We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13, ESV).
What happens when life doesn’t go the way you want?
Your answer will tell you where your hope lies—where it’s truly anchored.
There are all kinds of smaller things we can try to put our hope in, but the greatest hope available to every Christian is the return of Jesus Christ. One day “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). Every question will be answered. Every wrong will be righted. And we who’ve been redeemed by grace through faith will reign with Him for all eternity.
There’s a lifetime’s worth of hope in that. Not because it’s nice to think about in a sweetly spiritual way or because it makes for a good pep talk from the pulpit on Sunday morning, but because Jesus is actually, literally coming back again. This is really going to happen! Our hope is founded in a sure and settled place if this is where we’ve anchored it.
Sadly, however, each of us also deals with a lifetime of hardships and disappointments that can cause us to lose all hope if we’re not thinking like a believer. These ordeals run the gamut from family crises to financial worries, health scares, and everything in between—including perhaps the most earth-shattering of all: the death of a close loved one.
But while many of these adversities can cause anguish and pain of soul—and probably none so intensely as the separation and loss of death—each of them represents in its own way an example of life not going the way we wanted. We’re not happy with this new jolt or change of direction. We expected something better. This is not how we’d planned for things to go.
But our reactions to these kinds of occurrences do more than just test our mettle; they reveal where we’ve placed our hope. They tell us if our hope depends on a list of conditions that simply must be met or else we can’t go on any longer, or if we’re truly looking forward to the second coming of Christ more than to anything else in our lives. Our response to seeing things taken away from us will tell the truth about our own heart condition.
To experience waves of grief following the blunt-force traumas of life is normal, understandable, and even healthy. But ongoing despair denies the hope of Christ’s return. Even if you’re dealing with concern over a spouse, child, or parent whose faith in Christ is in question, your hope stays the same. Yes, work and pray for their salvation. Love and lead your family well. But remember whose you are, and do not put your hope at risk for anyone. The God who rules and owns the universe has given you good reason to endure any challenge in life, no matter how upsetting, demanding, painful, or impossible to understand.
The great, unshakable hope of every Christian is the ever-nearer return of Jesus Christ. Anchor your hope there, believer. He is coming soon!
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.