Life is a rhythm of seasons, which hope threads together—hopefully. While I look at the vibrant crisp leaves twirling around my neighbourhood, I am amazed at the beauty displayed right out my front window. Autumn is a great season but it gets me a bit panicky. With the fast approaching winter that drops so cold and stays so long, the precursor rarely feels long enough. In our home we are living a “season” familiar to many pastoral couples where the days drag on but the years fly by—parenting young children! This summer my husband and I welcomed our third child to our family and it has been such an adventure of leaning on the Lord. One recent mealtime our two preschool girls were experiencing overwhelming emotions and in need of very present and consistent parenting. With a dinnertime more chaotic than normal we were both feeling exhausted. I chuckled to my husband that we just needed to wait—say, 20 years?!—until our newborn son could bring some stability to our family! I was joking of course, but the comment found us thinking about hope. If our hope for peace is dependent on calm, collected children or a church family free from conflict, our hope may always be out of reach! Like faith, hope is only as good as its source. If our hope relies on earthly circumstances or relationships it will not weather the storms of life’s chaos or even the change in seasons. For hope to be satisfying and truly hopeful at all, it must be fully in Jesus. As the popular hymn goes, our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Jesus is our bedrock hope.
Look at the opening encouragement in Peter’s first letter with me, considering how you can share Gospel, hope-filled words with your families, churches, and community. Peter opens with a hope-filled message to the “elect exiles.” In 1 Peter 1:3-7 notice how hope comes from what God has done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7
We have hope because God has caused us to be born again! How easily we forget the basic truth of our new standing before God. Because of Jesus’s work on the cross and resurrection from the dead we can be His children. In that there is living hope! When people are searching for hope, emphasize with them that we have hope because of God’s “great mercy” and “God’s power.”
Earthly things vie for our attention and praise. I am thankful for gifts like a warm home and the sun shining outside, but true satisfaction cannot be found without the hope of new life with Jesus. Hope sets our sights beyond the temporary to realize and rejoice that we will be with Jesus. Nothing on earth can satisfy like an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Why would we even want anything else to be our hope?
Peter does not avoid addressing the present trials that some of the Christians were facing. I am glad because we too can wonder, “there is eternal hope, but is there hope for me today?!” Peter emphatically says, “yes”! In fact, the trials that take us through refining fire are cause for rejoicing. Glory to God that we can rejoice because our present suffering is not the end of the story! We undergo a test of our faith that results in precious offerings glorifying our Saviour. Like in Peter’s day, there are women in our churches being “grieved by various trials.” Some of them are mourning losses, some are struggling through relational dynamics at work, some are lonely at home. In our struggles the power of sin does not have to be victorious. And take heart, our present sufferings are “now for a little while, if necessary.” God is also currently keeping our inheritance and guarding us through faith. Our inheritance is not secure and He is not guarding us by asking us to muster up our own faith. Faith looks outward to Jesus.
While Peter wrote of the Christian’s living hope he did it in a way that inspires hope. In reality, though, sharing hope with sufferers is hard to do. What words should we choose? We may have examples that come to mind of how our good intentions were found offensive. Let us keep in mind that Jesus walks with His children through their suffering. He has to be the one to carry them out of it and He is more than capable! Our carefully crafted words are not as valuable to others as pointing people to find their hope in Jesus himself.
On one occasion I was having parenting doubts and insecurities wrestling in my mind. My husband realized what he had gotten into when he asked the question “How are you doing, really?” and I did not stop talking for an hour! He was gracious to listen to me and also remind me of the ways God was giving me victories and strength for the new territory we had entered. At the end we reflected on milestones in my mothering and his words at the end filled me with teary-eyed hope. My husband said, “You are not who you once were and you are not who you will be.” My husband was simply reminding me of God’s sanctifying work in my life that would one day be complete at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I left that conversation renewed with hope.
For every person in every season the need for hope is real. As pastors’ wives we need steadfast hope ourselves and we encounter opportunities to carry living hope to each conversation and circumstance we face. Words are incredibly powerful and significant. As Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” As we go about our weeks may the Holy Spirit grant us power and mercy to use our verbal and written comments and prayers to turn the gaze of those around us to Jesus.
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