Hope is a word that is commonly misused or misunderstood, especially at times when our faith is tested and we face difficulties. Yes, it is during these trials when everything looks gray that it is difficult not to succumb to anguish and despair. Why? We forget to fix our eyes upon the place where true hope can be found.
Two Psalms for True Hope
During these difficult seasons, two particular psalms have touched my life in a unique way. They linger on my mind and in my heart and, in one way or another, I always end up reciting, praying, or reading them over and over again.
The first is Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
When I feel that my heart is about to faint or I want to throw in the towel, it is there, in that very moment, that I need these words to come to my mind: "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord.”
Then, I speak to my soul and tell it again and again that my relief comes only from God, that He is controlling the situation, and that in His sovereignty He willed it. These words give me hope and encouragement that this situation will pass—that even though I do not understand and am still in the midst of suffering, He is the one who guards my soul.
The psalmist often spoke to his soul in times of distress and tribulation. What is interesting to me is that in His suffering He focuses on God, while encouraging his soul to wait on Jehovah. That should be our way of living too! We cannot succumb to situations, but rather we must speak God's Word to our souls and fill our minds and hearts with it, for only then will we be able to rightly face the situations and trials that come into our lives.
On the other hand, Psalm 73 begins by saying that being envious of the prosperity of the wicked causes our steps to slip and our feet to slide. Oh, how often are we not like Asaph the psalmist? How often do we focus on what the wicked have? How often do we compare ourselves to others?
Playing the Outside Game
We have a propensity to look at outsiders, to compare ourselves, to believe that the other person's life is better than ours, or, even worse, to believe that because someone else went through a similar situation we should have the same result. I do not want to be like Asaph who took his eyes off the sanctuary (v.17), for that is when we give way to bitterness, resentment, envy, and lose sight of what God wants to teach us (vv. 21–22). It is only when we enter the sanctuary that we understand what God wants to show us. It is only in His presence that we can understand His work in us.
It is my prayer that in times of difficulty we may be able to say as the psalmist did:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73: 25–26)
Let His Word Lift Your Eyes
From the terrace of my house I can see the mountains (when the clouds allow it), and at times when I feel that my heart is about to faint or I want to throw in the towel, I often sit there and look at the mountains and immediately these words come to my mind: I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. These precious words enable me to speak to my soul, telling me over and over again that my help comes only from God. They remind me that in His love, no matter what I am going through, He is not only in control, but He sovereignly willed my circumstances. And they give me hope and encouragement that this too shall pass.
My dear sister, in times of trouble may our eyes and hearts know where to run—to God who is our help. In Him we find strength and safety, a shelter from the passing storm. In Him we find true hope.