Longing for Hope
Isaiah 11:1-9 NIV
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
When despair rolls in, as it inevitably does in all our lives, what do we find ourselves longing for?
Maybe we find ourselves longing for a change in our circumstances. If only a couple of things could turn in a better direction, everything would be fine. Just a little better job. A little better income. A little better political situation. Then, we wouldn’t feel the despair so deeply.
Maybe we start longing for a change in the people and things around us. If only that person acted differently or made better choices, I wouldn’t feel so down. If only I had a better house or more reliable vehicle, things wouldn’t feel so dark.
Maybe in our despair we try and stop longing for anything. It’s best not to hope, just in case we’re disappointed. I mean, things are the way they are and there’s no use trying to fix what seems irreparably broken. Right?
The situation may be different from ours, but it was into questions of despair and potential longings like these that the prophet Isaiah spoke more than 2500 years ago. God gave Isaiah a message to speak to people who had given up on living into the fullness of life that God had called them to.
Things were too hard, enemies were too powerful, and systems were too broken.
So, what might God say to people that seem to be living in times of despair?
The message that came was not one of blind optimism or a call to make a change by force or willpower. The message that came was a word of hope.
Of all the things we think we need when despair seems to be winning, it is hope that we’re most deeply longing for.
Amazingly, this word of hope wasn’t dependent on a change of external circumstances. It was not motivated by place or position. The word of hope was a person.
500 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah tells the people that out of what seems to be cut off and dead, a tree stump, a new life, will emerge that will usher in the fullness of the kingdom of God. It is through this Messiah that you will experience a renewed creation as everything in the cosmos is reconciled to God in Christ.
This is the hope that lifts us from despair. Jesus Christ is the one who meets us in our darkness and becomes our light of life regardless of the external circumstances we find ourselves in.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where you might be lacking hope in your life.
Name your despair. Write down the specifics – memories, words, phrases, lies, attitudes.
Spend 5 minutes in silence with the following posture:
Jesus, I wait for your hope.
Take some time to submit your despair. Be specific.
Jesus, I give you my despair.
Allow Jesus to make the exchange of your despair for his hope.
Read Psalm 62:5-8 in a posture of gratitude and adoration.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God[c];
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.