False hope, true hope

“I still want to get married but I am trying to be realistic about it. I am 28 and it seems like prospects just get slimmer and slimmer…..How do you all stay positive and keep hope that you will marry one day? I get so discouraged looking at our culture of immature and ill-prepared men and I have a hard time keeping hope about it. My Dad prays for each of us everyday that God will provide and be preparing godly spouses for each of us. All of the unmarried young men in our church either seem uninterested in marriage or quite a bit younger than me  (5-9 years).”

We received this question recently and it’s not an uncommon one. Really, there are a lot of questions within this question, but rather than say what’s already been said, and said well, let’s talk about this portion of the question- “How do you all stay positive and keep hope that you will marry one day?” The answer lies in the fact that hope is a much broader concept than just our hope of marriage. Marriage is a wonderful thing, but if we’re looking to it as the basis for our hopes, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we’re going to be a hopeful people, we first need to understand where hope comes from, what hope is(and isn’t), how it’s maintained and grown, and how it is lost.

Ultimately, hope springs from the grace of God in our lives and the promise of eternal life from a sovereign and unchanging God. Without God, we have no hope. He is the author of our hope.i,ii Only when we realize that our hopes are founded on Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, will we have a firm foundation from which we can look with hope to the future. Through Christ, the victory has already been won.iii If we’re trying to build our hopes on our own strength, let’s face it, the future looks dismal. We’re going to disappoint ourselves and others time and time again; our sinful selves don’t give us much to hope in.iv But, by grace, the believer always has a solid reason to hope and rejoice, even in tremendous difficulty. Even the babe in Christ has reason to hope in that, because of Christ’s sacrifice, he has received the unfathomable and undeserved gift of eternal life.v How much more, then, should we who have time and again experienced His provision look with hope to the future?

“Hope for the Christian means all the promises of God concerning life in this world and in the world to come.”vi Our hope must be based on the solid foundation of God’s Word, not on wishful thinking, delusion, or simply what makes us feel good. If must be grounded in reality. For the believer, the promises of God in His Word are reality.vii Though an unbeliever may have a form of hope, it is a deceptive hope. In the end, his hopes will prove vain because, ultimately, his future is death.viii The unregenerate look for hope in everything but God and, if we’re not walking before God in humility and repentance, we can get trapped in a life of seeking out things that make us feel good in order to avoid repentance. It’s easy to chase those things that we call “hope” but which are, in reality, false “hopes” and deceitful diversions that we, as sinners, use to avoid the reality of guilt and repentance. Many of these things may be good in and of themselves, but if we’re using them to avoid duty, we’re only seeking indulgence to cover our guilt and calling it hope.ix But, though we may try a million ways to avoid God, we cannot escape his face.x

So, once we’ve learned to base our hope on the Word of God, how do we preserve it and how does it grow? If we’re going to understand why hope wanes, we first have to understand how hope is maintained.

First of all, we must continually look to the Word and remind ourselves of that sure foundation we hope in. It’s part of our nature as sinners that we so easily forget the mercies of God. But, the Word is full, from cover to cover, of examples of God’s mercy to us, His people. Over and over the Scripture commands us to remember the works of God- to call them to mind, to praise Him for them, and tell them to those coming after us. And it warns us, also, of the consequences of forgetting His works.xi Psalm 78 makes it clear that gratitude for the works of God causes us to hope, but ingratitude leads to stubbornness and rebellion. Remembering God’s mercies to us in times past leads to trust and confidence; forgetting His works leads to hopelessness. When we’re ungrateful, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of self pity and self pity is dangerous. To pity oneself is to coddle the sin of extreme, inordinate affection for oneself. It causes a person to narrow their focus to only those things that occur in their own myopic world and ignore the needs and joys of those around them. It leads to impatience, it robs you of joy, and saps your strength for the tasks at hand.xii So, when our flesh would rather give in to sinful emotions, we must obey the Scriptures that tell us what to think on, diligently disciplining our minds and hearts, preparing them for the task at hand.xiii

Secondly, as Romans 5 explains, “…tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…” The Lord works through trials in our lives to strengthen us, to prove us, to show us His faithfulness and thereby encourage us to hope further. Patience is a discipline; hope is a gift, a gift from God that grows through diligence. Those who diligently persevere in the work God has laid before them are those who have full confidence in God.xiv When we are actively engaged, for the glory of God, in the work that He has given us today, our eyes will be opened to His faithfulness each and every day. He doesn’t bless slothfulness. There is no hope in sin.xv In order to live with a hopeful outlook, we need to live in such a way that we’re facing the difficulties of life with humility and repentance and looking to the Word as our sure guide. Otherwise, we’ll be looking at life through the lens of despair, waiting for someone to rescue us. But, God requires personal responsibility, the self-governance, by grace, to continually repent, grow, and overcome.xvi The good news is that there is plenty of sanctifying work to do, we just have to decide if we’re going to be givers or takers. We live in what many would call a hopeless time; we’re surrounded by those who are searching for something to hope in. And who, if not we, can reach out to others with the only true hope there is?

