FOLLOWING JESUS WHEN YOU FEEL HOPELESS
By Kyle Idleman
One night I received a call around 9:00 in the evening from a good friend of mine whose wedding I had performed. He told me he and his wife were getting a divorce. I asked, “Well, why don’t you come in and let’s just talk for a bit. Can we talk? Can we at least do that?”
“There’s no point in talking,” he responded. I said, “Well, just the two of you go see a counselor. It’s worth that. Just go visit one time. I’ll pay for it. Just go one time.” He said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m not calling for help. I’m calling to tell you it’s over.” Then he said, “The situation is hopeless.”
Have You Ever Felt Hopeless?
- You can’t see past the diabetes or the dialysis.
- You have a prodigal child whose shadow seems far from the road towards home.
- Your career is stuck at the end of a dead-end road.
- You can’t see past the pile of bills
- You can’t imagine life without chemotherapy.
But when we follow Jesus, something changes. Well, something can change. In Romans 5:5, Paul speaks of a hope that doesn’t disappoint and flows no matter the situation. I don’t know about you, but I am interested in a hope like that.
Hope That Leads To Disappointment
It has been my experience that hope almost inevitably leads to disappointment. I think back to my daughter Macy’s sixth birthday. She was so excited — she had the whole day planned out. In the morning, I would take her and two friends to Chuck E. Cheese for breakfast. From Chuck E. Cheese we would go to Champ’s Rollerdome for roller-skating. Next we would go out to Huber’s Farm. After Huber’s Farm would be a stop at Build-a-Bear Workshop. The celebration would finally conclude at Puzzles Fun Dome with more pizza and birthday presents.
She had even gone to the trouble of making a list of presents and had her older sister transcribe it for her. A CD player was at the very top of her list. The list also included pink hair-coloring, play makeup and an Easy-Bake Oven WITH food. Number twelve on the list was chocolate ice cream. Number thirteen said, “More chocolate ice cream.” And, finally, a dalmatian puppy and a pony.
Let me tell you how her birthday actually unfolded. She woke up and went to school even though going to school wasn’t on her list. Then, she had a doctor’s appointment. After that we did go to Build-a-Bear Workshop, after which we had dinner at “On The Border”. We returned home to open up presents, none of which exceeded $40 in value. I am sad to report there was no Dalmatian and no pony. That was how her day went. She had a great time. It was a lot of fun. But it wasn’t what she was hoping for.
We are always hoping and yet almost always disappointed. We hope to make the team and hope to get invited to the prom. We hope to get into the right school. We hope to get married. We hope to get the promotion. We hope to have kids. We hope that one day those kids will leave the house. We hope for an early retirement. We hope for good health. We’re always hoping, and yet it seems like there is always disappointment along the way in life. You don’t make the team or get invited to the prom. You don’t get the right job or you’ve had it up to here with your kids.
Hope That Never Disappoints
I’ve noticed that even when we get what we hoped for, we often still find that we’re disappointed. Things don’t live up to our expectations. And, after enough disappointment, we lower our expectations and we settle. We accept that it is just the way life is.
But it doesn’t have to be. Remember in Romans 5 when Paul said he found a hope that doesn’t disappoint? In Philippians 3 he writes,
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!”
This is significant because Paul was was under house arrest and was chained to a Roman guard. Not only was he a prisoner, but he also faced the possibility of execution at any moment. Despite his grim circumstances, his letter to the Philippians focused on finding JOY.
Why? Because his hope was in the right place. As a follower (not a fan) of Jesus, Paul had found joy by placing all his hope in Jesus.
Paul went on to warn his readers how easy it was to put hope in the wrong things. He wrote about false teachers (or fans of Jesus) who taught about hope in Jesus PLUS something else. They taught about a need for Jesus, but also a need to center life around hope in something else. Paul emphasized that it’s not Jesus plus anything. Followers whose hope is completely placed in Jesus will never face disappointment.
This life will not be easy or comfortable but Jesus did say follow him and you will experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of also experiencing difficult and painful realities. Through Jesus, we are promised a hope of an inheritance kept in heaven. That’s the hope that never leads to disappointment. The hope we have in God will not cause disappointment but the hope we have in the things of this world will.
The Most Valuable Hope Of All
Have you ever thrown away something valuable? I have. It happened several years ago. I walked into our garage on garbage day and noticed four garbage bags lined up in a row along the side. I grabbed them all, put them in the garbage can and wheeled them out to the street.
Later that afternoon, my wife called me and said, “Kyle, did you take out all the garbage bags?” I knew she was about to give me well-deserved praise and a huge thank-you for my hard work and initiative.
So I said, “Yes, honey, I did. I took out all the garbage bags, even the ones over on the side.” That’s when she informed me that the garbage bags were full of maternity clothes belonging to her and my sister. Apparently, they both planned to use them again at some point in the future. She also explained the value, cost and difficulty of shopping for quality maternity clothes and ended with, “we’ll talk about this more when you get home.” I stayed at the office a little longer that day.
Some things don’t seem to belong in the garbage. That’s exactly how Paul’s readers would have seen the list accomplishments Paul was tempted to put his hope in. Accomplishments are very valuable but Paul says, “No, compared to knowing Christ, it’s all garbage.”
I think of the things we can be tempted to put our hope in:
- The success of our kids.
- Financial security
These are all good things. These are all valuable things, but compared to knowing and following Jesus, they’re all rubbish.
Beyond rubbish, they are all things that will ultimately cause disappointment. In the end, they won’t do for us what we wanted. They won’t live up to our expectations. Fortunately, followers have another option because there is a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
His name is Jesus.
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