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4 Reasons Our Hope in Christ is for Now, Not Just Eternity

Published: Mar 18, 2019
4 Reasons Our Hope in Christ is for Now, Not Just Eternity

Since I became a Christian, hoping in eternal life has been important. But frankly, I didn’t know how to wait that long for peace and restoration. Sure, God was good, but I was a mess. My spiritual disciplines were shoddy, my beliefs riddled with doubt, my theology suspect, and my fruit of the spirit blighted.

I wanted to be saved and transformed now, to be a good Christian now, not wait until I keeled over.

After years of that frustration, I began to wonder: if I had not been transformed by Christ by now, clearly I had failed. How could I even call myself a Christian?

One night, face down on the floor in prayer, I called out to God with exactly that question. Please, Jesus, don’t leave me, I prayed.

Thankfully, Jesus met me there.

That night, I began to understand that my despair didn’t stem from my failure, weakness, or imperfection. I despaired because I misunderstood how incredibly gracious, abundant and transformative God’s hope actually is. Jesus gives me hope for the future, yes, but also abundant wholeness right this very minute. So here are 4 reasons why we can hope in Christ now, this very instant, as well as into eternity. 

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We Hope in a Savior of Delight

We Hope in a Savior of Delight

Once, in the middle of a terrible depression and faith crisis, half of a verse appeared in my head like a Jesus-y Mad Lib: “… and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

What, exactly, did I have to do to get the desires of my heart? I was stumped. Oh, I would give anything for that! I had been working so hard to follow Jesus before my current crisis, in the hopes that my heart would be whole, but I had been bitterly disappointed. Trying hard for Jesus had not saved me from depression or bewilderment.

So I was suspicious. Probably the Bible would tell me to obey more or follow the Law. I had done that already. Even as I pulled out my concordance, I dared the Bible to surprise me.

I found the mysterious first half. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I was, quite honestly, gobsmacked.

I had worked so hard to follow Jesus, but delight had never been on my list of must-haves. Delight sounded self-indulgent and needy, unserious and frivolous. Delight could not be checked off a to-do list.

A God who asked for my delight—well, that was a God I did not know. That was a God who—and now my eyes filled up with tears—might actually save my life.

And in the twenty years since I found that verse, chasing delight in Christ has led me to the desires of my heart.

Delighting in God means, among other things:

  • Incorporating spiritual disciplines that fill me with life instead of choosing practices simply because they sound the hardest or most serious. For me, that looks like making art out of scripture in addition to studying it, or praying with a good friend, perhaps on a walk, instead of alone in a chair.
  • Paying attention to my limits. When I feel resentment about spiritual disciplines, relationships or church, I know something’s wrong. Through prayer, I find out what the root cause is, and address it, asking God to guide me to freedom.
  • Seeking honest delight instead of looking like a “Good Christian.” In other words, I do not strive to make my faith look good to other people, saddling myself with obligations in order to prove I’m acceptable.
  • Focusing on grace, not rigor. I used to think harder disciplines counted more, but that was my ego talking. I take seriously Jesus’ promise that he gives us an easy yoke and a light burden, and do not shame myself for not working harder.

The Westminster Catechism says God created us, in part, to “enjoy Him forever.” But often, I have acted as if my purpose were drudgery and slavery. Giving myself permission to seek Christ-centered joy and delight has changed my faith from a hard slog to a dear friendship.

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We Hope in a Savior Who Empowers All We Do

We Hope in a Savior Who Empowers All We Do

I once thought that my spiritual growth was up to me. If I did not put in the time and effort to mature, I was out of luck.

But when I learn from Jesus about how the Kingdom enters into our lives, I find a whole bunch of stories about people not doing anything out of their human strength and receiving abundance in return.

