A number of years ago, I came across a book that not only helped me in my ministry, but also helped me when I was caring for my mother who had a chronic lung disease. The book, "The Anatomy of Hope," was written by a medical doctor named Dr. Jerome Groopman. Here is what he says about hope, “Hope is one of our central emotions, but we are often at a loss when asked to define it. Many of us confuse hope with optimism, a prevailing attitude that ‘things turn out for the best.’ Hope does not arise from being told to ‘think positively,’ or from hearing an overly rosy forecast. Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Although there is no uniform definition of hope, I found one that seemed to capture what my patients had taught me. Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see –in the mind’s eye—a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along that path. True hope has no room for delusion.”
Our faith teaches us much the same thing about hope. Consider these words from Romans 8. The Apostle Paul writes, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I believe that seeing the path to a better future in our mind’s eye is hope. For Christians, that hope is based in the promises of God. Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Now I know that the hope to which Paul refers is the ultimate hope we have in Jesus Christ. However, remember that the love of God is filling our hearts now. The Holy Spirit abides with us now. We have strength and hope now as well as in the future. The psalmists give voice to the need for hope in the present. In Psalm 42, we read, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” If you are disquieted, I urge you to think on these things: your hope in God, his steadfast love and faithfulness. I encourage you to read the Psalms. They were written by people who lived in the best and worst of circumstances; yet, in all times, turned to God in prayer. The psalms are honest expressions of their feelings—sometimes raw, sometimes glorious, sometimes in praise, sometimes in lament. Perhaps, you will find a voice among the psalms which expresses what you are feeling right now.
A more contemporary psalmist, Isaac Watts, wrote, “Before the hills in order stood, or Earth received its frame, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same. Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be thou our guard while life shall last, and our eternal home.” What would you write about these times we are living in? What is your hope? Put the words to paper as so many before you have done. Is there that thread of truth that weaves throughout your life that is the same? Is that on which your hope rests?
I will leave you with these words of the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel living in exile in Babylon, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you hope and a future.”
God bless you and keep you,