What to do when you’re hopeless
We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown. –John Calvin
If you’re anything like me, the first thing you think about doing when your hope is small is…read a book or go to a conference. It’s sort of programmed into our contemporary way of being and doing–there’s nothing that we cannot master if we have the right training or education. And as American Christians, we’re a resource-rich people.
Don’t get me wrong, books and conferences aren’t all that bad. They’re just not the first place we should look when life in the Spirit starts to become flat, as it almost surely will at one time or another.
Faithful Christian living in a fallen world requires more of us than we have to offer–that’s the reason for God’s provision of the Holy Spirit to enliven our hearts and empower our faithfulness.
Calvin points out that our first and greatest resort in dry times is God Himself. We simply need ask God to restore to us the joy of our salvation and to trust that, feelings to the contrary, we belong to Him and that His purpose in our lives is to make us into saints. We ask God for inward and personal renewal and revival through prayer–conversation with God using both spontaneous words and forms of prayer used by the church over the ages.
We also have access to other tools that God has given to us to fortify our strengths and kindle the flame of our heart. The Westminster Larger Catechism identifies the word, sacraments, and prayer as the outward and ordinary means of grace. That is, the normal avenues that God has given us to get more of His grace into our lives.
Prayer is, of course, a lifting of our hearts up to God as we talked about above. It is a personal (and yet not always individual) interaction with God in and through Jesus Christ.
If we speak to God in prayer, God speaks to us in His Word–the Bible. As the Bible is read, reflected upon, studied, and taught we are given the gift of hearing the Word of God. Simply put, when the Bible speaks God speaks. Through careful reading, thoughtful reflection, and some hard work we can know and experience God in the Bible.
Lastly, God works to give us strength and fresh hope through the sacraments. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. I’m think mostly about the Lord’s Supper here. There is no reason we shouldn’t be celebrating Communion weekly. If the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, if it is an ordinary means of grace, if it is a way of enacting the Word of God and forming that Word in our hearts and minds through physical action, why not do it more than quarterly or monthly?
So next time you feel like hope is waning. Remember that God has given you some tools to through which He can revive your flagging heart.