Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"In Hope....Against all Hope"

Hope.  You can ask my mom.  I’ve always had it.  Before the deal is done, I plan the vacation. Despite the gloomy prognosis, I expect a turnaround.  No matter how broken, I anticipate restoration.  Regardless of the loss, I predict a comeback.  Even though I royally screwed up, I know it can be fixed.

Hope is what keeps us all going.  I truly believe that.  It is absolutely the one thing that not a single soul can live without. 

This weekend I received some news that made me really reflect on how important hope is: A friend who serves at church took his own life.  While I don’t know what his last thoughts were or what exactly drove him to that point, I am sure he believed he had no more hope.  Hope fuels us.  What I didn’t realize, until I heard this news, was how I had begun to lose hope, too.  And how deeply that loss of hope was affecting my outlook on life; how it was affecting my joy.

You see, hope is the belief in or for something that is not guaranteed (Romans 8:24).  That is part of what makes it so exhilarating.  If we knew the relationship would be restored, the check would come through or the trust would be rebuilt, we wouldn’t have to hope for it any more.  The anticipation would be gone – and with it, part of the joy.

But here is the thing about really living with hope:  It inevitably results in experiencing a little more disappointment than most.  So some people only choose to hope for a little, not because they don’t wish for more joy, but because they live in fear of more disappointment.  And disappointment, true disappointment, it hurts.  Recovery from the letdown can feel insurmountable.

Lately is seems like every few days I’m taking a hit:  the deal falls through, the turnaround turns into a letdown, restoration seems unlikely, the comeback a long way off.  In almost every area of my life, hope has turned into heartbreak.  Most of it I haven’t even been able to verbalize because it just hurts too much.  One disappointment after another; disappointment in myself, in others, in life…even in God.

I feel like I’ve been living out Paul’s good old equation:
            Suffering  =>  Endurance  =>  Character

Great.  Just what I need.  More character.  

But I began to forget the last part.  The most important part.  The promise.  Character  => HOPE and “hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5).

Notice how the equation starts though: with suffering.  It is not the endurance that is the starting point for hope.  It is not the character building.  It is the suffering.  Without the suffering we never get the hope.

We all reach that point at one time or another: the point where enough is enough and we feel like life is just too hard.  We deserve a break.  We can only take so much more.  And at exactly the point where you think you’ve had about all you can bare, life has a tendency to throw you one more disappointment.  Trust me, if you haven’t gotten to this point yet, you will.  Maybe more than once.

It is in THAT moment, the moment it couldn’t possibly get any worse, that I have decided I have a choice.  I can choose to give in; choose to isolate myself; choose to just let life happen to me. 


I can choose hope.  I can choose to put myself back in the vulnerable position where it feels like the odds are 50/50 at best: disappointment or joy. 

But this is the important part:  When you choose hope, it’s not the wishful thinking kind of hope.  It is the confident hope, the assuredness of the future.

In hope he believed against hope…he did not weaken in faith…no unbelief made him waver.”
(Taken from Romans 4:18-20)

That’s where the joy comes from: hope as a confident expectation.  

Because real hope IS a confident expectation.

In one way or another, people have often told me I have some sort of energy or light in me.  I have always attributed that to Jesus, whether I said it aloud or not.  And while Christ in me has a lot to do with it, I believe it is the hope I have in Him that really produces that light, that energy.  It is my confident expectation that what He has for me, for my life, is good.  Truly good.

That expectation isn't always easy to muster up.  Most days lately it's downright difficult.  I wake up with that sinking feeling in my gut that life is still hard.  That prayers haven't been answered.  That the news wasn't good.  But that is what I love so very much about that verse: "In hope he believed, against hope."   Even though all signs pointed against hope, Abraham chose hope because the object of his hope, was, and is, trustworthy.  So even when I have a hard time seeing it, I say it (usually out loud, before I even get out of bed):

In Hope I believe...Against Hope.

The degree to which I choose hope – with confident expectation, despite how bad things look - is directly correlated to the degree to which I shine.  Because I know:

Hope restores all things.
Hope heals all things.
Hope rebuilds all things.
Hope overcomes all things.
Hope revives all things.

Nordic Symbol for Hope