Reformation begins, by grace, with the individual and it’s up to each of us to decide if we’re going to be that individual that begins reformation in the world around us. We must remember to thank God for his good gifts and we’ll find something wonderful in doing so- gratitude gets our eyes off ourselves and onto the giver of good gifts; it enables us to serve others. And, as we work diligently on the tasks He has given, progress in sanctification, and serve others, the Lord will bless us with a greater confidence in His promises. We must set our hope in God and think long term, and as we think about what’s good for the Kingdom of God, and not only what we think is good for us, we’ll abound in hope. Because in reality, if we’re part of the Kingdom, what’s good for the Kingdom is good for us.xvii

i “God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it; he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us.” Matthew Henry’s commentary on Rom. 15:3

ii Lam. 3:21-24; Rom. 15:13; 1 Tim. 1:1

iii Rom. 8; 1 Pet. 1:3-5

iv Rom. 7; Ps. 130, 147:10-11; Titus 3:4-7; Rom. 3:23

v Rom. 5:6-11

vi R.J. Rushdoony, ‘Revolt Against Maturity’ pg. 247

vii 2 Sam. 22:31; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 1:20

viii Prov. 10:28, 11:7

ix Jer. 17:5-11; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; Mal. 1:6-14; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Jn. 1:8

x Ps. 139

xi Ex. 13:3; 1 Ch. 16:8-15; Ps. 105, 106; Isa. 46:9-10; Jdg. 2:7-11

xii Ex. 15-16; Rom. 1:21-22

xiii Ps. 42:5, 77:10-12; Phl. 4:8-9; Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:13-16

xiv “The man who is tested by God develops a progressively stronger hope, a greater confidence in moving into the future under God.” R.J. Rushdoony, ‘Revolt Against Maturity’ pg. 259-260

xv Heb. 6:11-12; Prov. 12:24; 2 Pet. 1:5-11

xvi 1 Thess. 5:5-10; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; Titus 2:11-15

xvii Rom. 12

2 thoughts on “False hope, true hope

  1. I read the artcile and the entire blog page at visionarydaughters linked here.

    I found both to be surprisingly dismissive of the real life frustrations of living as a single person with no family and I disagree with the sentiment.

    At the end of the day, a believer with no spouse comes home to an empty room and often a lonely meal and deals frequently with extremely intense sexual frustration. It is absolutely natural and inevitable that a person will be frustrated on a good day and desperate on a bad day. it is also absolutley true that growing old without children is in fact a scary picture and not healthy for human well being. Being single and with no family also quite natutally saps a person’s sense of purpose and reward for the love they offer or the work they do – this is a natural part of being human. For people with no family, this is immensely more difficult and very easily produces a sense of desperation and loneliness.

    The article dismisses the woman’s frustration and loneliness and paints a detailed picture of a holy righteous mentality that is far from realistic when most single people with out families these days, believer or unbeliever, are just strugling to get through the day and find a sense of belonging and are doing pretty good if they can find both the time and ambition to read 30 minutes of scripture per day and avoid temptations.

    As a man who follows Jesus, and as a human being, I have empathy and compassion for this woman who wrote with this question and I want to express that empathy. Also, I can admit that I identify with her frustration and loneliness as well as her concern when looking around at our disturbing society of disconnected and dysfunctional adults, most of whom were raised by single mothers (even many of us in the church).

    Real encouragement starts there – by acknowledging that there is a problem and that the stuggle is real and then we may consider how to advise what to do about it (such as get on a Christian dating website to find a parter instead of writing dismissively in regards to the profoundly strong built in Godly desire to have a partner and a family).

    The fact is that most people burn with desire and as such, should marry sooner rather than later, so they do not becoming increasing frustrated or fall into traps of pornography or sexual immorality (which is where many believers are in fact already swimming). However, finding a partner (and keeping one if you find one!) has in fact become extremely difficult in modern America and this is very hard on a lot of people (including myself as a man).

    It is my belief that what we should do as believers is live openly broken lives and be honest about our needs and struggles and weaknesses and not seek to dismiss our own, or to dismiss those of others either, which is how I read these blogs. Building on that platform of honestly and open brokenness, we might think of what we want to do about the situation, such as introduce a man to a woman, or encourage someone to get on eharmony rather than just staying single their whole life.

    A woman can work all she wants at making herself a Godly woman as one of the main ways to attract a Godly man, but the fact is, no man is going to notice or even care if you do not look for one.

    While we are to try to live circumcised lives and train oursleves and one another in righteousness, I will also add that as a man, I want a woman with a broken and contrite heart who can be honest with me about her loneliness, sexual frustration, struggles, doubts, fears, etc… not one who has trained herself in righteousness to the point that I can not possibly relate to her or meet her at even 1/2 her level.

    As a man following Jesus, I am a sinner and my righteousness is in rags and Jesus is the only bright light around here. That is going to be the attitude I share with my wife, God willing should I ever have one and thus liberate one another from the sexual frustration, loneliness, etc that this woman was expressing in her question. Then may we “fight for the gift of life together.”


  2. I agree with Jasperst,I will be 50 in February and have never married,even though I believed I was called to do that,rather than entering into the religious life,I even moved interstate to meet a man I was corresponding with,and I was honest with him about my Christian beliefs,I share your frustration,I appreciate your honesty.Therese,Brisbane,Australia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s