Hope Conquers Despair!
IN Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, despair is defined as the “utter loss of hope.” Clearly, then, to conquer despair, we need hope!
An unfortunate individual reduced to living on a sidewalk will not despair utterly if he has hope. Hope can even give those suffering the torments of clinical depression the courage and strength to endure. But the hope must be dependable! What does this mean?
The Basis for Hope
Consider what happened to Sarah, the wife of the patriarch Abraham. Approaching 90 years of age, she was still barren and had long despaired of ever producing a child. Yet, when her husband was 99 years old, Jehovah repeated a promise he had made years before—Abraham would indeed have a “seed,” or heir. Abraham knew that this was a dependable promise. Imagine how happy Sarah must have been when, miraculously, the happy event occurred, and she gave birth to Isaac! (Genesis 12:2, 3; 17:1-4, 19; 21:2) Abraham’s trust in God had not been misplaced, even as the apostle Paul explained: “Because of the promise of God [Abraham] did not waver in a lack of faith, but became powerful by his faith, giving God glory.”—Romans 4:20.
Writing to Jews who had become Christians in his day, Paul reasoned that they could rely on God’s promise of salvation through Jesus for two sound reasons. Citing God’s promise to Abraham and His accompanying divine oath, the apostle argued: “Men swear by the one greater, and their oath is the end of every dispute, as it is a legal guarantee to them. In this manner God, when he purposed to demonstrate more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his counsel, stepped in with an oath, in order that, through two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to the refuge may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:16-18) Yes, God’s promises are true and dependable. Jehovah is almighty and uniquely able to guarantee the fulfillment of his own word.
Hope—“Both Sure and Firm”
Paul wrote that the Christian hope is “both sure and firm.” (Hebrews 6:19) Paul knew where his hope was rooted. He explains: “It [the hope] enters in within the curtain.” What does this mean? Paul was making an obvious reference to the ancient temple in Jerusalem. In this was a Most Holy compartment, separated from the rest of the structure by a curtain. (Exodus 26:31, 33; Matthew 27:51) Of course, the literal temple in Jerusalem has long since been destroyed. So, today, to what does this Most Holy correspond?
To heaven itself, where God himself is enthroned! Paul explained this when he said that Jesus after his ascension “entered, not into a holy place made with hands [in the temple in Jerusalem], which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24) So the Christian hope, which helps us fight against despair, depends not on human politicians but on a heavenly arrangement. It depends on the One whom God appointed, Jesus Christ, who gave his life as a ransom for our sins and who now appears before God in our behalf. (1 John 2:1, 2) Further, as frequently shown in the columns of this magazine, this same Jesus is the one divinely appointed to rule as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom and has been doing so since 1914. This heavenly Kingdom will shortly remove the things that drive so many to despair.
Hope—“An Anchor for the Soul”
To convince his readers that their hope of salvation through Jesus was well-founded, Paul used an analogy. “This hope,” he explained, “we have as an anchor for the soul.”—Hebrews 6:19.
Anchors were well-known to travelers like Paul. Ancient anchors were quite similar to modern ones, often made of iron with two toothlike extremities to grip the seabed. En route to Rome about the year 58 C.E., Paul’s ship was in danger of running aground. But as the boat moved into ever shallower water, the sailors “cast out four anchors from the stern.” Thanks to those anchors, the ship safely rode out the storm.—Acts 27:29, 39, 40, 44.
What, then, must you do to make your hope as secure as an anchor so that you can ride out economic hardship, physical or emotional sickness, or whatever other “storms” may come your way? First, assure yourself that the Bible’s promises are trustworthy. “Make sure of all things.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) For example, when Jehovah’s Witnesses next speak to you, listen to what they say. If they rarely call where you live, search them out at the nearest Kingdom Hall. You will not be coerced to join them, but you will be invited to accept a free course of Bible study, arranged to be conducted wherever and whenever it is convenient for you.
Such a study will assure you that God “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) You will learn that shortly God’s Kingdom under the King, Christ Jesus, will remove the corruption and inequalities that cause so many to despair today. Under that Kingdom, this earth will be restored to a paradise, and God will give eternal life to those who love him. (Psalm 37:29; Revelation 21:4) What a glorious hope!
Read the Bible carefully to see that this hope is true. Then work at developing a close personal relationship with God, becoming his friend just as Abraham was. (James 2:23) Since Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer,” tell him of your concerns. When your approach is sincere, your prayer will help you unload your burdens and conquer your despair. God’s spirit may even open up a way to change the situation that distresses you.—Psalm 55:22; 65:2; 1 John 5:14, 15.
After recommending that his fellow disciples “make sure of all things,” Paul added: “Hold fast to what is fine.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) One way to do this is to associate with people who also hold fast to the Christian hope. Wise king Solomon warned: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) Do not let prejudice or feelings of awkwardness prevent you from seeking out good association. For example, among Jehovah’s Witnesses are people who in the past were without hope. But their study of the Bible, coupled with the happy association of fellow believers, fortifies their relationship with Jehovah and provides them with a dependable, anchorlike hope. Does this really conquer despair? It certainly does.
Take the case of Annmarie, who was driven to despair because of suffering brutal treatment at her husband’s hands. “I decided to end my life,” she explains, “but for some reason I decided to pray to God first. I remember saying, ‘Why can’t you help me? For so long I have hoped in you, but to no avail.’ I concluded my prayer thinking there was no purpose to life, so I might as well be dead. At that moment there was a knock on the door. I decided to ignore it, hoping that whoever was there would eventually go away.
“The knocking persisted, and I grew perturbed. I wiped away my tears and went to see who was at the door, hoping to free myself quickly so that I could do what I intended. But,” Annmarie says, “thanks to Jehovah, it did not happen that way, for when I opened the door, I found two women standing there. True, I was very confused, and I did not really understand what they were saying. But they offered me a book that would explain that life has a purpose. It was just what I needed to rekindle my interest in life.” Her visitors arranged a regular Bible study with her. Annmarie learned to become a friend of God. This, in turn, gave her a purpose in life. Now she helps others develop trust in God.
Perhaps you have hoped for an end to despair without realizing all that was involved. But if you have ever prayed: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth,” then you have prayed for the coming of God’s Kingdom under Jesus Christ, which will abolish those things that drive righthearted people to despair. (Matthew 6:10) Your personal study of the Bible and regular association with others who have that same confidence will strengthen your grip on the hope for Jehovah’s Kingdom to come and bring Paradise to our earth. (1 Timothy 6:12, 19) This is the glorious hope that this magazine announces in every issue. Embrace the hope heartily to fight against despair. Truly, hope “does not lead to disappointment.”—Romans 5:5.
[Picture on page 7]
Studying the Bible gives us a hope that acts as “an anchor for the soul”