Summary: When Hope is all there is, it is all we need.
“When Hope Is All There Is”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn spent part of his life in a Soviet Siberian prison. At one point he was so physically weak and discouraged that he hoped for death. The hard labor, terrible conditions, and inhumane treatment had taken its toll. He knew the guards would beat him severely and probably kill him if he stopped working. So he planned to expedite his death by simply stopping his work and leaning on his shovel. But when he stopped, a fellow Christian reached over with his shovel and quickly drew a cross at the feet of Solzhenitsyn, then erased it before a guard could see it. Solzhenitsyn would later record that his entire being was energized by that little reminder of the hope and courage we find in Christ. He found the strength to continue because a fellow believer cared enough to remind him of our hope. WHEN HOPE IS ALL THERE IS, IT IS ALL WE NEED. The Psalmist, many centuries ago, was left with only hope. So he cried out: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” So we turn to PSALM 42 for it tells us what to do when hope is all there is.
We need, first of all, to DIAGNOSE OUR HEARTS OF DOUBT. We’re not sure of the author or the circumstances of this Psalm. But we are certain it was a time of both severe threat from a vicious, persistent enemy and of popularity for misguided religious cults. As a result the Psalmist was heavy in heart, doubtful of conditions improving.
He was doubtful in two distinct ways. HE WAS, first, DOUBTFUL OF GOD. Verses 1 & 2: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Specifically he DOUBTED THE PRESENCE OF GOD. In verse 4 he painfully remembered when he used to be so very active in leading worship: “These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” And then in verse 9 he cried out, “Why have you forgotten me?” The Psalmist was bemoaning the fact that he could not worship in the Temple. But more than that, it represented his doubt in the presence of God. He was longing for a deeper sense of God’s presence in his life, crying out for a faith that was free from fear and doubt.
Have you ever doubted the presence of God? We are not much different from the Psalmist. WE, TOO, LONG FOR GOD. We, too, feel detached from God. At times He just does not answer our questions. How could this tragedy or event happen? Why did it happen? God, why am I afraid? Will I ever feel safe again? Why did God allow me to fail? I stepped out in faith – and everything fell down around me; where was God? My child died – where was God? God is just not responding to our prayers. I prayed – believing - for healing – and what good has it done? I’ve prayed for years for my child – what good has it done? I prayed so hard that I would be accepted by that group – but I’m still an outsider; in fact, they taunt me. I’ve prayed until my strength was gone – but still I can’t kick this habit. We doubt God is anywhere around.