Are you nervous?
The whole world amid a pandemic. With social distancing regulations, business closings, and church cancellations affecting our daily lives, danger suddenly seems very real. Even people who aren’t normally prone to anxiety and depression can start to feel on-edge and discouraged. It’s an understandable reaction. But just because fear is a human response to danger, doesn’t mean we’re stuck with that reaction.
As followers of the Most High God, who rules heaven and earth, we don’t have to give in to fear and discouragement. The sort of hope we have can persist no matter how bad things get in the world around us. When we think of “hope”, we often think of something vague and distant, like “I hope I win the lottery.” That is not how scripture defines it, though. The Hebrew words translated “hope” in the Old Testament speak of things that are certain. Hope is something you can tie yourself to, place confidence in, and collect like water in a pool. It’s real, and it is powerful.
Hope, in this sense, is something we can’t have apart from God. There’s no way to be confident of a good outcome, unless you trust He has the power to make things turn out well. One way to grow our confidence is by reading scriptures that remind us God is in control, and He will be with us no matter how dangerous the world becomes. There are many encouraging passages in the Bible. Today, we’re going to look at ten scriptures that can help you hold on to hope through dark times. (Note: all scriptures listed below are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).)
1) “Surely He shall deliver you”
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” – Psalm 91:1-4
This psalm has been on my mind quite a bit lately, since one of my local congregations just finished up a 6-part sermon series on it. The message of Psalm 91 seems especially pertinent now, since the psalmist mentions protection from pestilence and plague three times (verses 3, 6, 10). While believing in God doesn’t guarantee we’ll never get sick, there is great comfort in knowing that the Most High, Almighty God cares deeply about our well-being. He will not abandon us no matter what happens.
2) “All things work together for good”
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
This is a radical promise. It often seems like a promise God’s not living up to. How can Paul claim that all things work together for good when you see illness sweep a country or when He lets someone you love die in a car accident? One satisfactory answer I’ve found is that God sees things from a different perspective than we do. He knows there’s a way, and He’ll make everything turn out all right in the end. It’s a cliché, but “if it isn’t alright yet, then it isn’t the end.” We can’t always figure out what God is doing. But we can say, “even if you don’t answer my prayers the way I want right now, I will not give up hope. I will keep trusting you (or trying to) because I know you are faithful and good.”
3) “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed”
“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” – Lamentations 3:21-24
Lamentations is one of the most heart-wrenching books in the Bible. Jeremiah wrote this while his country was being invaded; people were dying all around him; and the famine got so bad, mothers ate their children (Lam. 4:10). Yet, in the center of all this, Jeremiah brings a radically hopeful perspective to Israel’s suffering. He knew God was faithful, and there is always hope. With God backing it up, hope is incredibly strong. Hope can even drive out despair and put joy in its place. The world might look like it’s falling apart around us, but we can find peace in knowing the Lord’s mercies never fail.
4) “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
This verse immediately follows what we call the faith chapter. After giving us example after example of people who held on to their faith through great trials, the writer of Hebrews says they can inspire us to endure through our own hard times. He also points us to the ultimate example: Jesus Christ, who held on to joy, even while enduring the cross. If Jesus can do that, then He can empower us to stay hopeful and keep moving forward through anything.
5) “Fear not, for I have redeemed you”
“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” – Isiah 43:1-3
This is my favorite encouraging passage in the Bible. Even though I’ve read it so many times, I’m still in awe of the intimate, redeeming attention God give to His people. He knows each of us by name and says we belong to Him. There’s no way that a God who loves us this much is going to abandon us to struggle through life alone.
6) “Now hope does not disappoint”
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5
Hope doesn’t just happen; it grows and develops over time and through difficult situations. Why would you ever bother to cultivate hope when everything is going fine? The struggles of life are what prompt us to hope for something more. With God helping us by pouring His spirit into our hearts, times of trial strengthen our perseverance, build character, and teach us how to hope.
7) “I will not fear”
“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4
This psalm is attributed to David, and a note at the beginning says he wrote it when the Philistines captured him in Gath. He had been fleeing King Saul and was now surrounded by Israel’s enemies. David had every reason to be terrified, but when he was afraid, he responded by putting his trust in God. This enabled him to write, “I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” even while he was in the hands of people who wanted him dead. What an incredible response to fear!
8) “God has not given us a spirit of fear”
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
No matter the source of your anxieties and fears, you don’t have to be controlled by them. God’s spirit working inside us can replace fear with power, love, and sound mindedness. This doesn’t mean anxiety magically goes away and never comes back as soon as you become a Christian. But God gives us a way to work through our anxieties and take control of them, through the power of His spirit inside us.
9) “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5
At its core, our hope as Christians is in something beyond this life. That doesn’t mean we’re never hopeful about things on this earth, but, ultimately, our hope is fueled by God’s promises of future good. We need hope here on earth but, by itself, that’s not enough. No matter how many good things happen in this mortal life, people still die, and we need hope for something beyond that. Jesus’ resurrection gives us proof the Father will raise us from the dead and give eternal life to those who believe.
10) “That you may abound in hope”
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
God wants to fill us with joy and peace because He is the God of hope. When we’re secure in a hope that’s grounded in Him, we can have a deep sense of security and serenity. We can even find joy amid crazy, scary situations. The life God desires for us is a rich, abundant one, characterized by a relationship with Him. He offers this to each of us, and all we have to do is accept His gift and trust in His faithfulness.
There’s no denying that we have a good excuse for being anxious in these troubled times. From a human perspective things look pretty hopeless right now. There’s a pandemic sweeping the world and natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfires continue wrecking havoc. But we don’t have to lose our hope. We serve an Almighty God who has given us His Bible so “that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Let’s hold fast to Him and build up ourselves and each other by reading and sharing His words of encouragement.