Our world aches for a soul-reaching peace that transcends all that’s frightening and hard, for unshakable hope, and the promise that life won’t always feel so painful. That good awaits. People long for—need—everything we have in Christ, but I wonder if we convey these truths accurately, fully, and often enough. Or do our words, to ourselves and others, unknowingly, point to a hope rooted in today—the end of a virus, a better economy, or a transformed political system?
A few years ago, our daughter spent eight months in North Carolina, during which she became painfully lonely. Soon, deep depression took hold. Needing to know how best to help her, I sought guidance from a counselor. Through this, I was reminded of the power and importance of hope.
To persevere, our daughter needed to cultivate anticipation for what lay ahead. As a result, my husband and my conversations with her shifted significantly. While we talked about coping tools, we focused predominantly on counting down the days until she returned home. We also discussed, in detail, how we’d celebrate once she did—all she had to look forward to. Her hope for home increased her grit to endure.
This is true for our faith journeys as well. Our hope doesn’t lie in a better life today. Scripture tells us, numerous times, to expect the opposite. Many of us know this, but do our words reflect this truth?
Consider Paul’s letters to ancient believers living in dark and painful times, much worse than anything most of us will experience. He routinely reminded them to remain focused on heaven, where their true citizenship lay. His heart was firmly set on the joy that awaited him and all God’s children. And his anticipation became contagious.
This is clear from his praise of the Thessalonian believers: “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine).
Here’s what I find significant regarding this passage. These believers came to faith amidst great persecution. After preaching in their city for a mere three weeks, Paul was driven out by a riotous mob. I imagine he felt as if he’d abandoned the new believers in their fledgling faith. Considering all they could, and likely would, suffer, they probably dominated his thoughts. His greatest fear? That the gospel message hadn’t truly stuck. But then he received news, these baby believers were thriving! “The word of the Lord sounded forth” (1 Thes. 1:8, ESV) from them, like a glorious, life-giving trumpet.
Why? What enabled these persecuted new Christians to flourish during such a dark and horrific time?
Their knowledge that their pain wouldn’t last forever. They maintained an undeniable, unshakable, and indistinguishable hope in heaven.
We have the hope our world needs. May we proclaim it clearly, loudly, and often, because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, ESV).
That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask God to intervene, that we shouldn’t long for reprieve, today. But may our proclamations regarding all we know, with certainty, is yet to come, ring louder, because that’s where our true hope lies, and that hope will always preach.
Let’s talk about this. How easy is it for you to anchor your heart in the hope of heaven?
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