Like its 4 letter word cousin “Love”, “Hope” is easily misunderstood.
I acknowledge that it’s impossible to break down such an important subject in a few short paragraphs. However, the idea of hope includes characteristics we don’t often discuss. We prefer a sanitized, unburdensome definition that keeps us in a dreamland of possibility, but ignores the reality of what hope really means. If we want to gain the full measure of what hope promises, we must be willing to admit and accept all that hope demands.
Hope demands absence.
In an age where everything is instantly accessible, it’s hard to fathom this.
We assume that the simplest way to get something we want is to reach out and take it. However, hope doesn’t operate that way. In order to fully experience life, something must be kept away. If we want to have something, the only way we can truly appreciate it is when we have to wait for it. Hope will not allow itself to be Googled, manufactured, invented, replaced, or in any way, shape or form brought forth before its time. In fact, the very appearance of what we hope for is the end of hope’s existence.
Hope demands pain.
The fitness cliché, “How bad do you want it?” seems relevant here. Hope will not allow us to enjoy blissful anticipation without proving that we are willing to sense the bitterness of loss, the unavoidable tears, the pangs of longing. Pain is the prerequisite to proof that we actually want what we say we want. Otherwise, we’re cheating hope. We’re claiming that something matters, but actually our comfort matters more, and we’ll willingly trade in our hope for the immediate relief. Hope will not allow us the easy road. A true hope will make you ache, make you groan, make you pine away. It’s a sweet sadness, but a sadness nonetheless. Do not confuse it with self-pity, however. The pain that hope demands is one that will never become self-focused. It is always outward. The second that the pain becomes about us, it ceases to be productive.
Hope demands struggle.
To struggle is not the same as to experience pain. To feel pain is to sense the loss, to struggle is to attempt to work through it. Our actions in the midst of hope are the engine behind the power plant of life that must strain to pull every ounce of potential out of resistance. The purpose of our struggle is to make hope into a power source. The irony is that the object of our hope is powerless to do this if we don’t put in the effort ourselves. Even though God himself is the source of our hope, he makes us the catalyst. Hope doesn’t carry its own weight. It requires us to do that.
But this is not a Sisyphean effort we’re asked to undertake. Hope requires absence, pain, and struggle, but along with these things, it also provides security, authority, and a confidence that can be won in no other fashion. Hope will not and can not make us ashamed to be in its employ, given that the nature of it is first divine. Yes, we can cheapen hope if we wish by desiring lesser things, but the quality of our reward, and the resulting life we lead, is directly correlated to the value of that we hope for.
If you hope for something eternal, you will receive eternal benefits.
That begs the question – is what we want truly eternal?
Will the thing we hope for outlive us?
I repeat purely for the sake of emphasis – the quality of our reward, and the resulting life we lead, is directly correlated to the value of what we hope for.
I pray we are hoping for the right things.
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