It would be so easy to give up. To stop caring, to stop trying, to just throw in the towel and say, “I’m done.” To give in to who the culture wants you to be. To admit that you — or even humanity as a whole — has been defeated. To decide you’ll never be whole or healthy or victorious over your struggles.
I know I’ve been there. Many times. (I’ve even fought it this week, as a matter of fact.) Have you?
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. …
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (1)
I was talking with a friend recently about the state of the world, and the state of American politics in particular. There was nothing good to say. Neither of us felt much of anything but loathing for the candidates we were discussing, and the outlook in many areas of our world seemed pretty grim. But then our perspectives divided sharply. My friend felt that this was God’s judgement on the world and America, or possibly that the end of the world was closer than she had previously thought. She saw us heading toward doom and destruction.
I, however, had a very different perspective. I said that it was true there could be dark times and there might even be persecution. But Christianity had always thrived most under persecution and shined brightest in the dark. I thought it was very likely that this was just Christianity’s time to thrive. And maybe it’s yours, too.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (2)
Historically it has almost always been in the darkness that God’s people have arisen to shine the brightest. It is in adversity that we discover we can overcome. Without night, how would we know there are stars?
It was from the darkness of depression that John Wesley arose to do battle with a corrupt and sedentary church, facing persecution and mobs and cold to found the Methodist movement – a movement that utterly changed not only the Protestant church, but the world. (3) J.C. Penney, similarly, suffered a major collapse in his life – physically, financially, and mentally. It got so bad, in fact, that he checked himself into a sanitarium. But in that place he had a life-changing encounter with God that shaped his life and business for the rest of his years. His corporation, the J.C. Penney Company, essentially created the model now being followed by other major corporations like Hobby Lobby, Chick Fil A and many others, championing the idea that our work could be a sacred gift to God. (4)
William Wilberforce, upon becoming a Methodist convert, saw the darkness and corruption in the society around him. He then set out on a crusade that would last the rest of his life to change that evil – primarily the evil of the slave trade. He fought for over forty years against social and political depravity and the desecration of human life. Three days before his death in 1833 he received word that the slave trade had been abolished in Britain and her colonies. (5)
For hundreds of years Christianity has been violently oppressed and persecuted in China. Currently there could be as many as 70,000,000 to 100,000,000 Christians in that country – or even more. (An exact number is impossible to get because so much of the church is still underground.) Within a generation there could be more Christians in China than in any other country in the world – some estimate there will be over 247,000,000 by 2030. This is in spite of – or perhaps even partially because of – the terrible persecution they have experienced. (6) (This is just one example, by the way – there are many, many nations that are being overwhelmed by the love of Christ, not least of which are Iran and Pakistan.)
Why? Why did these men rise to change their generation and history as a whole? Why has China so erupted with faith and hope in the last 50-100 years? It’s because in the darkness the light shines brightest. And these lights blazed. So can yours.
“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…” (7)
Do you feel like everything is crumbling around you? Like your world is sinking and you’re stuck on the ship? Don’t fear. There’s hope. The Lord Jesus is there for you. His blood has covered your sins, your trials and your troubles. By his wounds you were healed. (8) By his victory you are more than a conqueror. (9) By his kingdom we can change the world.
I hope this has touched helped you, and that it’s given you hope. Please share it if it did, and give it to someone else in need of some hope. And let me know if there’s anything you need prayer for, or would just like to talk. Leave a comment about what you’re going through, or how God has shone in the darkness for you. I’d love to hear from you. And last of all, if you’re needing some more hope, check out my book, The Complete Cancer Diaries. It’s good at that, especially if you’re going through a crisis of faith or health issues. In fact, I will shortly be changing the title of it to better reflect what’s inside: it will shortly be renamed Of Hope and Cancer. God bless you until next time, my friend. Talk to you again soon.
- 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16-18 (ESV)
- Romans 15:13 (ESV)
- 1 Peter 1:3-4
- 1 Peter 2:23
- Romans 8:37