Are you walking in the desert, the parched land of unrealized dreams and failed expectations? Or does life feel more like the wilderness, where weeds and thorns have overtaken you, where the cares of this world suffocate and oppress you?
Brother, sister, we have generations of the faithful who have been there, whose lives endured the deserts and wildernesses to the hope of God alone. Take courage.
As my husband and I endured a long adoption journey to bring our daughter home, we found ourselves many times crushed by unmet expectations. We grew weary of getting our hopes up only to have them brought low. There were times I said I no longer wanted to hope, trying to protect myself from the pain of bad news and another battle to fight while caring still for the open wounds from the previous one.
Despite my sinfulness, desiring to act as one without hope, I could not help but hope in the Lord. What I knew to be true of God’s Word and his promises resounded in my mind, renewing me every moment to cultivate and maintain hope in God, even when my heart led me astray by feelings of despair.
CHARACTERIZED BY HOPE
As children of the living God, we are a people of hope. It characterizes us, like it characterized Abraham who hoped against hope “that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’ ” (Rom. 4:18). It characterized Paul when he appealed to King Agrippa saying, “I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers” (Acts 26:6).
The people of God have long been—and still are—as Zechariah’s prophecy says, “prisoners of hope” (9:12). In this prophecy of Zion’s coming king, the one who would come “humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9), he declares these words of the Lord:
“I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double … On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women” (9:11b-12, 16-17).
I have felt this reality, of being captive to hope, acutely at times. When circumstances have borne all the signs of hopelessness, I remained shackled to the promise of the coming King.
Are we not prisoners of hope in God? Are we not bound by hope in what is to come? Are we not bondservants to Christ through our hope in his promise that he will save us, that he will return to us again; that he will make all things new; that he will put our enemies to death at last; and that we will finally see his face?
Is it not our hope in him that causes us to groan inwardly and wait eagerly for his return?
WHY WE HOPE
Indeed, we are prisoners of hope. We who have received the grace of God by faith, the pardon for sin through the atoning work of Christ, cannot help ourselves but to hope in God! If I am going to be imprisoned by something or someone, let me be imprisoned by hope in the only God who can save!
Yes, we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies,” as Paul writes in Romans 8:23. But our active waiting is dependent on our hope:
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25).
Hope is why we encourage one another to endure sufferings and trial. It’s why we care for the vulnerable and the oppressed. It’s why we labor for justice in this world. It’s why we gather with the saints regularly. It’s why we take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth in the face of opposition and death.
We are a people who stand dogmatically, emphatically, and unapologetically on the promise that our king is going to return—and when he does, he will make all things new!
We are the people of God, the bride of Christ, prisoners of hope.
Though my heart has been tempted to despair on a number of occasions, my Lord has not let my foot slip, nor will he let my soul see destruction. We can trust that the scriptures are true, that “he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6). He will hold us fast!
So then, brothers and sisters, though you are assailed with sufferings and trials of various kinds, though the earth gives way and the mountains crumble into the sea, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
Laura Thigpen is a pastor’s wife, mom, freelance writer, and an adoption and pro-life advocate. She and her husband, Joseph, serve City Church in Tallahassee, Florida. She has helped start women’s discipleship initiatives, and she writes on these and other topics occasionally for various outlets. You can follow her on Twitter.