HOPE. What is it? Where do I find it? How do I get it? And if I do get it, how do I keep it? Why does THAT guy seem to have so much of it and I have so little of it? Is there really such a thing as hope in my situation?
Of course we all know the “right” answers to these questions. It’s easy to rattle off some Bible verses and spew out a few stories and then declare “so just hope in God.” But do we really believe that? Do you really believe that?
The honest answer for me? Yes and no. At times, yes. And at other times, no. There are those times when life seems to be going well – not perfect, but at least moving in the right direction. Economy is up, career is progressing, and relationships are stable. Life is good. At times like that, it’s easy to talk about hope and tell others about hope as well. Hope is ours.
But those “good” times seem to occur much less frequently than the “bad” times don’t they? The economy seems to be down more than it’s up. My career has more bumps than I expected. And my relationships (or lack thereof) seem to be a constant source of stress and anxiety in my life. Where’s hope then?
Please don’t give me (or yourself) the “right” answer that we learned back in Sunday school. Don’t just tell me that we have to trust and believe and everything will be ok. Do you even believe that? I will be honest and say that I struggle with that at times.
Where is hope when you are standing at a grave with a mother who just buried her son?
Where is hope when you see a family with no money in their account, bills are piled up to the ceiling and then you hear that the dad just got laid off?
Where is hope when you’re lonely and God knows you’re lonely but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it?
In the past, I’ve written about some of more abstracts element of hope, so today I want to focus on the practical components. I don’t want to DEFINE hope; I want to DESCRIBE it. Hope is too big to be defined, but it can be described – in both words and pictures.
1. HOPE IS A CHOICE
The level of hope you experience in life is totally and completely up to you. No one and no circumstances can affect that. Let me draw you a picture.
Imagine a parallel set of train tracks that extends as far as the eye can see. Those tracks represent the experiences that we all go through in life – one is the painful experiences and the other is the joyful experiences. Every day we experience some pain and some joy as we walk down the road of life.
Now imagine looking out toward the horizon – look out as far as your eye can see. What will happen? What will you see? Can you still see two separate tracks? NOPE. You’ll only be able to see one. The two tracks appear to become one track only.
That is hope. Hope is not looking down, but looking ahead. If you look down at either one of those two tracks, you’ll be in trouble. Focusing on the joyful track only will lead to denying reality. Focusing on the painful track only will lead to depression. We don’t need to look down; we need to look ahead. That is hope.
Hope says that no matter what happens today, God is working all things together for good to those who love Him. Hope says that even though today you may see “good” and “bad”, there will come a day where you will see that BOTH of those tracks were needed to get you to where God wants you to be.
That is hope – not that everything is ok, but that God is working all things in order to make it ok one day. That is why I say that hope is a choice. No one can force you to look up and by the same token, no one can stop you from doing so either.
2. HOPE IS A PERSON
There’s a beautiful prayer we say in the Orthodox church and we use it just before we read from the gospel. The prayer says: “for You are the life of us all, the salvation of us all, the HOPE OF US ALL, the healing of us all and the resurrection of us all.”
God is our hope. We don’t hope in the miracles of God or the grace of God or the mercies of God. WE HOPE IN GOD HIMSELF.
Said another way, hope is not based on the presence of your circumstances; hope is based on the presence of your God. Don’t tell me how bad your situation is; tell me whether or not God is in it with you or not. If He is, there’s hope. If He’s not, there’s no hope. Simple.
Let me draw you another picture. Imagine sitting in a pit – with the mud and mire all around – and then seeing a hand reaching down from above. That hand of is the Hand of God reaching down to rescue you and lift you up.
Now what’s hope? Hope is how tightly you grasp that hand. Some choose to hold lightly and therefore have little hope. Some cling with all their might and therefore have a lot more hope. The force and desperation and urgency with which you cling to that Hand – that’s hope. And again, no one can affect that except you.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5
They say that hope is the oxygen of the soul. I couldn’t agree more. Even though we don’t necessarily know what it is, we all know we need it. And now we know that it’s in our control to go get it.
Hurt is inevitable, but despair is optional. We cannot avoid hurt, but we can avoid hope.