You’ve done it again. That thing you didn’t want to do. That habit you vowed to break. That sin you confessed and repented. You’ve used that unhelpful coping skill. The traumatic image reappeared. You aren’t feeling so forgiving. Or maybe a loved one started doing that thing again. That thing they promised never to do again. That thing that took them to therapy. That behavior they said was over. Maybe your child is still not making progress. He or she has had flashes of insight and understanding. He or she seems to see the light, and then does the same thing over and over again. Or maybe that person is your spouse or your mother or father or grandparent. Don’t give up! Whether it is you, your loved one, or your child struggling, there is hope! Hope for all.
Paul writes about hope in the beginning verses of Philippians. He writes that he is “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (New International Version, NIV). Paul writes from a difficult position. He is under house arrest waiting to appear before Caesar (Guzik, 2013). Things are not exactly cushy, but Paul believes in God, that God who started a good work in believers will carry it on, with or without him. That hope applies to believers today, too!
Believers in Christ must hold fast to faith. God is still working, in you, in your loved ones, and in his children in the world at large. As Spurgeon writes, “God is a worker who completes His works. Where is there an instance of God’s beginning any work and leaving it incomplete? (as cited in Guzik, 2013). God in his perfection does not get tired, busy, or lazy. Hope that God can still work, that he is still working.
Hope that God is still working allows believers to keep loving themselves and others. Paul writes in Romans 12:10 that believers should “be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” The English Standard Version (ESV) translates the second sentence, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is not easy to do, unless you have hope. With hope, you can keep on growing, keep on serving, keep on giving grace and patience knowing that God is still working.
Hope provides perseverance. We must keep working while God is still working. That might mean therapy for ourselves to address our struggles. That might look like getting more accountability, regular church attendance, a practice of prayer, more confession and repentance, more learning of skills. Or it might look like trusting that the loved one is still working on their issues, believing that inside change is occurring, even if it is slow to exhibit outwardly. It might look like forgiving your child, again, for their repeated misbehaviors. It might look like increasing understanding of experiences your child has had that might be influencing his or her behavior. It might look like growing yourself so that you have more distress tolerance and can be even more steady for your child. It might look like seeking more support and services than you already have. It might be trusting God and letting go, instead of continuing to work so hard and feeling like a failure every time your child fails.
What if your loved one or child is not a believer? Well, God is still working in you. He is still working in the world, too! You can practice hope through prayer, proclaiming the gospel, and living it out. As long as God prolongs life, there is hope for a change, hope that seeds planted will find water and that God will provide the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). Growth, also known as sanctification is after all, God’s secondary business after salvation.
God’s work keeps going until the day of Jesus Christ. That day is either the believer’s heavenly homegoing, or the second coming of Jesus and bodily resurrection (Guzik, 2013). We need to be ready for either. We need to hold hope for either. We need to do the work and trust God that he is doing even greater work in the meantime.
HOPE! Have faith. Outdo one another in love. Persevere. Enter into eternity. Easier to say; hardest to do, but possible through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).