Hopeless – “having no expectation of good or success, not susceptible to remedy or cure, and incapable of redemption or improvement (Merriam-Webster).”
We feel it as despair or that dark hole of existence we think we will never be able to climb out of. As of late, it seems to be a common theme for many people. We feel hopeless about politics and pandemics. We feel hopeless that our situation will ever change or that our prayers will be answered.
The apostle Paul found himself in a hopeless situation. As he was sailing to Rome under soldier-guard, their ship struggled along due to poor weather. It wasn’t long before they were caught in a violent storm. The crew, beginning to fear the worst, threw the cargo and the ship’s gear overboard. As the storm raged on, they gave up all hope of survival if they stayed on the boat. Despite Paul’s assurance that there would be no loss of life, only of the ship, the sailors still sought to sneak away on the life boat, But Paul spoke up to the soldiers in charge: “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved”. Then immediately, “the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go”. (Acts 27:31-32).
The ship’s crew despaired for their very lives. I most often find myself despairing about my own sin. I pray for God to change me, and yet I find myself doing the very sin later that day that I prayed not to do in the morning! My heart resonates with Paul when he says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).
I feel hopeless that God will ever change my family even though I pray for them daily. Sometimes I will even stop my kids in the middle of the day, when all seven of their little sin natures are clashing and causing chaos, and sit them down and pray with them. Then not five minutes later, there is another argument that ensues or more harsh words spoken.
It is in our tempests of sin, when the storm clouds seem so oppressive and thick, that I feel like jumping ship. The torrents never seem to end, the clouds never seem to part, and I give up all hope of fair weather ever coming our way.
The account of the apostle Paul’s stormy sea voyage is a narrative, not a metaphor. However, by way of personal application, it reminds me that when things look hopeless, I can do one of two things. I can either, like the sailors, choose to believe that things really are hopeless, and in my despair try to jump ship. Or, like Paul, I can resolutely stand on God’s promises found in His Word and choose to trust Him even when I cannot see the outcome.
In my particular circumstance with sin, God’s Word promises that because he has called me and justified me in Christ, he will sanctify me and glorify me (Romans 8:29-30). Because God began a good work in me, he will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). I may not be able to see the progress of my sanctification day to day, but I can trust that God is changing me. I am not the same person I was before Jesus saved me, and I am not even the person I was a year ago, or three years ago, or ten. And just like Paul, I may not have reached the shore yet, but I can trust that it is as good as done because God keeps his word.
In the case of my family, I can trust that God is sanctifying my redeemed children, too. They need as much grace and patience as I do to deepen their relationship with God, learn and apply his truths, and bear fruit. I can trust that Jesus has more than enough mercy, grace, and power to save my unredeemed children, and that He does not desire that any of them should perish. I can trust that the Holy Spirit can use the gospel I have shared with them to cause light to shine into the darkness of their hearts and regenerate them.
Merriam-Webster defines hopeless as having no confidence or expectation for good, being incurable, and unredeemable. But with God, we should always expect good because it is his nature. We can come expectantly and confidently to the throne of grace, knowing that we will receive mercy and grace in our time of need, whatever that need may be. We can with certainty look forward to the day when God will right all the wrongs and remedy the curse of sin in this world. And we can with full assurance know that there is nothing beyond his redemptive ability.
What is it that causes you to feel hopeless and despair?
Is it a health condition, a job, a broken marriage, or the brokenness of this world?
The salvation of a loved one who refuses to come to Christ?
Perhaps it is another unanswered prayer?
Or maybe, like me, it is an uphill battle with a sin you cannot seem to beat?
Whatever it is, there is only one true hope for it all, Jesus Christ.
The Lord is the one who forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, and satisfies us with good (Psalm 103:3-5). Jesus is the only who can redeem broken relationships, and the only one who will ultimately fix the awful effects of sin in this world. He is the only way to the Father by the way that Jesus opened heaven through the payment of his blood for our sins. He is the only one who has defeated sin’s power over us, and eradicated our conformity to the old sinful nature, and made us more like himself.
He can do all this because God is all-powerful and because Jesus came to bear the curse of sin and is making all things new.
All other lifeboats are a false hope.
Unless we stay in the ship of Christ, we cannot be saved and our lives and the lives of our loved ones cannot be changed. We must cut away all other hopes that we cling to and cling to Christ alone. Are you clinging to God and the Savior of the world as your hope?
I want to leave you with one final meditation on hopelessness from God’s Word. When you feel like things will never get better, meditate on God’s faithfulness, remember all He has done in the past, and be assured by the perfections of His character.
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.” (Psalm 77:7-15)