I love to ride my mountain bike. But I’ve got a bad knee, so I must not overdo it.
A few years ago I was mountain biking at Lake Tahoe, and definitely overdid it. My knee was hurting. Bad.
Weeks went by, the pain continued, and it hit me — my mountain biking days were over.
I know. You probably wonder what the big deal is.
But you mountain bikers will understand — when I thought of never again riding on a challenging trail with fantastic views, I felt discouraged — even hopeless.
But many of you face far more serious discouragements — a wayward child, terminal illness, chronic unemployment, or a loveless marriage.
So what’s going on when I feel discouraged or hopeless?
When I feel hopeless and discouraged it’s because when I look to the future — I see nothing that will bring me joy or pleasure.
All I see is pain and difficulty.
But there is good news.
What does God promise when we feel hopeless?
Here’s what Paul says in Rom 15:13 —
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.
Paul says God is a God of hope — which means those who trust Christ always have reason to be full of hope.
He also says God can change our discouraged hearts so we abound with hope.
How? By the power of the Holy Spirit — who works “in [our] believing.”
When we turn our hearts to trust Jesus and His promises, the Holy Spirit will — in time — cause us to abound in hope.
So here’s how I pursued this when I felt hopeless about mountain-biking —
I turned to trust Jesus Christ just as I was.
We don’t need to get over our hopelessness first. We can come to Him just as we are — thirsty (John 7:37), heavy-laden and needing rest (Matt 11:28), weak in faith (Mark 9:24).
So I turned to Christ and trusted Him to help me.
I confessed my sin of hopelessness to God.
Yes — hopelessness is sin. Here’s why —
Hopelessness is feeling that nothing in my future will bring me joy or pleasure. But if I feel that — then I’m not trusting Jesus as my all-satisfying Treasure. Because if I was trusting Him, I would rejoice in the hope of beholding Him forever (Rom 5:2).
So the fact that I was hopeless meant I was trusting something else to satisfy me — something that was no longer in my future, like mountain-biking. So the reason I’m feeling hopeless is because what I was trusting to satisfy me is gone — which shows that I’m not trusting Jesus to satisfy me.
But it’s sin to trust something besides Jesus as my all-satisfying pleasure (Jer 2:12-13).
So I confessed this to Jesus. I asked Him to forgive me. I trusted His death on the Cross to pay for my guilt. I trusted His perfect life to cover all my sin. I trusted Him to change me.
And by faith alone in Christ alone I was assured that I was completely forgiven, my sin was covered with His righteousness, and God was rejoicing to do me good with all His heart and soul (Jer 32:41).
I earnestly asked the Father to change my heart, by the power of the Spirit.
My problem was that I felt only loss — the loss of the pleasures of mountain-biking. I felt that I had nothing exciting in my future.
But that was a lie. I did have another pleasure — an infinitely greater pleasure. The pleasure of knowing Christ.
But I wasn’t feeling that Christ was the greater pleasure. So I needed a heart change.
We can’t change our own hearts. But the Holy Spirit can. And the Father gives the Holy Spirit to all who ask (Luke 11:13).
So I earnestly asked God to pour upon me the heart-changing work of His Spirit.
I set my heart on truths about Jesus, and prayed over them until I felt the Spirit changing my heart.
I sat at my desk and opened my Bible to truths that described Jesus as my all-satisfying Treasure — like 2Cor 4:16-18; Hab 3:17-18; John 17:24; Rom 5:1-2; Rev 1:5; Rev 5:9.
I prayed for the Spirit to soften my heart and open my eyes. I thought intently about the truth of each verse. I prayed for more help. And thought some more.
This took time.
But slowly — slowly — I started feeling pleasure in thinking about Jesus. Not huge — but more than I had been feeling. That increased until I actually felt joy in beholding Him. Over the next days I had times when I felt such joy in Jesus that I didn’t mind not mountain-biking again.
Now I could feel that my future involved the joy of beholding Jesus forever (Rev 21:22-23).
And I saw that any loss of mountain-biking would be used by Jesus to bring me even more joy in Him (2Cor 4:16-18).
The Holy Spirit had changed my heart — and my view of the future.
But maybe at this point you’re thinking — “My hopelessness is far worse than the loss of mountain-biking. Could God restore my hope — after the loss of my husband? The loss of my job? The loss of my health?”
The answer is Yes. Because even if your loss is huge, the joy of knowing Jesus is far greater.
That’s what Paul means when he says our trials here are momentary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory we will have in Christ (2Cor 4:16-18).
I also prayed that God would heal my knee.
God had changed my heart, so my hope didn’t depend on being healed. My hope was in beholding Christ forever.
But still — I enjoyed riding my mountain-bike. So I prayed for God to heal my knee.
And over the next months the pain slowly went away. Now I am back to riding my mountain bike (but I’m being careful not to overdo it!).
So pray for whatever it is that caused your hopelessness. Ask God to work in your finances, your employment, your health, your wayward child.
But at the same time, fight the fight of faith to keep trusting Christ as your all-satisfying Treasure.
Feedback? Thoughts? Comments?
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And here’s some further reading you might find helpful —
- How God comforted Hudson Taylor when his wife died.
- How David Brainerd overcame discouragement.
- How one word removed discouragement.
- Are you discouraged in prayer?
- When Martin Luther was struggling.
(The picture is from PhotoExpress.com.)