Hope is one of those words that evokes….hope, promise, possibility, trusting something to completion, believing against all odds.
Sometimes hope is something that you grasp hold off in the darkest or most challenging of times. Sometimes hope is what you cling to when you know something may not work out. Sometimes hope is that thing that keeps you moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.
A friend and colleague emailed me a few weeks ago and said that he was glad that I was hopeful about our Church because we need that. He said he just wasn’t there anymore and had no idea where his calling/ministry was going.
A student and I talked this week about a relationship where things aren’t quite working out and whether one should be hopeful that things might change or if after time and time again of things not changing, it was better to move on.
Another student and I talked about how it totally sucks sometimes to be single and whether God had someone out there for her or if she would every meet someone. Should she hope?
I look at all of the freshman coming through Orientation and their hope and fear and wonder about what the next step in college is going to be.
I look at people facing health concerns whether personally waiting for the next checkup to see if tumors or cancer has returned, those facing the health concerns of family members, or those facing the loss of a loved one and I wonder about hope.
A four letter word. Unlike the others. Hope.
One of my favorite lines in the Matrix movies was said by the Architect to Neo in the second movie (yes the first one is probably the best, but I really liked this quote) - ”Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
Now I’m not saying in the case of the relationship that we live into Albert Einstein’s quote of Insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I agree that sometimes our hope may be misplaced or that we’re trying to see the silver lining when there’s not one. We have to be wise and discerning and honest with ourselves in that.
But I do think we rest in the hope of God and let that four letter word shape our story. I think of the words from Lamentations 3, beginning with verse 19, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;”
The thing about hope to me is that it’s an active thing. You don’t just hope to win publisher’s clearing house or the lottery or to strike gold or to find a big pile of money in a brief case outside your house and expect it to happen just by hoping for it. You have to actually enter to win publisher’s clearing house or buy the lottery ticket or rob the bank to find the briefcase full of money or work hard as heck on “Gold Strike Alaska” on the Discovery channel. Not really encouraging any of these things but you get my drift. You discern where the Spirit is leading you. You don’t sit passively and hide out, but you grasp hold of your life with two strong hands and engage and grow and keep pushing forward. You rest in the hope of God. Giving God the chance to move and breathe and blow all over your life and your plans and your hopes and dreams.
If you really want a more solid devotional life, be intentional in making that happen. Set aside time to pray, journal, sit in silence and listen, subscribe to the Upper Room email every morning, check out Alive Now, ask God to lead you to the people and resources that would best speak to you. If you want joy at work or you want to do that thing that you’ve always dreamed of but that doesn’t fit with the “plan” in your head – ask God to show you the way. Actually explore the possibilities and open yourself to making changes and making it happen. There are many “what if” dreams that we have or moments or seasons of dissatisfaction or frustration, but in some ways we just comfortably stay in our safe little ruts because actually doing something about these things are scary as heck. And we don’t know if it will work. Or we’re scared that we’ll try and it won’t work and then we’ll have failed or lost that dream.
Swinging for the fence, hoping when it seems like it’s fruitless – you’ve got to actively and sincerely and intentionally do it and put your time and actions and heart where your mouth is.
What are your hopes?
In your personal life?
In your professional life?
In your vocational journey?
In your spiritual journey?
For your family?
For your friends?
For our Church?
For our world?
Not a “Christian” song but I do think it talks about grasping hold of your life and not making excuses or complaining when we feel hopeless or frustrated or afraid. Live your story with hope, actively engaging, and knowing that the crud will come, but there is One who gives us hope each step of the way.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. — Hebrews 11:1