Our Perpetual Hope by Capt. James Walker
At Christmas time our family watches about every Christmas movie you could name. They are usually playing in the background as everyone is busy with their daily routines. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard this line, but this year it hit me differently because it was "this year."
"No! No, no, no way! This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope!" - Kate McCallister from Home Alone.
If you are unfamiliar with the movie, the scene shows a frustrated mother arguing with a ticket agent. She is determined to get home to her son, who was left home alone, by just about any means necessary. Although she is very committed, she keeps hitting dead ends and begins to feel hopeless. Then, from the depths of her soul, she declares something profound about hope by connecting it to Christmas. Although the Savior's birth reminds us of hope, somehow, the holiday season can also make us weary.
Did 2020 feel hopeless to you? Has the weight of your circumstances made you feel like you are failing in life and faith? 2020 with its long list of injustices, including our global pandemic, civil unrest, and a contentious presidential election, has left many people feeling hopeless. We feel uncertain about our future and anxious about today. To fight these feelings, we need reminding of our "perpetual hope." We can trust our God, whose very character promises a future better than the present.
The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage the church on this very topic. He said, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13 (ESV)
What's the biblical meaning of hope? If we look to the biblical narrative, we are reminded of His promises made in the Old Testament and His promises kept in the New Testament. We wait for the Lord and, in His Word, place our hope. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? We put our hope in the Lord because His love is unfailing and full of redemption. It's something we've experienced, remember, and can trust.
What could separate us from His love? Could any of our troubles or dire circumstances? No, neither present nor future events can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 3:38-39) It would do our souls good to remember all the times God's faithfulness has blessed us. The more we get to know God and remember His good gifts, the more hope we can have!
Every new year we hear people say things like how bad the last year was and how good the next year will be. We declare our plans for self-improvement. We are optimistic about the future and salty towards the past. Many who would describe 2020 as a dumpster fire say they are confident that 2021 will be better. It's nice to be optimistic, but that's different from biblical hope. The difference is how we look at our circumstances.
Optimism says our conditions will improve or displays a kind of wishful thinking for a positive outcome. But what we often see in scripture is that the difficult times did not improve, yet God's people chose to hope anyway. They continued to put their confidence and trust in their faithful God despite their circumstances.
These days we are called to look to God for hope. Let us hold to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful! God's faithfulness to us can be a great encouragement when we remember what He has done for us in the past. Can you remember some specific ways God has loved you this past year? Maybe share a story with a discouraged friend of how God's faithful love provided hope for you. Sharing how Jesus alone is our living hope can give our friends a newfound trust in the One who offers eternal life. In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through His resurrection and an inheritance that will never fade.
Paul reminds us in the same verse above that we can overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. How can we experience this overflow of hope? Well, it is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Jesus' Spirit lives within those who trust Him, and the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Maybe you are a little skeptical of what is to come this year. You question if things will get better after a year of such significant loss. I get it. But be encouraged because of our perpetual hope. We serve an eternally faithful God who promised to always love us. I pray the God of hope will fill you with joy and peace. Trust in Him and remember His faithfulness to you.
BIO - Capt. James Walker is the chaplain for the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment of the Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Riley, Kansas. He has a master's degree in Divinity from Phoenix Seminary. Before serving in the U.S. Army, James was on the pastoral team at Redemption Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He and his wife, Christine, have two children, Jonah and Hazel.
Capt. Walker with his wife, Christine, and their two children.