Friday, February 24, 2017

Choosing To Have Hope

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel. For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.

I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.’ Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace. As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalm 71:1-14 NIV)

When I read this Psalm yesterday, it was the 14th verse that grabbed my attention: “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”  We live in a time where hopelessness is endemic. Many find the current political climate disturbing and wonder what the future holds.  Anxiety and depression permeate the campus culture, with student suicides being the most visible symptom. Out of the opioid epidemic emerge stories of lives broken and destroyed by addiction. There are countless other examples that reinforce this sense of hopelessness in our world.

In this context, what stands out to me in this Psalm is the writer’s steadfast hope in the midst of trying circumstances.  He has enemies. He feels surrounded and outnumbered. But, he says, in spite of this, he will always have hope and praise the Lord even more.

There is a sense the writer is making a conscious choice here.  He could be freaking out or withdrawing into depression, but instead he chooses to hope, to trust God in the midst of his circumstances, and to praise Him in faith that good will come to him.  He has chosen to believe the Lord is in control regardless of his present situation, and his view of Him as loving and trustworthy leads him to have hope.

Like Job’s wife, much of the cultural bent is to conclude from our circumstances that God doesn’t exist, doesn’t care, or can’t be trusted. Hope for change or transformation by His hand is considered foolishness and unrealistic. In essence, the message is to give up hope on a divine rescue and come to terms with our lousy circumstances, coping in the best way we can.  

In the face of this message, if we, like the Psalmist, are to have hope, we must choose to have it.  We must choose to focus our attention away from our circumstances and toward the Lord, choosing to praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness, and choosing to trust that He can rescue us from whatever situation in which we find ourselves.  To the vast majority, this sounds foolish and unrealistic, but it is the choice we have before us. 

Today, will you choose to have hope regardless of your circumstances? Will you choose to trust that the Lord can rescue you? Or will you give into the hopelessness towards which the culture is bent?  It is your choice to make. As for me, I will choose to have hope.

© Jim Musser 2017

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