Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Idea of Hope


The word hope evokes many thoughts – most of which concern our immediate situation. Currently, many in the Houston area hope to be able to return to their homes soon while many in Florida (and the Caribbean in general) hope that the next hurricane (Irma) does not cause immeasurable damage over the rest of this week or so. On a less magnificent level, we hear the word hope used about gifts (I hope I get ...), sports teams (I hope my team wins), and other aspects of life.

In the previous paragraph, all uses of the word "hope" were as a verb – which I would guess is how the word is used 90+% of the time. But to what end? Frankly, it doesn’t matter how much one hopes for, or about, anything, it is not hope that will make it happen. Perhaps, what is necessary is skill, work, time, or some other idea, but to say I hope is really a replacement for saying “I wish” and wishing something to be true does not make it so.

However, humans absolutely need hope. But as I have used the word here it is a noun. And that is where the idea of hope excels. Again, we may hope (verb) something to be true, but that will not make it so. True hope (noun) on the other hand, is what allows us to press on when the storms of life come our way whether the storms are literal (as in a hurricane) or figurative (as in diagnosis of a disease, etc.). When we have hope (noun), the question becomes in what is our hope (noun) based.

Living in the world, and not of it, requires us to place our hope in matters beyond this world. While hope is different than faith, both are intertwined. Christians are to place their faith in Christ whose return Paul calls “our blessed hope” (Titus 2.13), not because we wish (hope as a verb) for it to come true, but because it certainly will happen in God’s timing as He has promised. It is that promise that should prompt us to remain hopeful (full of hope, noun) even as the world around us may seem to be falling apart – an idea represented by the phrase post tenebras lux (after darkness, light).

Life does bring challenging times. The people in the Houston, Texas area know that to be true right now. The people in Florida are bracing for similar destruction. Sometimes the catastrophe comes completely unexpectedly (e.g. a health issue); sometimes it is reasonably forecast (e.g. a storm), but regardless of how bad the challenge is, hoping (verb) changes nothing. On the other hand, prayer can. Why? Because authentic prayer is a revelation of where our true hope (noun) is found.

So, by all means, have hope. Encourage others to remain hopeful in whatever the circumstance. But don’t hope for the situation to be better, pray for God to do something – even through you – to make it better. Perhaps, your efforts can help bring others to the true hope found in Jesus.

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