By Rick Thomas
Phil sat in my office. Discouraged. He just received news of his impending divorce. He sunk down into his chair and cried. I wept with him (Romans 12:15). I knew where we needed to go, but realized picking up and moving forward was not what he needed in the moment. The only thing appropriate for the moment was to weep with my friend (John 11:35).
Christian counseling is neither Christian nor counseling if it is done without tears. Phil did not need a plan as much as he needed an understanding friend. Have you ever had this kind of experience? Have you ever come to the death of a hope like when the disciples and their friends were standing at the foot of the cross–watching their hope die?
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. – John 6:68-69 (ESV). If you’re not going through a personal trial now, it’s a promise from the LORD your day is coming where suffering will be your companion (Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 2:21).
It is in the disappointments of your life where your real hope will be revealed. When disappointment comes, you are tested. The disciples were doing well until their hope died. It’s easy to rest and trust in God when things are going well. While I’m not wishing calamity on you, I am appealing to you to give some thought about where your hope is placed.
Some of the saddest counseling situations I have ever been involved are people who were doing well in life until their life was altered by personal sorrow. In nearly every case they were not prepared for the obvious: humans were born to suffer. It is only in the moments of disappointment and personal sorrow when our real hope is revealed. It would be unwise and careless of anyone not to give careful attention to where their hope is being placed.
Your trouble, whatever it may be, will reveal the true condition of your soul. If your hope is placed in Jesus Christ, you will endure your sorrow well, but if your hope is in anything else, then your sorrow will last until what you’ve placed your hope in changes. If Phil’s primary hope was placed in his marriage, then the ups and downs of his marriage would control him. When things were good, Phil would feel good. When things were not well in his marriage, then Phil would not be doing well.
The problem with the disciples and their friends at the cross was not that they had their hope in Christ, but they did not understand who Christ really was and what He had to do. They had placed their hope in the right person, but they did not totally understand the Gospel. Once He resurrected from the grave, they got the message of the Gospel straight in their minds.
Can you see how our hope can be misplaced? If someone like Paul could live in the deception of misplaced hope, don’t you think this could happen to you too? This is sobering to me. I don’t want to live in the ignorance of misplaced confidence. This is where I need loving Christians who are willing to go out on a limb to help me see my blind spots.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV).
What Paul learned was not Phil’s experience. Phil was ignorant of the purposes of his disappointment and affliction. This was Paul’s warning to the Corinthians–not to be ignorant of the affliction they were experiencing. Phil had a misplaced hope. This is what happens when our hope is in the wrong thing or the wrong person. His primary hope was in his marriage, not in Christ. This made Phil only as strong as the viability of his marriage.
The hardest thing I had to tell him was what Paul was telling the Corinthians–he was relying on himself and not on Him who raises the dead. God was trying to break Paul from the misplaced hope of self-reliance. The LORD wanted Paul to rest in the only Person who could bring someone from the grave.
I praise God for the cross, but I want to shout because of the resurrection. If you’re in a funk which you cannot extricate yourself from, then don’t be ignorant. God is trying to teach you to rely on Him because He is the only one who can do the impossible–bring a person from death to life.
Where are you? If you’re in un-mitigating trouble and you have not found contentment in your trouble, then you’re not fully accessing the power of the resurrection (2 Corinthians 12:10). This is the hope we have in the resurrection.
Will you reach out to someone today to talk about these things? RickThomas.net