Chapter 5: Finding Hope in the face of my Fears
Research has shown that among the common fears of death are the fear of dying in pain, the fear of being a burden to others, and the fear of dying alone. At some point many people approaching death also wonder about what lies beyond death for them. Is God only an idea we use to falsely reassure ourselves, or is God the one true hope during and beyond our dying? Our ancestors also struggled with these questions. Here are Scripture passages that express their faith and their hope.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
Many of the psalms express the hope that can be found in God alone.
We put our hope in the LORD; he is our protector and our help.
We are glad because of him; we trust in his holy name.
May your constant love be with us, LORD, as we put our hope in you.
Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.
Sovereign LORD, I put my hope in you;
I have trusted in you since I was young.
I will always put my hope in you;
I will praise you more and more.
I will tell of your goodness;
all day long I will speak of your salvation,
though it is more than I can understand.
I will go in the strength of the LORD God;
I will proclaim your goodness, Yours alone.
You are my defender and protector; I put my hope in your promise.
Like the people of ancient Israel, put your hope in the Lord God.
LORD, have mercy on us. We have put our hope in you.
Protect us day by day and save us in times of trouble.
Hope returns when I remember this one thing:
The LORD’s unfailing love and mercy still continue,
Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
The LORD is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.
The LORD is good to everyone who trusts in him.
Readings from the New Testament
Jesus traveled to Bethany after hearing the news that his friend, Lazarus, had died. Jesus reveals God’s glory by restoring Lazarus to life. Place your hope in Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days before. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Judeans had come to see Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother’s death. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died! But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for.”
“Your brother will rise to life,” Jesus told her.
“I know,” she replied, “that he will rise to life on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord!” she answered. “I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet. “Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
Jesus saw her weeping, and he saw how the people who were with her were weeping also; his heart was touched, and he was deeply moved. “Where have you buried him?” he asked them.
“Come and see, Lord,” they answered.
“See how much he loved him!” the people said. But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone placed at the entrance. “Take the stone away!” Jesus ordered.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, answered, “There will be a bad smell, Lord. He has been buried four days!”
Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?” They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, “I thank you, Father, that you listen to me. I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe that you sent me.” After he had said this, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” He came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave cloths, and with a cloth around his face. “Untie him,” Jesus told them, “and let him go.”
When Jesus was put to death on a cross, two criminals were also crucified along with him. One of the criminals turned to Jesus in faith and received Jesus’ promise of entering into Paradise with him.
Two other men, both of them criminals, were also led out to be put to death with Jesus. When they came to the place called “The Skull,” they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.
One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.” And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!”
Jesus offers us hope by means of the peace that only he can give. Jesus said:
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
The apostle Paul speaks of the hope we have in Christ Jesus and in being reconciled to God.
Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.
God has shown how much he loves us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.
We do not live for ourselves only, and we do not die for ourselves only. If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For Christ died and rose to life in order to be the Lord of the living and of the dead.
In a letter to Titus, Paul’s friend and co-worker in the Gospel, Paul speaks of the hope of eternal life through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
From Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I was chosen and sent to help the faith of God’s chosen people and to lead them to the truth taught by our religion, which is based on the hope for eternal life. God, who does not lie, promised us this life before the beginning of time, and at the right time he revealed it in his message. This was entrusted to me, and I proclaim it by order of God our Savior.
When the kindness and love of God our Savior was revealed, he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us. God poured out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that by his grace we might be put right with God and come into possession of the eternal life we hope for. This is a true saying.
The author of 1 Peter speaks of the “living hope” and new life we have because God raised Jesus from death.
Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time. Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer.
Claim the hope that comes from God.
May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thoughts for Reflection
- In what or in whom do I place my hope?
- What is it that I hope for?
- What could I do or think that would increase my hope?
- Am I able to place my hope in a power greater than myself?
Good and Gracious God, you have been the source of hope for all generations. Before the mountains and the seas were established, you were there. After all have fallen away, you will remain.
Deepen my trust in your eternal care for me and those I love. Abide with me in my living, in my dying, and in my life to come. Give me the comfort of knowing I am yours now and forevermore. Amen.
A Blessing for You
May the LORD bless you and take care of you;
May the LORD be kind and gracious to you;
May the LORD look on you with favor and give you peace.