Finding hope in a hopeless world--it is one of the greatest promises we have received, fulfilled in the gift of Christ in a Bethlehem manger. And yet, many of us struggle to keep hope as our foundation. In Advent, sometimes hope is symbolized by an anchor. "This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest…” (Hebrews 6:19-20 TLB).
How can our families experience and express hope as the anchor of our souls? An anchor connects a vessel to the seabed to prevent drifting due to wind or current. The currents of the world pull hard on each of us, trying to deceive us into believing its worldview and convictions (or lack thereof). But God has told us how to remain steadfast and fixed, to keep us from drifting with every wind of opinion or movement. He tells us that he himself, in Christ and by His Spirit, keeps us rooted and grounded in His world. Culture pulls hard trying to entice us toward hope in the material and the temporary, but our advent hope is eternal.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, so how do we guard our hearts and those of our children from misdirected hope?
Focus on the eternal. Lasting hope is always focused on the eternal rather than what can spoil or fade. When we spend too much time hoping for something God created, rather than God himself, we can often become disappointed. Redirecting hope to the eternal can be as simple as trusting that God will give us all good things we need for godliness (2 Peter 1:3), rather than hoping that we receive something specific and temporary.
Just like an anchor, hope keeps us from drifting in the whims of the world and away from Heaven’s current. It is easy to become distracted by money, or control, or even people in the world’s allure. Have you ever been swimming in the ocean or a river? It takes little effort to be pulled along by the ocean’s current. However, working against the current can be difficult if not impossible. When we are anchored to something strong and secure like God through his word, we are able to stand still against the pushing of the world’s system.
Sometimes God is interested in getting something good into our hands, but the time is not right for that blessing. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Just like a good parent has more wisdom about what a child should receive and when they should receive it, God knows what is in our best interest. He deserves our trust in such matters.
Hope keeps us steadfast during storms. Even though the wind blows and waves beat down on a ship, if that ship is anchored, it is far less likely to be dashed to pieces by an angry storm. When we allow the hope of our salvation to cause us to remain, we can endure temptation and even persecution knowing that this life here is only for a moment compared to eternity.
Hope is always about the future and the invisible. We do not hope for what we already have now, but what we wish for in the future. If our hope is weakening, could it be because we have made our home here and now rather than looking forward to the hope that is set before us? Could we have forgotten that Heaven is our home and we are merely ambassadors here? We cannot see with our eyes what lies before us, but we can trust that it is good.
Wisdom keeps our hope from being cut off (Proverbs 24:14). When we hope wisely, we empower that hope to grow. It is always wise to hope for things promised in the Bible. When I find myself discouraged and hopeless, I often find that I have given things and people a place that only God deserves.
Our one true hope came wrapped in swaddling clothes, a helpless infant sent to redeem the world. He is still our source of hope today through whatever challenges we face. Finding hope becomes a stepping stone to faith and joy. It is an integral part of our relationship with God. It defines us as a people who are different from those who are being set adrift by the storms of life. We face life's storms with our hope firmly anchored.