6 Ways Christians Can Find Hope and Courage in Seasons of Strife
- Joel Ryan Contributing Writer
- 2021 1 Feb
A little over a year ago, the first documented case of Covid-19 was reported by the CDC in the United States. In the early days of the pandemic, I was commissioned to write to fellow believers with words of hope and encouragement in troubled times. Some of these perspectives were published in an April 2020 article entitled “10 Ways Christians Can Exemplify Faith and Peace During COVID-19.” What’s changed since then? Everything and nothing at all, really.
While I affirm that Christians must exemplify faith and peace now more than ever, ten months of social unrest, political turmoil, and a general sense of uncertainty surrounding future lockdowns, vaccines, government mandates, the economy, and potential COVID variants are enough to chip away at anyone’s hope and cheer. How can Christians exemplify faith and peace when they too are tired and tested by the storms of life? This is a question we must continue to ask God for help in managing. But how can believers also find hope and the courage to persevere in a season of strife that many feel is only getting worse? Brothers and sisters, there is hope.
Here a few ways to hold on to hope and find courage in the days and weeks to come.
1. Prioritize Gratitude and Worship over Fear
The apostle James wrote that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and for this reason, we should find joy in the trials of life (James 1:2-4), but let’s be honest. Telling someone to rejoice when they’ve just lost a loved one to COVID or been laid off, evicted, or silenced might not provide much comfort in the moment. Paul writes, however, that “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
When our circumstances change and challenges arise that test our faith, God reminds us to look to Him for comfort and strength, praising Him in the good times and the bad. It’s not easy, but the prophet Habakkuk wrote that, “even if the fig tree does not blossom, and there is no fruit on the vines, if the yield of the olive fails, and the fields produce no food, even if the flock disappears from the fold, and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
When we are able to thank God for all He has done and praise Him for His faithfulness, even in our struggles, our worship places God’s power and goodness above our circumstances. Worship keeps our perspective on what God is doing, can do, and will do instead of us trying to control our situation or overcome our fear and sadness on our own. Worship and gratitude become like water and sunlight in our lives. They are the attitudes that allow hope to flourish and grow.
2. Make Time to Rest
In an era when we are constantly bombarded by non-stop news and political turmoil, even the most confident and discerning among us can become overwhelmed by all that is happening in the world. Make no mistake, there are troubles in this world and reasons to be concerned about the state of our nation. As Christians, we should never be uninformed or retreat from cultural conversations or the world we are called to love, however, a mind constantly plugged into the anxiety of breaking news, trending topics, and politics will quickly lose perspective in the power and sovereignty of God.
Whether it’s politics, COVID, finances, or the future that is the source of your anxiety, Jesus said, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34) Paul mirrored this idea when he wrote that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
There is power in the goodness and promises of God. We can foster hope through prayer and worship. But part of developing the peace and confidence to rise above even the craziest moments in life involves taking the time to rest and reconnect with Christ on a daily level. On several occasions, Jesus stepped away from His disciples to rest in the presence of the Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:13, Luke 22:39). It wasn’t a break from His ministry. Prayer and rest were an essential part of His ministry. And if Jesus took time to rest, how much more should we? (Matthew 11:28-30, Psalms 37:7, Psalms 46:10, Philippians 4:6-7, Genesis 2:2-3).
We can’t be afraid to schedule breaks in our busy schedule to unplug from social media and our phones. After all, would we rather be constantly plugged into the news or the knowledge of God? Where do we actually find hope for tomorrow and joy for today?
3. Commit to Seeking and Speaking the Truth
In the last days, Christians must be committed to seeking and speaking the truth, examining everything with spiritual discernment and a critical eye. We cannot afford to be blind or naïve or misled by deceptive ideologies and the wisdom of the world any longer. Paul instructed the Thessalonian church to “examine everything carefully” and “hold onto all that is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). He also wrote to the Colossians church to, “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) And to the Ephesian church, he said, “let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:6-11)
Lies are exposed by the truth just as darkness is driven away by the presence of light. We know as believers who the prince of darkness is and who thrives on human ignorance, deception, chaos, and division. We also know who the “light of the world” is (John 8:12). This is why Jesus told His followers to “let your light shine.” (Matthew 5:16) He said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:13-14) Though opposition and persecution are to be expected, Christians are called to be strong and courageous in every season, proclaiming, as Paul did, “the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31)
Thankfully, Jesus prayed for His disciples, asking God, “my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-18) Christians must hold to the truth found in the word of God and let this wisdom shape their discernment and understanding of current events. Truth is also, as Paul referred to it, the belt that holds up the armor of God and the weaponry that accompanies it (Ephesians 6:10-18). Christians would be unwise to go into battle without it.
4. Make Community and Fellowship a Priority
I wrote last year that “the apostle Paul was often prevented from meeting with churches and believers in person. This did not stop him from writing to fellow believers or praying for them from where he was (Romans 1:8-11).” Christians today should also be willing to use the tools and technology at their disposal to encourage fellow believers and communicate the truth of God’s love to the world. However, we must also recognize the importance of fellowship, hands-on ministry, corporate worship, and union with the body of believers. These should never be neglected or abandoned.
God created us to be in relationship. Not spending time with others, especially other Christians, can be detrimental to one’s health and spiritual growth. Furthermore, an isolated believer is more susceptible to spiritual attack and even defeat. Though many earthly authorities have ordered churches to close, this should never be an excuse for believers to disconnect from the body of Christ, abandon the church, or stop worshipping altogether. We’ve seen what happens when humans lose connection. It’s never good. Therefore, if worship is the antidote to anxiety, fellowship is the remedy for loneliness and despair (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Christians must find safe and creative ways to stay in fellowship with others regardless of the season.
5. Be Generous and Compassionate Toward Others
The Bible says that we are to, “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), and right now, that includes those who are sick as well as those who are discouraged, out of work, and unable to provide for their families because of extended lockdowns. God’s stance on helping others is clear. Paul wrote, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:4-5)
The apostle John also wrote, “if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17). Christians should be generous in giving, both financially and spiritually, and sometimes that means speaking up for those in need. While we cannot always control the decisions made by those in authority, we can be the salt and light that preserves and uplifts our communities.
6. Place Your Trust in God, Not Man
While it’s expected that we would look to our leaders and medical experts for guidance during a pandemic, as Christians, we also need to remember where our hope truly lies. Politicians come and go, experts make mistakes, and even trusted leaders can disappoint and let us down. Humans can be foolish, fallible, and even corrupt at times. God, however, is not, for His promises are good, His power is unlimited, and His wisdom, like His kingdom, is eternal (Isaiah 26:3).
-“it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Psalms 118:8-9)
-“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” (Psalms 125:1)
Thankfully, we serve a God who is far more powerful than any ruler, sickness, obstacle, or fear. As Paul wrote, “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) In Christ alone our hope is found, and in His presence, we find the courage to carry on. Brothers and sisters, may you be sanctified in the truth and abound in hope as you trust in the goodness of our God, now and always.
Amen and amen!
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ksenija18kz
Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s author, artist, professor, and speaker who is passionate about helping young writers unleash their creativity and discover the wonders of their Creator through storytelling and art. In his blog, Perspectives off the Page, he discusses all things story and the creative process.