Whenever we face problems, it’s easier to blame others than take responsibility for them ourselves. And because blaming someone or something other than ourselves is so much easier, this is exactly what people often do.
Blaming our circumstances or someone close to us is appealing because it gives us cover for our failings. But doing so takes away hope for any change for the better.
The tendency to refuse responsibility for problems and shift the blame on others goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. After the first man and woman ate the forbidden fruit, Adam blamed his wife, and Eve blamed the serpent.
Although Adam and Eve portrayed themselves as victims, they were filled with shame and hid themselves from God. If it were not for God’s pursuit of them, they would have remained in this hopeless state of shame. But God confronted them with the truth, and brought them mercy so they could move forward with their lives.
The blame-shifting approach modeled by Adam and Eve is practiced daily as people face their own personal difficulties. It is far more common for people to explain away their wrong behavior than own it themselves.
The result? Multitudes spend their days stuck in hopelessness and shame.
This problem is reinforced in that society discourages personal responsibility and encourages blame-shifting in various ways. It used to be, for example, if someone had a drinking problem he’d be called a drunkard and exhorted to change his ways. Today, someone with a drinking problem is said to have a disease and is urged to get treatment.
This sort of approach is intended to be caring as it tends to soften the blow on the person who is afflicted. But the net effect is that it takes away hope.
The basic orientation of the Bible toward the future is positive.
God wants us to know that He intends the days ahead to be
better than today.
This is an important orientation for us to adopt. Especially,
if things aren’t going so well for us today. Without the positive
future orientation that the Bible reveals, despair and loss of hope
easily colors one’s view of everything.
How to view the future is an issue that people have always had
to deal with. And they have always needed hope for the future
to know how to live in the present.
In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the land of Judah was about
to fall in judgment to the Babylonian Empire. This judgment is
something the people had brought on themselves. Not only had
they been unfaithful, but the generations before them had also
forsaken the Lord. So, they were about to be corrected for
their own wickedness.
This was all very depressing to the people because it appeared
that they were trapped in an endless cycle of defeat. But God
did not intend to leave them in hopelessness. He intended that
they would learn from their hardship and come to relate
to Him in a better way.
“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and
a hope’” (Jer.29:11)
In order for this hope to be realized, God entered into a new
covenant with the people. Through this new covenant, He forgave
them and wrote His law on their hearts. This led the people to know
Him and His mercy like never before, and it brought them into
a position to live faithfully with Him as their God.
How you view the future has a lot to do with how you live in the present. So, thinking through what the the future holds can have a real effect on your life today.
The dominant view of the future for a long time has been that of evolutionary progress. This is the idea that over time conditions will naturally get better, and what is necessary to move things along is to provide education, economic benefits and freedom to as many people as possible.
This thinking is common among politicians. As a result, we are continually exposed to one new program for progress after another. But it’s all to no avail, because these programs do not take seriously the fact that humanity has been corrupted by evil, and that this evil needs to be addressed.
To confirm that this is indeed the case, all you need to do is note how all the efforts to provide greater educational opportunities, further economic redistribution, and spread democracy have done nothing to halt the extent to which human beings exploit one another.
This reality has led to a widespread acceptance of another view of the future. This view is that what really counts is not life in this material world, but the spiritual world that is beyond us. With this view is the idea that the world is a wicked place, and our greatest hope is in escaping the confines of it at death.
Those who hold to this way of thinking will show forth the consequences of it in different ways. Some will live as though what happens in this world really doesn’t matter, making a god of personal pleasure. Others will just hang on in this world, enduring the best they can, hoping that life on the other side will be better for them.
In either case, the escapist falls far short when it comes to engaging life in the here and now, and fails to bring the good that can be brought to others in this world.
Fortunately, there’s another way of looking at things.
Toward the end of World War II the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk, sending its crew into the salty, sun-baked, and shark-infested waters of the Japan Sea. While the men knew that their best hope for survival was to stick together in the water, there were those who swam off on their own, virtually assuring death by shark attack.
The importance of believing that God has a future for you can’t be overestimated. It’s been shown over and over again through history. One characteristic of prisoners who survived the Nazi death camps, for example, is that they believed there was going to be life for them beyond the barbed wire.
The same can be said of those who survive today. When people lose any vision for the future, they also lose the stamina, creativity, and will to survive. Some are driven to madness. But those who believe that there is something waiting for them beyond the present trial – no matter how difficult it is – find that they have the resolve, energy, and clear thinking required to bring them into the future.
The principle that your view of the future has a major bearing on your ability to handle the problems of the present is rooted in the Bible.
When Judah was brought into exile for 70 years in Babylon, the prospects for the future looked grim, to say the least. In this environment it was extremely difficult for the people of God to maintain their faith and preserve their religious practices. It all seemed so futile.
But God had not given up on them, so He sent them a message. Through the prophet Jeremiah He declared, “I know the plans that I have for you. . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer.29:11).
This was just the message the captives needed to remain faithful and look to the Lord to bring about better days ahead.
This is the same message people need today.
How many in these times look at their lives and wonder how they are going to survive? They need a future.
Where does that future come from? It comes from the One who holds the future in His hands. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, and He has a future and a hope for all who live their lives trusting Him.
As we turn to Him in faith, we have peace. We also grow in perseverance, character, and hope because His love has been poured out within our hearts (Rom.5:1-8).
We are able to not only survive, but move into the future He has for us.
As we enter a new year, it is clear that something our world could use is hope. Economic jitters, international tensions, as well day to day personal and family problems have cast a gloom that seems to have left no person or place untouched. This gloom has left many in need of hope.
I am writing this article on January 6 of the present year, 2009. This day is known as “Epiphany” on the Christian calendar. It’s a date that may not appear to have a lot of significance, but it should for any who are in need of hope, because this is a day to remember that God’s source of hope has been revealed to us.
The Day of Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem to worship Christ as the Messiah. The Magi were known as wise men. They studied the natural world, contemplated divine things, and, because of their expertise, served as counselors to kings.
How the Magi came upon the the Messiah is noteworthy: the way was revealed to them. The prophet Daniel had spoken of One coming who would set up a kingdom never to be destroyed (Dan.2:24). Then, according to God’s time, a star appeared to lead the Magi to this One (Mt.2:2).
God’s revelation to the Magi reminds us that it is by God’s gracious revelation to us that we find hope. It is not by our own reasoning and speculation that we are instilled with hope – but by receiving what God gives us with a believing heart. And the One God has revealed as the source of hope is Jesus, the morning star who brings assurance to the hearts of all who trust Him (2 Pet.1:19).
This hope that God has revealed is for the whole world.
The Magi were experts. They were the “go-to guys” for solving the problems of the day. But they knew they didn’t have all the answers. Yet they did have the wisdom to pursue what God had revealed, and in so doing they served as representatives of all who are in the world who are willing to receive the hope that God provides by bowing before His appointed King.
As you read through the New Testament, you find that Jesus is displayed as God’s hope for us in other ways too.
When Jesus was baptized (Mk.1:9-11), He fulfilled all righteousness, thereby pleasing the Father. This pertains to us because it is as we live by faith in Christ that we please the Father, and He receives us as righteous.
When Jesus experienced His transfiguration (Lk.9:28ff.), the glory of God was revealed through Him. In this Jesus discloses that true, eternal glory is realized as we live in union with Him.
As Christ was born to bring hope to this world, the Spirit calls us to make Him our hope. We are not to be like those who reject God’s revelation and trust in their own righteousness while pursuing their own glory. We are to receive in faith what God has revealed to us.
In this we have hope. A hope that does not disappoint.