Hope. Such a simple little, one-syllable word. And yet, literally, the difference between life and death. Often, the word hope is used in its verb form to express a desire for something to happen, such as in, “I hope it’s sunny tomorrow.” Yet, in the Bible, hope is more typically a noun. It’s a thing…a positive expectation or assurance, as in, “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2b) This hope is more confident than simply wishing, which falls far short of favorable anticipation.
It’s the lack of hope that kills marriages, stifles dreams and ambitions, and even snuffs out life itself. I recently heard of two suicides, one which involved a person I knew. Since I didn’t know him well, however, all kinds of questions came to mind: Was he chronically depressed and just finally gave up hope of ever getting better? Did he experience some kind of financial crisis, from which he had no hope of recovering? Was there a marriage issue that seemed utterly beyond hope? This man also had two children. What was so intensely intolerable as to justify the finality of death in his mind? Even to the extent that it overrode the concern he undoubtedly had for his children and the effect this would have on them?
On the one hand, I struggle to understand suicide--the depths of despair, the utter hopelessness that leads a person to choose such a tragic, permanent so-called “solution” to evade pain, whether physical or emotional. On the other hand, it makes some sense from a sociological perspective; our culture seems to devalue life, whether on the front end (abortion) or the back end (assisted suicide). The best way for me to make sense of it as a Christian, however, is to view it through a spiritual lens.
As I have said many times before, there is an enemy of our souls. The Bible states very plainly that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10a) His aim is to take us out and he will use any means available to achieve that end. The Bible calls the devil the “father of lies.” (John 8:44) His primary weapon is deception, which he employs to cause offense, anger, conflict and division. He whispers lies that we accept. In this way, he is able to use us as pawns to do his bidding--to steal peace and joy from one another, to kill and destroy each another. And in the case of suicide, even to kill ourselves. If Satan can convince one person to self-destruct, it makes his job that much easier…and more far-reaching, as the victim’s survivors are left to struggle with pain, confusion, and depression of their loss. This ripple effect magnifies the devil’s influence.
We must stand against the schemes of the enemy! We must work to develop “early detection” techniques. We can train ourselves to begin to recognize certain scripts that we habitually say to ourselves or to others (“I’m a failure,” “Things will never get better,” “I’m so scared I’m going to lose everything,” etc.). Then when we hear those messages, it should trigger us to “Wake up!” To open our eyes to what’s really going on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Awareness is the key. Jesus’ words come to mind: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) The sooner you catch on to the enemy, the sooner you are loosed from his grip and the less ground he can gain. The longer he can deceive you into believing that your fight is with your spouse, your neighbor or your coworker, the deeper the conflict will become and the more damage he can effect.
Have you ever heard, “…do not give the devil a foothold?” (Ephesians 4:27) Foothold is a term we don’t often use. One definition on dictionary.com describes it as “a secure position, especially a firm basis for further progress or development.” When my daughter was little, I talked with her about this verse and how our enemy works to get his foot in the door of our relationship in an effort to destroy it. We decided to start slamming the door on the devil’s foot! We created a hand motion that we used when conflicts began to escalate between us, to alert the other person to “shut the door.” It was something that worked well for us to instantly diffuse situations and rob the devil of his power.
Whether it’s something you do on your own or whether you find an accountability partner to help (like I did with my daughter), the aim is to become more aware of the spiritual forces at work. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9a) And again, “Resist the devil and he will flee.” (James 4:7) Note that he can be resisted (he is not omnipotent) and, if resisted, he will flee. Not may flee; will flee.
So what does resistance look like? Once I awaken to the enemy’s involvement, it’s an absolute game-changer! I let the devil know that I’m on to him and that his reign is over! Rather than feeling defeated, the warrior in me comes out. I am reminded of who--and Whose--I am and can then battle from a position of strength. Not my own, mind you, but my (Heavenly) Dad’s. Like Jesus did when tempted by Satan, I quote Scripture to my enemy. I remind him that he is a defeated foe. He knows the end of the story, but wants us to forget. Sadly, we often do. We succumb to the lie that evil is winning. Not true! We win! “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
We have the power of Heaven on our side, but too often fight in the dark, blinded to our enemy. This is an obvious disadvantage and, because of it, we often too easily surrender. We don’t mean to; we just don’t see any hope of winning. But when we “see the Light,” we gain strength and confidence. The truth of our standing becomes clearer and hope rises up within us. The Bible tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” It also says “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” (1 John 1:5&7) Satan wants to keep us in the dark, believing we are alone in our pain. Jesus called his followers “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Surrounding ourselves with other believers casts light into our situations, driving out the darkness and exposing the enemy. Never underestimate the power of that light, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of it.
When Jesus’ met Saul on the road to Damascus, He said He was sending him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” (Acts 26:18) This is my prayer for us all--that our eyes would be opened to Satan’s fingerprints in our lives so that we can more actively resist him, but more importantly, to the power and love of God, Who brings us into His glorious light and gives us hope we wouldn’t otherwise have. I know firsthand that God can make a way where there seems to be no way. Just because we don’t see an answer in front of us doesn’t mean there isn’t one in the works. We are called to “Trust in the LORD with all (our) heart and lean not on (our) own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Knowing that His ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9) allows me to believe in possibilities beyond my abilities.
Proverbs 13:12 tells us that “Hope deferred makes a heart sick.” Our society is full of people with sick hearts in need of a Great Physician. One of God’s names is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord Who Heals. He loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) and has good plans for us, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Paul prayed, “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.” (Romans 15:13) And hope can heal hearts.
Satan loves suicide; by contrast, Jesus is the “Author of Life.” (Acts 3:15) Christ came that we would “have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) He is our Source of hope and life!
“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,