So, you’re feeling in desperate need of hope? You just finished reading my last post about how important hope is (not having it might kill you!) and you’re ready to find some.
This is an important search. Having hope is necessary for getting up in the morning and moving your life forward.
When we’re in need of hope, it’s awfully easy to settle for an empty hope. An empty hope is something that looks like a source of hope, but when tested it has no substance.
Empty hope leaves you in a worse position because you thought you had something to rely on, but in the moment of stress it turns out you don’t.
In your search for hope, avoid these three attractive substitutes. They look like a great place to find the motivation and security you need, but they won’t provide what you need.
You’re Not As Strong As You Think You Are.
1) Finding Hope In Our Own Strength.
Many of us try to find hope in ourselves. Our own strength, our willpower, our great ideas. If we can work hard enough or perform well enough, we can be accepted. If we can be strong enough, we will win over our enemies.
The Bible calls this “trusting in chariots and horses.” (See Psalms 20:7) Think back to the story of the Exodus. The people of Israel finally get to leave Egypt, but as they head out of town Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues them with his army. The outcome was assured–a crowd of unarmed families couldn’t stand against war horses and chariots. Except that Pharaoh wasn’t counting on God. In the end, Israel crossed the sea and escaped without using a single weapon. And all the strength of Egypt’s best horses and chariots ended up floating in bits in the water.
The problem with trusting your strength is that there’s always someone out there bigger than you. Someone else can perform better. Even circumstances will come up that you are simply not strong enough to handle on your own. If your hope is based on how strong you are, then your life is going to end up floating in little pieces on the waves of circumstance. Maybe you’ve experienced that. I have.
You Can’t Trust The Banks!
2) Finding Hope in Financial Security.
A full bank account and access to credit seem like security. With all our financial needs, it’s easy to think that what you need most to have hope in this world is more money. If only you had enough you’d be secure, you’d be safe, you’d be free.
The Bible cautions us, though, about money as a source of hope. (See 1 Timothy 6:17 ). The problem with setting our hope on money is that money can come and go. That was hard to imagine in the ‘90s when property values did nothing but go up and credit was cheap and freely available.
But the truth is economies fail. Banks collapse. Jobs are lost. No matter how rich you are, things can happen that you can’t buy your way out of. Instead of finding freedom, we find ourselves serving a demanding master who will never let us stop working.
Doing All The Right Things Won’t Save You.
3) Finding Hope in Religion.
We hate uncertainty. We hate submitting ourselves to things out of our control. Religion tells us that if we believe the right thing, if we practice the right religious rituals, if we please God the right way, we will be secure. Religion tells us that there’s more than just this material life. There’s a “better place” out there. There’s divine justice. And all of that feels like it can give us hope. But there’s a problem with this (even though I believe some of those claims are true!)
Trusting in religion isn’t the same thing as trusting in God.
Does our religion point us to God? Every religious community faces this challenge. Religion talks about God. That can be good. But religion isn’t God. Trying to find hope in religion is like trying to satisfy your thirst by becoming a water purification expert. Knowing a lot about water doesn’t satisfy your thirst. In order to do that, you have to drink the actual water. You need to get that water inside of you.
A God of Hope
So, if we can’t find hope in our personal strength, or in financial security, or even in religion, where do we find it? In coming posts we’ll talk about how to find hope when we’re in dark places and how we can structure our lives to receive hope. But for today, consider this promise:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:14
You’re certainly heard that God is a God of love. We talk about that all the time. But did you know that God is a God of hope? God wants to give you hope every bit as much as love and grace. I pray that you will experience that gift today.
Are there other sources of false hope you can think of?