As followers of Jesus, courageously living out our faith in today’s world can sometimes feel like being stranded on a deserted island that is surrounded by shark-infested waters. We can become physically and spiritually exhausted as we deal with wave after wave of difficult relationships, disappointing circumstances, persistent addictions and sins, and the anxiety and suffering that are an unavoidable part of life in this world.
Whenever we begin to feel overwhelmed by struggles, the only thing we have left is hope. As believers, we cling to the hope that one day we will be rescued, that our relationships will be mended, that our sins will be washed away, and that Someone will fix everything that is broken.
You and I can have the courage to thrive regardless of the challenges we encounter when we learn and apply the essential survival skills God provides for us in His Word. God’s promises, provision, and spiritual power give us everything we need to navigate the difficult and often treacherous terrain of today’s world. But all the tools and training will be of no use to us if we lose hope.
Hope is the one virtue of the Christian faith that, if lost, “makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Without hope, mountaineers never complete their climbs. Without hope, prisoners of war give in and become traitors. Without hope, castaways lose their minds and wish for death to come. Without hope, explorers lose their way. Without hope, addicts lose their will, artists lose their creativity, teachers lose their voice, couples lose their love, families lose their joy, and churches lose their purpose.
Perhaps no one understood the importance of hope better than Florence Chadwick. On July 4, 1952, this 34-year-old competitive swimmer waded into the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Her goal was to become the first woman to swim the 21 miles from Catalina Island to the California coast.
Chadwick was an experienced long-distance swimmer. She had already become the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Her biggest challenge in the Pacific Ocean that day was not the distance but the bone-chilling waters and the thick fog that made it almost impossible for her to see anything, including the boats accompanying her.
While Americans watched on television, Chadwick swam for hours in the numbing water and choppy waves. But the fog kept Chadwick from seeing her goal, and she lost hope of ever reaching the shore. When she begged to be taken out, her mother and her trainer, who were in one of the support boats, cheered her on. But after 15 hours and 55 minutes, Chadwick stopped swimming and was pulled out—only to discover that she had quit less than a mile from the coast. She told a reporter, “If I could have seen land I know I could have made it.”1
Two months later, she attempted the feat again. Once again, a thick fog obscured the coastline, and she couldn’t see the shore. But this time, she made it because she kept reminding herself that the land was there. With that confidence, she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men’s record by more than two hours!
Can you relate to Florence Chadwick’s first attempt? All too often, we find ourselves in a fog of worry, doubt, depression, health problems, loneliness, financial uncertainty, and strained relationships. There seems to be no end in sight, and we are tempted to give up hope. But we must not quit! Land is just ahead.
Until we reach the shoreline, the Bible tells us that we should not despair. Just because our lives appear to be spinning out of control at times doesn’t mean they really are out of control. We may not be able to see the future clearly, but our sovereign God does. The psalmist declared, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).
Our God knows our future because He has planned our future. Until the fog of uncertainty lifts and the waves of adversity eventually subside, we can follow the command of Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”
You and I can go forward in life with courage, even though we may be “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). Like the Apostle Paul, who was “always of good courage” (5:6) no matter what he faced in life, we, too, can courageously face whatever trial comes our way, knowing that the One “who delivered us from so great a peril of death . . . will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope” (1:10).
If we believe that and never give up hope, then no matter what comes in our lives, we will do more than survive—we will thrive!