By B.J. Funk
Hopelessness and Christianity cannot live in the same body, for the first word means we have no hope and the second word means we have all the hope in the world. To be hopeless indicates defeat. However, to be a Christian indicates the acceptance of the Power of the universe into our lives. So, how can we be both? How can we be a Christian and also be hopeless?
This was my dilemma when my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Sitting by his tired body, I watched the infusion of blood change his color many times from stark pale to pink. Week after week, the blood counts gave horrid results. The doctor at Emory didn’t hold back. “Frankly, Mr. Funk, there is no cure for your type of leukemia.”
His words hit us both with cruel reality. What to do? Where to find hope when the prognosis is so grim? We both believed in divine healing and knew that God could take away the leukemia in a second. But, until he did—and if he didn’t—where could we find hope? A steady flow of poison began to move in my heart. It was toxic, deadly and cruel. It was called hopelessness.
I went to the Psalms, and there I gained an important truth. The psalmists felt like I did as they poured their hearts out to God. If they started out complaining, they often ended recognizing God in their situation. They realized that God’s presence and care made the odds meaningless. Usually the hope and confidence in God outweighed the fear and suffering. This was my answer! Many of my prayers started like the psalmists. “Oh God, please heal Roy. Take away this leukemia.” But, more and more I ended my prayer acknowledging his faithfulness. “Please heal Roy, and thank you for the family who brought us dinner tonight.” My complaint and his faithfulness. Somehow, it helped.
We had to learn that while we had one idea in mind, God had another. We don’t think like God thinks. Our minds are limited, clouded with pressures of this life. Isaiah 55: 8 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
Then, I touched a golden nugget tucked away in Psalm 31:24. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” So, we were not to hope in the cure. We were to hope in the Lord! We were not to hope in what the doctor said. We were to hope in the Lord. There’s a big difference in hoping and waiting for what we want and in hoping and waiting on the goodness of God. Our hope had to be the knowledge that He would be with us in the storm. He will be faithful.
A truth began to be so clear to me that it was as if I saw the words bouncing off of the walls in my home in large blinking lights: God does not think like me. His plans are larger than I can even fathom. He has his reasons. My mind is limited.
God showed himself to us in beautiful and real ways we would never have seen unless we had walked through leukemia and Roy’s eventual death in April, 2009. In the days before Roy moved his residence from earth to heaven, God spoke to both of us. Individually and together, we saw his faithfulness. Hopelessness is a poison from that scam artist, Satan himself! Once hopelessness captures our heart, there is a continual toxic flow that blows out the fire of our faith. For Christians, however, there is an antidote. It is not a way that points to our getting what we want; it is a way that points to getting what God wants, and that means only one thing: getting his sons and daughters into a deeper relationship with him. I keep Psalm 119:71 in a spot where I see it daily. “It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees.”
What have you lost hope about? What are you so worried over that you can’t possibly see a way out? We must train ourselves to get our eyes off of the situation and onto Jesus. We can trust the One who died for us. Therein lies our hope.
In Jeremiah 31:13, God gives some beautiful words to the Israelites. We can claim them for ourselves. He says, “I will turn their mourning into dancing; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
I’m not dancing yet. But the other morning my right foot began a familiar but forgotten happy twist as I was getting ready for work. Maybe I’m on my way.