The yeast spreads rapidly throughout the dough even though the woman adds only a pinch Matthew 13:33). The growing seed sprouts “all by itself,” when the sower is asleep, “though he does not know how” (Mark 4:26-29). The tiny mustard seed sprouts into a tree (Matthew 13:31-32), the widow’s pittance becomes a fortune (Mark 12:41-44). The workers who work the least get paid the same wage as everyone else (Matthew 20:1-6).

The truth is, my desire for rapid spiritual maturity, while good, hid my dependence in my own power. I believed my salvation was in my hands, even though I would have told you it was in Jesus’. When my efforts failed, my faith almost did too.

But as I learned to trust in joy and delight instead of my own hard work, I discovered Jesus’ presence in the cracks of every moment, and Jesus’ power filling me exactly where I was weakest. I did not need to produce my own resurrection, because Jesus’ power is the only thing that rescued me from the dead.

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We Hope in a Savior Who Teaches Us to Love

We Hope in a Savior Who Teaches Us to Love

Our worst relationships can be like hell on earth. The more I hear of parents hurting their kids, spouses treating each other with contempt, and families bitterly estranged from each other, the more I know that our hope is to include transformed relationships.

Indeed, in the Trinity, God models healthy, vibrant relationship to us. The hope of Christ doesn’t simply offer wholeness while we’re alone with God, but within all our relationships.

Yet too often, I see Christians use their faith in Christ as a reason to remain passive in their relationships. “I’m trusting God with my relationship” means they have resigned themselves that nothing will change until Jesus comes again. Yet Jesus, when teaching about relationships, calls us to “go quickly” to reconcile, even going so far as to counsel putting right relationship a priority over religious observance (Matthew 5).

Jesus also models active honesty and forthrightness with people, even when it costs him popularity. Far from being a pushover, he’s often shockingly blunt. He says no to the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:20-28), rebukes Peter (Matthew 16:23), and alienates his followers with difficult teaching (John 6:60-71). His lack of people-pleasing literally got him crucified. Rather than currying favor, he was true to his calling to love, guide, and shepherd.

In the same way, we’re called to have limits, and to speak truth in love even when it costs us something. Real, Christ-centered love:

  • Forgives, but does not remain close to someone who will not repent of the harm they’ve done you (Matthew 18:15-17). In author Lewis Smede’s words, “We don’t have to tolerate what people do just because we have forgiven them for doing it.” Drawing healthy boundaries with people who hurt us is an essential part of love.
  • Notice problems in our relationships and actively confront them with all of the fruits of the Spirit.
  • Repent of our own unhealthy patterns, seeking counsel to change our habits.
  • Actively seeks to work on relationship skills like communication, boundaries, and self-knowledge through good books or wise counsel. Like other disciplines, loving others well takes practice—we have to learn to do it well.

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We Hope in a Savior Who Reigns Now and Forever

We Hope in a Savior Who Reigns Now and Forever

For years, I did not realize that if eternity lasts forever, that means that it has already started. We don’t just hope for wholeness later, but now. Christ’s transforming work is already at hand, and opening our eyes to it is part of the joy and freedom Jesus offers us. When we only hope for relief in the afterlife, we can become passive, or even despairing, assuming that things cannot get better this side of heaven.

In my life, understanding the meaning of Jesus’ “easy,” and “light” burden changed everything. Rather than working myself to the bone in hopes of achieving the fruits of the spirit, I now see that Jesus, not I, causes them to sweeten in my life. Yes, my participation is necessary, but I’m not in charge.

In a similar way, intentionally loving other people with new skills, working through past pain and resentment, and learning how to forgive and reconcile wisely helps me find peace in my relationships instead of shame or heavy grief.

We can indeed hope for peace now, love now, and growing in wholeness this very instant. By opening our eyes to the hope of God’s presence in our everyday, we can find a taste of heaven right where we’re standing.

Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego who uses tiny, joyful yeses to free herself from anxiety. Tired of anxiety controlling your life? Try her mini-course, “Five Tiny Ideas for Managing Anxiety," for free here.

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Originally published Monday, 18 March 2019.