We are living in crazy and uncertain times. Perilous. Unpredictable. Fearful. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken. The bigger the storm, the bigger the anchor that is needed to keep the ship secure.
Hope is the anchor that holds in the midst of any situation, trial or storm—no matter how severe it gets.
“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB)
I am personally convinced that all of the hills and valleys I have passed through in the last 14 years of my life have prepared me for the uncertainty of where we find ourselves today.
Knowing that God causes all things to work together for good, I believe some of the wisdom lessons that have been hammered into me will be helpful for you as you travel on this unfamiliar road.
I am convinced that it is impossible to travel safely in pitch-blackness unless you have some kind of navigation system. Even if you are somewhat directionally challenged, as I happen to be (I can get lost even on my way to the airport), you can’t stay on any road or path in the dark. You need guidance, some kind of GPS, to take over.
When you are going through a dark night of the soul, for whatever reason, it may take a while before you remember that God is your GPS—and that He wants you to have His help. Has this been your experience? Or do you know in theory that He is your GPS, but you wonder if He knows your name and address anymore?
When you go through severe stress, you tend to lose your bearings. You might have always walked with God, but now you barely recall what it was like. You used to be able to follow His directions, but now your road map is lying crumpled in the dirt, and everything around you looks unfamiliar. You feel lost.
To find your way again, you are going to need directions that are super simple and easy to follow.
I had to go back and rediscover my core values because they seemed like all I had left. I also decided to lay hold of the “main and plain” doctrines of the faith and to stick with the Word of God.
I reviewed the facts: Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. Salvation comes by grace through faith in Him. My life matters to Him. There is an eternity and a Heaven. God’s Word has authority. And many more.
But did He really care about me?
The minute I allowed myself to wonder if maybe I was an exception to God’s Word, I began to flounder.
The enemy takes advantage of our doubts. Did God really say that? Is anything an absolute truth? Down I would go. Well, maybe God does love people in general, but I’m so far from Him that I don’t think He loves me like He used to. I am just another number.
I found out that I could not even rely on my memory of what God is like. I had to review the written Word.
God’s Word is the complete road map for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But you have to look at the map, right now. It is not good enough to have looked at it five or ten years ago.
I had to reexamine what it says—each day. I had to stick to it and follow its directions. Once again, the Word of God proved to be a lifeline and an anchor of hope. I rediscovered that it can show you the way through any wilderness or wasteland you find yourself in.
Run to God
As I kept reading the Word, I ran across what the disciples had said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68b NASB). They did not have anywhere else to turn, and neither did I.
What makes us think that our pain will go away if we run away from God? He is our redeemer. He redeems our lives from destruction (Psalm 103:4)! He gives us a redemptive understanding of our circumstances.
Are you lost and miserable? Abandon yourself to Him. Run straight into His arms. He will speak the words of life to you. He is your refuge. He is your stronghold and anchor of hope. He is always there for you; all you have to do is turn to Him and say, “Here I am.”
Make sure you turn to Him and not to somebody else or to something that can medicate your pain. In times of trouble, establish some firm boundaries for yourself. God will never leave you, but you can turn away from Him, repeatedly.
In your distress and disillusionment, you can resort to old addictions or unhealthy patterns. Many times, people go back to the sources of comfort they knew before they came to Christ. They opt for alcohol, drugs, illicit relationships, pornography, or gambling. They fall back into gossip, blame, shame, strongholds of poverty, and defensiveness. It will be different for every person.
Some people isolate themselves. Others feel they just have to be around other people all the time. They’re just trying to lessen the pain somehow, but it means that they are wandering around in the dark until they realize that they need to set their minds and hearts on God alone.
Figure out what you tend to medicate with when in pain and do whatever you need to do to avoid it. It is no use chafing about the situation. Hard stuff happens, and most of it seems unjust and unwarranted. But God is still good, and He is still there for you.
As one of my fathers in the faith told me, “The book of Job is still in the Bible.” God has never changed the way life works. What the devil meant for evil, God will always turn for the good. You will discover hope more quickly if you learn to partner with God.
Run to a Trusted Community
One of the places God’s roadmap will take you is to people you can trust—people who love well. Most of the time, this will include your family. For me, it did. I ran to my kids; who were young adults.
“You ran to your kids?” you may ask. “You are their father!” But even though their mother was gone, we were still family, and forgiveness covers a lot of fumbling around.
In my case, four kids soon became eight because all four of them got married within a four-year span, and now they are having kids of their own, so I am a grandpa. I will never be a perfect father, but I love my kids like crazy (I talk about them all the time). And we have learned to fight together to maintain a semblance of something called family.
I also ran to my friends. What a gift they are! I remember one time, I needed a friend with me at one of those intense oncology appointments, and he was there for me. And when I had to have serious back surgery in June of 2014, he and a few other trusted friends were the ones who chauffeured me around for more than four and a half months when I could not drive.
You do not have to have dozens of friends when you have a few really good ones. In fact, four will be enough to carry your cot and to help get you into the presence of Jesus (Mark 2:4; Luke 5:19).
At some point in time, you will need to be one of the four carriers yourself, and at other times, you will need their help. Run to people who love you and who are able to bring you into the presence of the Lord.
At the end of the day, friends can never fully meet your needs. Just remember to call out the name of Jesus, and the greatest brother and friend of them all will come to you.
He believes in you, and He knows what to do.
Worship With Your Questions
You do not have to call out to Jesus in a prescribed way, using special religious language. You certainly do not have to figure yourself out beforehand. When you call out to Jesus, you can bring anything to Him, even your unresolved questions. It can be a form of actual worship.
Worship God with your questions? You would want your questions answered, wouldn’t you? Yes, but I have discovered that one of the best ways to get them answered is to entrust them to Him in worship. Worship Him by trusting Him with your biggest, messiest questions. Tell Him you do not know the answers, but you know He does, and you will wait in full expectation for something good to come. He wants you to do this, whether you bring Him some big, philosophical or religious question or some emotion-laden, practical thing.
Trusting means not leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). And out of that comes hope and a certain amount of joy.
I might never understand the answers to all my questions on this side of Heaven, but one day, I will. The reality is that, right now, we all see through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), and sometimes the only way to worship is to worship God with our questions.
Yes, Run to the Anchor of Hope
Hope will secure our emotions, which crash like wild waves inside our souls and threaten to drown us. Hope is the strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. In an unstable, impermanent, ever-changing world, hope fastens us to the bedrock of God, the Rock of Ages. Within the sanctuary of God, anchored firmly on Him, we are even safer, believe it or not, then before the storm engulfed us.
Father, instead of masking my pain, I bring it to You. I choose to worship You with my questions. I believe that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). I present my past, my present, and all that I hope to be—my future—to You. I choose to believe that You have a hope-filled plan for the rest of my life. Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You! Amen.