Pathway to Hope #4
Seeking Hope Outside of Ourselves.
Recently, I learned to sail a catamaran in the ocean. With all of its unpredictable winds and currents, navigating the ocean can be a terrifying place for a fledgling sailor. I was quickly reminded of the importance of safety equipment like anchors—not the horseshoe-size for a kiddie raft, but the massive hunks of steel (sometimes as big as a person). The kind that hold your craft in place at critical times and literally keep them from being dashed to pieces on rocks or other obstacles.
When I think about hope, it needs to be strong and solid like this nautical necessity—something to keep us grounded when we face the pull of fear and despair.
In fact, I believe real hope is a certainty, not something we wish to be true.
By the way, the anchor metaphor is not actually mine, but borrowed from Hebrews, part of the Bible written nearly 2,000 years ago in Rome. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, solid and secure.”1
The verse speaks of hope found through God, as people trust him to take care of them, especially in challenging circumstances.
Throughout the depths of my cancer journey, many words from the Bible became my anchor—the source that helped me find hope, strength and peace despite my circumstances. Words like this:
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear I will help you.’”2
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”3
These words became critical for me, knowing that God was there to help me in my suffering, and that my cancer wasn’t some unstoppable force outside of his control, but somehow part of his plan. Which reminds me of some other words that were meaningful to me:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”4
Rereading my journal a few days after the discovery of my cancer, I was struck that amidst the darkest part of the journey—and for me the initial diagnosis was the worst—clearly I still possessed hope.
“Lord, you are still exceedingly good, the same God of compassion who separates me from my sins,” I wrote on March 28, 2016. “I’m not certain why things had to go this way…but here I am. Let my life be poured out as you best see fit. My hope is for you to heal me and restore me to this earth…to still get to be a good husband and father to my daughter…If you take me from here and assign me new role in the heavens, I submit. All I have is yours.”
These words were difficult to write, but I can sense my optimism. By contrast, there were also moments of fear and doubt in my journal, too.
But looking back, hope was my default. On April 2, I wrote copied these words from another Psalm:
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”5
In the margin I wrote: “Cancer is my foe…my invading force.”
While it was difficult to identify my cancer journey with a military siege, the confidence amidst a threat resonated with me—knowing that even if all hell broke loose, I could still find hope in God.
And the foundation for my hope was the Bible—which I realize that some may find a curious source.
More than just ancient literature, I believe it contains inspired words from God himself—hopeful words of love for those who read it. And I am not alone. Millions of people believe the same thing and have through the centuries. If you want to explore more about the reliability and historical accuracy of this book, read Reliability of the Bible.
The Bible’s definition of hope is vastly different than the typical definition. It speaks of confidence based on God’s character—who he is and what he has said—not a mere a whim or wish.
I cannot explain my ability to find hope apart from this source.
In fact, as I explored references to hope in the Bible, I discovered it is all over this book! In fact, the word hope appears 130 times.6
Here is a reference, also from the Psalms, that quickly became one of my favorites: “As for me, I will always have hope.”7
Wow. To be a person who always has hope. What a game changer! Yet, how is that possible?
The answer is found in another Psalm: “The Lord delights in those…who put their hope in his unfailing love.”8
People who possess such hope find it through the “unfailing love” of God. They experience this love by knowing him and having a relationship with. Because he is good, they trust him to take care of them. They trust him to help them navigate the ups and downs of life.
Did you also catch the word “delight”? Have you ever considered that the God who created the universe desires to delight in you? It may sound strange, but it’s true. He delights in those who find hope in him. The Bible is full of stories of people who have found this hope.
Consider Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch. He and his wife struggled to have children (infertility is not just a modern problem) yet they hoped, even against the odds, that God would make them parents. They trusted God and waited and eventually, when Abraham was old, God brought them a son, Isaac.
And then there is the incredibly hopeful story of the Apostle Paul, who before his conversion to Christianity, he persecuted and killed Christians—followers of God. Yet God met with him on the road to Damascus, altering the course of his life, showing him that love wasn’t about making your life look better than others, but about experiencing God’s grace, unconditional love not based on our performance. Eventually, Paul penned most of the New Testament and travelled all over the world to tell others about this love. His story underscores that no matter how unlikely a person might seem, they are never too far gone. God is able to redeem them and bring them into a relationship with himself.
Now that is hopeful.
There are many other stories, too, for you to discover.
But the point is, the Bible showcases a hope that defies barriers and circumstances, one that gives people something to rely on and confidence. And what is this confidence in? Trust in an all-powerful and all-knowing God to help and take care of them.
That’s what I trusted—and I still do.
If God is that great, then, indeed, hoping in him only seems logical. Yet, here is the tricky part: it requires believing in something unseen. And this is why many people don’t believe in God—because they can’t see him (I will address this further in Pathway #5).
What about you. Do you think it is possible to know God? Why or why not?
I would encourage you to not be limited by your own experience. Just because you haven’t experienced God or his hope, it doesn’t disprove his existence. It’s like someone living in a landlocked state who can’t imagine the ocean, simply because it is outside of his or her personal experience!
From firsthand experience, I assure you that real and lasting hope, like an anchor, is there for the taking. Do you want to grab hold?
Next, I’m going to explain more about how you can choose this hope.
Yours for hope,
Founder of Hope Has Arrived
Three steps you can take:
Ponder: How willing are you to look outside of yourself for hope?
Remember: the journey to finding real hope begins by looking without, not within.
Consider: these words of hope…“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Footnotes: (1) Hebrews 6:19 NIV (2) Isaiah 41:13 NIV (3) Psalm 27:1 NIV (4) Jeremiah 29:11 NIV (5) Psalm 27:3 NIV (6) “Hope” appears 130 times in the King James Version of the Bible. (7) Psalm 71:14 NIV (8) Psalm 147:11 NIV