By Tony Evans
Whenever I counsel someone who is struggling with emotional strongholds, I always want to check their hope-meter because when you have lost your hope, you have lost everything. Simply defined, hope is the belief that my tomorrow will be better than my today. David knew about the power of hope when life looks hopeless.
Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” Without reading further into the psalm, it sounds as if everything is okay with David. But it’s not. Verse three says, “My tears have been my food day and night.” Friend, when your tears are your food day and night, that means you are really suffering from hopelessness and despair. As David pens this psalm, he is depressed and his soul is discouraged. Yet he says he is going to remember the Lord.
“The Lord will command His lovingkindness,” David writes (v. 8). Though God has not done it yet, David has confidence that He will. So he talks to himself. He writes to himself—he journals about his faith in God. There are times when life crumbles around you, your friends may not be nearby or they may be telling you the wrong things when you need to take it upon yourself to speak to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and speak God’s truth. Write notes to yourself and leave them in places you will see them. Encourage yourself. This is what David did on several occasions.
He asks himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” He doesn’t deny his pain or avoid it, rather he addresses it and tells himself what to do. “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (v. 11).
What changed David’s feelings of hopelessness and discouragement? He looked in a different direction. He looked at what God was going to do, even though he couldn’t see it at the time. In other words, he looked by faith.
The way to overcome the emotional stronghold of despair, depression or hopelessness is to fast-forward through the tough times—the battle scenes, the drought—to the end. Look toward the place where you surrender your thoughts to the love, grace and faithfulness of God.
When you do that, then the thing that is causing you to feel the way you do will no longer own you. Whatever is going wrong in your life will not have the last word. Remember, Satan may have “a” word, the doctor may have “a” word, your job, friends or spouse may have “a” word, but God always has the final word.
In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah was nothing short of depressed. But instead of wallowing in it, he remembered God. When he began to turn his thoughts toward the goodness of God—in spite of the fact that he couldn’t see God’s goodness at the moment—he started to feel differently about the mess he was in. In fact, in verse 18 of Lamentations 3, Jeremiah lets us know that he has lost all hope. And yet we see his hope return when he returns his thoughts toward God. We read,
“Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’” (Lamentations 3:19-25)
Friend, God can take a mess and make a miracle if you put your hope in Him. He promises that, “those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23 NIV) In fact, God is able to turn things around so completely and satisfy you so fully that He will do more than merely bring you out of your emotional bondage. He can even cause you to forget how deep it ever was. I know your hopelessness may seem overwhelming and you may even wonder how you could ever overcome it, but if you will do as Abraham did—who hoped when he had no hope at all: “In hope against hope he believed” (Romans 4:18). God will honor your trust. He can turn your emotional pain into victorious gain.