (as Job chooses not to do Job1:22) or we blame others. When we blame others, we avoid our own responsibility to do something in the situation. It is left to others to fix, so that we don’t have to get involved. But James 1:2-4 (MSG) clearly explains the purpose of what is happening to us, rather than the reason why.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
- A need to understand why also gives birth to that often unidentified sin of self-pity which given time becomes a habit and erodes our hope. The sin of self pity slowly creeps up on us and we see it’s evidence in what runs out of our mouths in sighs and complaints. (Matt 12:34) I believe this is one sin that “so easily entangles” us and “hinders” us (Heb 12:1) and we find that we cannot “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Ps 42:5 asks “why so downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” and then describes the medicine for self pity: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” If you are indulging in self pity: The first step however described in Heb 12:1 is to “throw off the sin” of self pity.
- The final eroder of hope is what Job in the Message describes as “a bunch of miserable comforters!” (Job 16:1-2 (MSG)) The people we surround ourselves with may be the ones that erode our hope. He describes them in Job 6:14-23 (MSG) as his “so-called friends” who have “nothing to you” who “look at a hard scene and shrink in fear”. People, who are themselves without hope, cannot provide hope to others because you cannot give what you do not have. The opposite is true, one can align yourself with those who do have hope, who are running the race with perseverance as Jesus did. (Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG) Any runner will tell you that it is those that are running with you, who pace you while you run, that contribute to the success of your race.
Hope is a precious treasure of the heart, but life and all its challenges put our hope to test. But we ourselves need to look after this treasure of the heart, maintain it.
Build up the hope, before the storm comes. And if you are in a storm right now, my dear friend, guard your heart, cherish your hope.
Father, thank you that my hope is in You. That with You, I have a sure anchor for my soul. Help me to watch my level of hope, my heart expectation of You. Help me to have a heart that always says: “But God…” Help me to regularly examine my heart to see if hope has been eroded from my faith life. Help me to examine my life for these hope eroders and eradicate them from my life.