Recently, I was struck by the most seemingly mundane Bible verse, and I believe there is a powerful vision in it for us. In 1 Samuel 27:1, David has begun to have friction with Saul. Saul has had a couple of failed attempts to come against David. He’s even apologetically confessed that David is a good man and will have an incredibly blessed reign. This is, of course, also long after David’s been anointed and prophesied to be king. It’s after he’s walked through battles with Goliath and tens of thousands of others- all with astounding victory from the Lord. Yet this chapter begins with the words;
But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”
In light of testimonies, prophecies, and even straight from the mouth of his enemies, David had much to hope for. Yet a persistent (and lying ) thought said “One of these days, I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul”. Because of this, he moves into the land of the Philistines (his enemies)…which eventually leads to the raid of Ziklag…which almost gets him stoned by his own men. It doesn’t change the fact that Saul never does destroy him. It also doesn’t change the fulfillment of the word that he will be king. But it creates a less-than-enjoyable detour.
Our level of hope can dictate where we feel safe to settle. Because of a faulty expectation (opposite of what the Lord told him), David felt safer in the land of the enemy. Our level of expectancy doesn’t manipulate the Lord’s actions, but it does influence ours. In our own lives, what is the “thing” that the enemy keeps tempting us to expect? What is the thing that inserts the thought into our head that “One of these days, I will be destroyed by _________”. Anxiety, depression, illness, lack of resources, this business, this oppressive situation, etc. could all fill in our blanks.
The Lord wants to use the pressures in our lives to fortify our hope and goodness, not to drive us out of our promised lands. Even now- just through reading this word as you feel His presence, the Lord wants to redeem our minds and break off a spirit of hopelessness. Maybe even breaking it off of some who hadn’t even realized that it was there. Those whom a stronghold (place of safety) has been foraged based on enemy thoughts as opposed to God’s promises and inheritance.
Merriam-Webster defines hopelessness as “having no expectation of good or success”. Turns out that any expectations of what God is going to do that don’t involve “good” or “victory” are probably actually roots of hopelessness. Hopelessness can also be defined as “not susceptible to any remedy or cure” or “incapable of redemption or improvement”. What (or who) have we labeled as “not going to change” or “not getting better”? Even though we know that “beyond redemption” or “without cure” doesn’t sound like God, we sometimes settle for this place as our Ziklag.
A third definition for hopelessness reads “giving no reason to expect good or success, giving no ground for hope”. That caught my attention. Hope needs ground. And God talks a lot about ground in His word. Whether it’s the internal ground of our hearts that He is plowing and sowing in or the spiritual ground of the territory He has given us to steward for the kingdom, He is very clear that we control the condition of our soil (how we receive it) as well as how faithfully we occupy our land (how fully we give over/ connect every part of our life to His Words). Typically in hopelessness, strongholds happen when we deny ground to anything we don’t have reason to expect. Thinking about almost any hopeful testimony in the Bible, the people had literally no reason to expect God to move in the way He did. But He did give them a word of hope that would lead them to expect victory and good things.
The reality is that oftentimes the places where we feel the most pressure are the places God has planned to use for His glory. David felt pressured to run from the king and kingdom when God had planned for him to become the king of that kingdom. In these places of pressure, we can let ourselves be talked out of a place of hope in the name of self-defense. We try to protect ourselves from disappointment. Hence, we let the enemy construct a stronghold for what we fear…the illusion of protection. Biblically, hope (elpis in the original Greek) means “expectation of what is sure” but can be “expectation of good or evil…or fear”. It turns out we all are currently putting our hope (expectation, certainty) in something. Is it the truth- God’s goodness and victory- or is it low expectations, defeat, or fear?
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5
The “suffering” that begins this process of hope is not the cringe-evoking suffering we’re thinking of. This word, thlípsis, in the original language, actually means pressure. And what’s more, it refers to internal pressure that produces a “narrow place” that “hems someone in”. The very place we can become busy fighting external pressure how we see fit is sometimes where the Lord wants to do an internal work, as our Shepherd who hems us in and calls us in the narrow way, that makes our hope impervious.
As we remain patient (meaning to remain under as God enables), it develops character. Character (dokimḗ) refers to our tested and true hearts but is also seen elsewhere in the Bible when referring to proof of Christ. And how often are our times of greatest pressure the times the Lord uses to develop proof of the Christ-like glory He is ever transforming us into? All these things- the pressure, the God-enabled endurance, and the seeing Christ’s character revealed in us- produce hope.
This hope, Romans says, will never disappoint. Disappoint is defined as “fail to satisfy”. So while, like David, we may not understand exactly when or how the Lord will fulfill His promises, we have this assurance that He won’t almost fill or barely fill but completely satisfy the hope He has planted in us. We just need to wait with the Lord and let our hope have ground to grow in instead of fleeing our promised land and expecting lies.
Ask God (and listen to what the Holy Spirit responds)
“Father…illuminate the places of hopelessness in my life. Where am I expecting less than your goodness and victory? Remind me again of Your testimonies and words of hope over my life. Help me to discern and take captive the ways that the enemy wants to skew what I’m expecting. And help me to remain under by your power until the full process of hope is complete.”