It can be a debilitating and destructive thing.
There is a phenomenon in the undeveloped world known as ‘voodoo death,’ where a witch doctor, pointing a bone at his victim, puts a death spell on them. The victim then, invariably, dies, sometimes in a matter of hours. Modern researchers disagree on the cause of voodoo death. Some say that fear causes the victim’s body to release a variety of hormones and chemicals that can make them deathly sick. Others think that the persons are so convinced they are going to die that they stop caring for themselves and expire of dehydration and malnutrition. Regardless of how it actually happens, the person dies of fright. They are literally ‘scared to death.’
None of us deals with anything as exotic as voodoo death but we all know something about being afraid. We fear we will lose our jobs. We fear for the safety of our children. We fear that sickness or death will strike our family. Add to that any number of unspoken fears that are limited only by our imagination. Reduced to its core, fear is our feeling that things may go bad in the future.
Against this dread of the future is the biblical concept of hope. Fear may be the feeling that things will get worse but hope, in the Bible, is the understanding that things will be well. This is stated clearly in 1 Peter 1:3-4:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (ESV)
Because Jesus Christ rose from the grave, those who believe in Him have true hope. Peter called it a living hope, meaning that it is not dead, dormant, or even postponed. It is a hope that we have right now through the living Christ who gave Himself for us.
This hope we have in Christ has both present and future dimensions.
We experience this living hope today because God’s presence is ever with us, guiding us, helping us, and keeping us. Always, even in times of great difficulty, we have the assurance that things will be well because God is on our side. Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This is not always an easy passage to embrace when times are hard, when we cannot see the way out of our troubles. But, when we accept it by faith, we are released from fear and can praise God even in bad circumstances.
Finally, this living hope is one that looks to the future with the expectation of eternal well-being. In the last part of the passage above, Peter describes our eternal home as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven.” Hope in Christ is a hope that transcends this earthly life and looks to an everlasting and unchanging fellowship with the Triune God in eternal dwellings, where the troubles of this life will never again come to mind. This future hope encourages and motivates us in the present to walk in obedience to our great God.
Sadly, many do not possess this wonderful hope because they have never placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. They face life’s storms and uncertainties in their own strength without the help of the One who holds eternity. If that applies to you, I would point you to the words of the Lord; “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Jesus Christ can give you the hope and rest that you need and desire.
Sometimes, as believers in Christ, we do not experience this hope because our focus is so much on our circumstances that we forget the promises God has given us, promises of hope and of His commitment to work all things together for good in our life. In those times we need to read God’s word where we find that all of His promises are “yes” in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:20)
It has been said that a person can live 70 days without food, 10 days without water, and up to 6 minutes without air. However, we cannot live a single second without hope.
It is my prayer that you will realize the living hope that is available in Christ and go to Him to receive strength to carry you through this life and deliver you to the eternal blessings of those who trust in Him.