Gabrielle was tired of moving. She had grown up in a military family that always seemed to be packing boxes for the next move—as soon as she felt settled in a new place. Gabrielle now believed that those difficult times of upheaval were behind her. After many years of longing to stay in one home, one town, and one church, Gabrielle was certain she’d found the stability she’d longed for as she settled into her new marriage. But when her husband accepted a job in a different city, it became apparent that another move was inevitable. The heavy feelings of sadness and dread that overcame Gabrielle were all too familiar. She was devastated. Once again, she would be leaving the people and places she had grown to love.
When Gabrielle told her friends about the upcoming move and how hopeless she felt, they listened sympathetically. One friend offered to cheer her up with a girls’ night out at a favorite restaurant. Another promised to help her pack all the recently opened wedding gifts. Gabrielle heard familiar encouragements: “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be okay.” “Just put one foot in front of the other.” “You’ve done it before—you can do it again.” But these sentiments rang hollow and failed to strengthen Gabrielle’s aching heart.
When you’ve been discouraged, perhaps you’ve had well-intentioned friends offer you platitudes that emphasize “it’ll be alright” and “you can do it.” Maybe you yourself have made similar comments to those you love. Yet, as Christians, we have something much greater to offer one another. We have biblical hope. It’s not a hope consisting of a positive attitude or wishful thinking. Rather, the Christian’s hope is the confident expectation of God’s faithfulness and goodness—even in times of distress.
Better Than a Wish
In typical conversations, people use the word hope to communicate an element of doubt or uncertainty, as in “I hope he remembers my birthday,” or “I hope to get a raise next month.” But in Scripture, the word hope indicates a secure faith in God. As theologian R. C. Sproul explained, “Hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.”
We provide words of true hope when we speak of the faithful character and promises of God. When offering encouragement to a friend, speak highly of the Lord and remind her of his presence in her life. Help her to recount his past blessings and direct her thoughts toward future glory. Most importantly, share specific Scriptures with your loved one that have personally strengthened your hope in God, and take a few moments to pray with her. Your words, filled with the truths of God’s Word, will provide the hope your friend desperately needs.
Hope is Restored
The Old Testament book of Lamentations provides truth to share with the hurting. The author mourned over Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians. As he witnessed the City of David’s suffering and devastation, he turned his attention toward God. He focused on the character and promises of the Lord, and his hope was restored: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” (Lam. 3:21). Three truths that the author of Lamentations remembered about God are also truths that we must remind one another of when our hopes are shattered: the Lord is our faithful God, the Lord is our greatest good, and the Lord is our Redeemer.
Three Foundations of Hope
The Lord is our faithful God.
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). The foundation of our hope is the faithfulness of God. His lovingkindness is unwavering. He fulfills every one of his promises. Because of his constant, merciful care, we can persevere in faith and obedience through every trial. And even when we’re faithless, he’ll remain faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).
The Lord is our greatest good.
“‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lam. 3:24–25). In this life, God’s presence with us is our highest good, and every gift he gives to us is good. In the life to come, we’ll see him face to face and enjoy the glories of heaven. Nothing compares to the surpassing value of knowing him now and forevermore. Even in our greatest disappointments, we have the Lord—he is with us and will never forsake us.
The Lord is our Redeemer.
“You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life” (Lam. 3:57–58). When we experience burdens that seem too heavy to bear, we must remember that Christ has carried our heaviest burden, sin. His sacrifice on the cross has redeemed us from the power and penalty of sin. In him, we’re forgiven and reconciled to God: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19 NASB). If we can trust the Lord with this greatest burden, we can trust him with our lesser ones as well.
Gabrielle once again had to move to another city with her new husband. She could do so in one of two ways: either in hopelessness or in hope—trusting the character and promises of God. We have the same choice to make when we encounter trials. Will we despair, or will we turn our gaze toward God and hope in him? Will we encourage those we love to also hope in the Lord? When they share their burdens with us, will we offer them shallow pep talks or lead them to the deep well of biblical hope that never runs dry? Let’s be women who remind themselves and others that the Lord is faithful and good, and “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13).
Meet the Authors:
Cheryl Marshall is an author and Bible study teacher. She’s a graduate of The Master’s University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has over twenty-five years of experience teaching and discipling women in the local church. Cheryl co-authored When Words Matter Most with Caroline Newheiser, and she currently serves as the Director of Women’s Ministries at Founders Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. Born and raised in California, she now makes her home just outside Houston with her husband, Phillip, and their three children. You can connect with Cheryl at cherylmarshall.com.
Caroline Newheiser is an ACBC certified counselor and earned her master’s degree in Christian Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary–Charlotte where she is the Assistant Coordinator of Women’s Counseling. Caroline has many years of experience counseling women in the local church, and she has a passion to help women view their lives biblically. Her husband, Jim, is the Director of the Christian Counseling program and is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Practical Theology at RTS–Charlotte. Caroline and Jim have three grown sons. She was a pastor’s wife for over thirty-four years, including six years in Saudi Arabia, before moving to Charlotte. Caroline co-authored When Words Matter Most with Cheryl Marshall, and you can connect with Caroline at carolinenewheiser.com.