Bible Gateway interviewed Craig Groeschel (@craiggroeschel) about his book, Hope in the Dark: Believing God Is Good When Life Is Not (Zondervan, 2018).
Define what hope means for Christians.
Craig Groeschel: To define what hope is, it might be helpful to start with what hope is not. For a Christian, hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s not an emotion. It’s not a desire. For a follower of Christ, hope is grounded in truth. It’s a confident expectation of a promise that we know will be fulfilled. I like the way Paul described hope in Romans 8. He said, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25). Hope doesn’t mean that God will always do everything we want him to do. Our hope isn’t in our preferred result. Our hope is in his goodness, his character, and his perfect, sovereign plan.
Why can it be healthy to ask doubting questions about our faith?
Craig Groeschel: Growing up, I always thought it was unspiritual to have doubts. So, instead of dealing with honest doubts, I tried to stifle them, deny them, and pretend they didn’t exist. Thankfully, I’ve grown to understand that God is big enough to handle our doubts. I find comfort reading about sincere and committed believers who questioned God in the Psalms, cried out to him in Lamentations, and argued with him in Habakkuk. Now, I truly believe that pushing through honest doubts is one of the best paths toward a solid and maturing faith.
What’s the first step a person must take to see light in the darkest of times?
Craig Groeschel: It sounds simple, but I think in order to see light in the dark, we have to first acknowledge that we’re in a difficult season. So often we try to deny our troubles instead of facing them head on. Once we acknowledge that we have a problem, we can position ourselves to find hope in God. When we admit we’re in the dark, we become poised to see the light.
How does the Bible fit into a Christian’s understanding, and practicing, of hope?
Craig Groeschel: We often put our hope in finding a specific answer. “I hope I’m healed.” “I hope I find a job with benefits.” “I hope that I’m married by Christmas of next year.” While there’s nothing wrong with hoping for a desired result, the Bible points us to God as the true object of our hope. Despite what’s happening in our lives, we can place our hope in him and in his character because he’s always good and always faithful. When my faith is strong, my hope isn’t in God doing what I want him to do, but in his will. And his will is always revealed in his word. I like the way David said it in Psalm 39:7, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” Scripture reminds us that our hope is always in our Savior.
Why is the message of this book important now?
Craig Groeschel: This message has always been important because people always need hope. But I believe, more than ever, people are becoming more aware of the darkness in our world. People are hurting. People are fighting depression, discouragement, and disillusionment. People are searching for something good to hold on to, and we have the answer. In Christ, there’s always hope! Even though our situation may seem bleak, there’s still good news. When our world grows darker, the light shines brighter.
During this painful time of your daughter’s health battle, what’s helping you the most to stay reminded that God is still good?
Craig Groeschel: For those who don’t know, my daughter Mandy got sick a couple years ago and still hasn’t fully recovered. We’ve sent her to several different specialists and have done everything we can to help her get better. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through as a parent, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having some very honest and direct conversations with God. I’ve questioned some, raised my voice more than once, and cried too many times to count. But even in my doubts and questions, I choose faith—and so does Mandy. Watching her cling to Jesus has blessed me more than I can express. She told me that she isn’t enduring the pain, she’s embracing it. This trial is helping Mandy know Jesus in a way that she wouldn’t otherwise. She told me that while she wouldn’t want anyone to go through what she has gone through, she wouldn’t change it. That helps me to remember God is always good.
During this process, how have you gotten to know God more intimately?
Craig Groeschel: Our church wrote a song for my daughter called, “You Are.” The chorus says, “I will lift my hands while I’m waiting. Louder than my fears, I will sing. May my heart ever be reminded you are good. You are good. Jesus, You are.”
Through this whole painful process, our family has learned to lift our hands while we’re waiting—like Paul and Silas who praised God from prison before he did a miracle for them. We’ve decided we aren’t going to praise God only when he does what we want him to do. We’ll simply praise him for who he is.
You open Hope in the Dark sharing an intimate story of a colleague and friend who went through an extremely painful experience. How can friends help one another spiritually grow amidst pain?
Craig Groeschel: One of the women who works in my office lost a baby. So, I decided to write something in an effort to comfort her. What was supposed to be a few pages turned into a small book. When she returned to work, I gave her the document and prayed it would help. She said that it saved her faith. For several years, I let the file sit forgotten on my computer. When Mandy got sick, I decided to read what I’d written for my friend. I was blessed to find that God used the very words I wrote for someone else to speak directly to me. Those words were the start of what eventually became the book, Hope in the Dark.
When a friend is hurting, sometimes God will give you the words to help bring comfort. But don’t feel pressure to have the perfect words. Remember, your presence and your prayers are powerful. Sometimes just being with someone matters more than what you say to them.
What should friends, seeking to help others in time of heartache, be careful to not do?
Craig Groeschel: I’d be careful not to offer a reason or explanation of why things are happening. People don’t need an explanation as much as they need someone who cares. Simply listening or even just being present, can mean more than words. I remember reading once that some of the worst words you can ever say to someone who is hurting is, “At least…” We might be tempted to say, “At least it wasn’t worse” or “At least you still have more time.” While your heart may be in the right place, trying to point out a positive actually discredits the current pain. I’ve found that being present in the pain generally means the most to someone who’s hurting.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Craig Groeschel: It’s so difficult to choose one favorite Bible verse. If pushed, I’d probably go with Acts 20:24. I love that Paul acknowledges that his life is “worth nothing” to him. He only has one aim, one goal, and one passion: “testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” I want to be like that. I want to continue to die to myself, my desires, and my dreams and live for the one goal of helping people know the grace of God through Christ.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Craig Groeschel: At Life.Church, we love seeing people engage with God’s Word, and I’m grateful Bible Gateway is creating tools to help people do that regularly. Thank you!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Craig Groeschel: Hope in the Dark: Believing God Is Good When Life Is Not is not like any other book I’ve written. I usually use humor in my writing, but this book takes a much different tone. If your life is “up and to the right,” it’s probably not for you. But if you’re struggling through a difficult season and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, my sincerest prayer is that God speaks to you through this book and gives you hope in the dark.
Hope in the Dark is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, an innovative and pacesetting church meeting in multiple locations around the United States and globally online. He’s the author of several books, including Hope in the Dark, #Struggles, Fight, Soul Detox, The Christian Atheist, and It. Craig, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma.
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