In speaking the truth, where do we begin? While every person’s mess is unique and there are no two situations you will come across that are the same, there is one common temptation I find in every situation I’ve come across: hopelessness. Whether the mess comes in the form of addiction, depression, guilt, marital struggles, discrimination, abuse, or fear, the temptation to hopelessness is always a part of the cocktail. This is why giving hope must always be a part of gospel care.
I’ve yet to find an exception. People who have been in a mess for a long time need hope, and people who have just entered into a mess need hope. People who are making big decisions need hope, and people who are making small decisions need hope. People who are suffering need hope, and people who are in sin need hope. People who are young need hope, and people who are old need hope. Every person in every situation imaginable needs hope.
This is why Scripture is so saturated with it. Our souls need reminders of hope each and every day. We need reminders from others, and we need to remind ourselves. As the psalmist exhorted his own soul: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Ps. 62:5)
The problem is that we all tend to look for our hope in things other than God. We look for hope in our careers, our financial plans, our families, or our own ingenuity and strength. Even as we seek to provide gospel care, we can fall into the trap of pointing people to false hopes. While we may easily identify the obvious false hopes that plague people’s hearts, we may simultaneously encourage them to put their hope in more subtle false hopes like our counsel, their pastors, or even the promise of having “more faith.” People don’t need us to tell them to have more faith. They need us to give them more hope.
Giving hope begins with having hope. As the author of Hebrews declares so fervently, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10: 23). He knows that our holding fast to hope naturally results in our giving that hope to others. We can’t share what we don’t have. But whatever we have, we can’t help but share. The writer continues, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10: 24– 25).
But what exactly is our hope? Does Scripture give us hope that the mess will go away? Does it teach us that if we do the right things and act the right way, we’ll be able to climb up out of the mess? Does it show us the easy way out?
Wayne Mack provides an excellent definition of what true biblical hope is: “True hope is a biblically based expectation of good . . . an expectation based on the promises of God.” In the midst of the mess, in the midst of the struggle and the pain, hope is the reminder that God is real, that transformation is possible, and that the best is yet to come.
Excerpted from Loving Messy People: The Messy Art of Helping One Another Become More Like Jesus by Scott Mehl.