When things start falling apart or wilting in my life, I get a little obsessive Rain Man-10-minutes-to-Wapner-like in my head with one verse in particular. You can find it in 1 Timothy 4:10: “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”

Unfortunately the part of the verse that loops endlessly in my mind is the first part, and I end up coaching myself with, “work hard and continue to struggle, work hard and continue to struggle.” It’s a mantra to drive myself to take the next step and the next step. That’s great, right?

Not really. All of the verse is powerful, but if I’m going to focus on a small part, I’m focusing on the wrong small part. The part I should recite to myself is, “OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD, OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD.” (All caps, because I literally want to yell it, I get so excited.)

If I batten down the hatches and white knuckle the issue while reciting “work hard and continue to struggle,” my hope is not in the Living God. My hope is in me. My hope is that I can grit my teeth and make it through the situation with enough determination and recitation. My hope is that hard work will pull me through. My hope is that I’m strong enough, or determined enough, or can-outlast-the-enemy enough to survive.

Living a Christian life isn’t easy. It does require hard work and struggles, and we can’t downplay that. The Greek for “work hard” in this case means to toil to the point of exhaustion. And “continue to struggle” refers to warfare or intense athletic contest with a strong adversary.

But this adversary isn’t a situation or a person or a minor inconvenience or a bad habit. The adversary is Satan. And he waits until we’ve toiled until the point of exhaustion and he attacks. He engages us in very real, very serious warfare.

It’s foolish to think a girl like me who whines for her husband to kill the cockroach in the bathtub could fare well against an adversary like the devil, even with gritted teeth and set jaw and a memory verse stuck in her head.

Praise Jesus that at the end of the day, my ability to work hard and struggle through each obstacle will not be my Savior. Praise God that he, the Living God, is the Savior for me and for all people.

Where is your hope? How has God taught you to put your hope in him?