Hope is a powerful force for life. In college I remember reading a book called, Man’s Search for Meaning. In it the author, Viktor E. Frankl, describes the horrors of the Nazi death camp that he himself experienced as Jew in WWII. Frankl was a psychologist prior to his imprisonment and writes about his experience from a psychological perspective.
One of the many things that stuck out to me in that book was Frankl’s revelation that there was a direct connection between a prisoner’s hope and his/her survival. For instance, him and his comrades would spend a large portion of their time talking about what they were planning to do once they got out. One man was looking forward to eating his wife’s cooking. Another was looking forward to a restaurant in his hometown. All were looking forward to being reunited with family and friends.
Frankl began to notice that talking about their hope was keeping them alive. This was further confirmed when he would notice a man isolating himself from these conversations. Frankl wrote that when a man began to stop talking about his hopes, he would either commit suicide or would simply die within 24-48 hours. He could see the change in their eyes. They had lost hope.
It’s amazing to me that hoping to eat pie and see a friend can have the power to get a man through some of the most atrocious circumstances in human history. But it didn’t get everyone through. Many lost hope and with the loss of hope came a loss of everything.
Listen to Psalm 33:
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
These verses put God forward as the ultimate Sovereign who looks down from heaven, seeing every man, woman and child. He alone is in charge and He is not impressed by our armies and our war horses. In fact, He says these are a false hope.
Now you may not have a huge army or a war horse, but what are you putting your hope in? Is your war horse your job, your strength, your spouse, the stock market, your retirement plan? With the onset of coronavirus we are all getting exposed to false hopes. As Psalm 33:10-11 says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
This Psalm is not saying that God is the cause of the coronavirus or Nazi Germany, but rather that when these things come, you better have your hope in Him, because His plans stand for all generations. He says, “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.”
This Psalm is a call to hope in the right thing. In God himself! It reminds me of John 16:33 when Jesus says, “I have said these to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Hope is healthy. False hope is deadly. What do you hope in?
If we put our hope in anything other than God we are hoping in the wrong thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a sin to hope your stock does well or that your spouse will love you and your kids patiently. But if your ultimate hope is in these things or anything like them, you are going to be filled with anxiety, because you are hoping in imperfect, out of control world.
Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything…” Anything? Yes anything! How?
Paul continues, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Those who make their requests to God, make their requests to the one who is ACTUALLY in control. He is a sure hope. His plans are sure. His love is sure. His promises are sure. So don’t wait with sweaty palms for the stocks to rise, or your wayward son to return, or for the coronavirus to resolve. Instead:
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.