Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Season of Hope

My church denoted 2007 as a year of hope. One can find the four letter word somewhere on the cover of every Sunday bulletin, often accompanied by a quotation making some statement about it.

I have learned a lot about hope these last eight months. As recently as March, the word hope conjured up images of flowers, fields, and feeling. I envisioned the word on a Hallmark card with a banal but appropriate feel-good message. The card contained a flood of pastel colors which would put even Russell Simmons' recent wardrobe to shame. Hope was happy.

I even did not give hope a very prominent role in the Scriptures, despite its inclusion in the Big 3 - that being faith, hope, and love. Paul follows the Big 3 by saying that the greatest one is love. Pile on that the fact that we are saved by grace through faith, and hope seems like an training wheel. Faith and love are doing the work while the appendage hope hangs on for dear but unecessary life.

Then Jason Ray died. Two weeks later, two Charlotte policemen were assassinated at close range. Then Virginia Tech. Suddenly hope became a key talking point in our cultural, and my internal, conversations but usually only in question for. Where is hope? Is there any hope? Why hope? And above them all, what is hope?

These times taught me that hope is intense, hope is fierce. One must battle for hope. One must even choose hope. Pastels won't get it done. Hope is hard.

These are the times that try men's hope precisely because they are times when the world has no reason to hope. Our environment tells us no hope exists. Our friends tell us no hope exists. Our natural reaction tells us no hope exists. This is why we must battle, why we must choose, because in our given state, hope does not seem natural. Life is all we see, and thus no hope exists in death. Death has the last word. It is, "Ha!"

But we know better. The longing and pain in our spirit knows better. The Holy Spirit tells us better. We know that God has never defaulted on a promise in the past, and he is not about to start now. Like faith, like love, he offers us hope though it might not come naturally.

I sat across from a woman today who recently lost her father to cancer. She tells me the pain is tangible, that she can feel it. She speaks of the hurt she feels when leaving the grave, as if she abandons her loved one. She tells me that she must fight this feeling, she must battle it, because she knows that her father is not there in the ground. He remains in her heart and with her Savior. This is the good news. This is the hope, and that hope endures.

My friends, here is where my training wheel view of hope falls hopelessly short. Hope stands not as a training wheel but as a necessary third leg of a stool. We cannot live a moment without hope. Life would overcome us, and tragically, it has overcome many.

I live with hope today because a friend of mine recently made the decision to believe in Jesus; she has found a new hope in her life that has rejuvenated hope in my life. I live with hope today because of my friends who have come along beside her and befriended her though they have never seen her. I live with hope today because the Lord has given my friends and me a reason to hope through answered prayer. I live with hope today because I stand on the cusp of a new adventure in life, one which promises to reveal the person of Jesus Christ regardless of anything. I live with hope because Christ the Lord is risen today and this is my only hope.

I must have hope or I am undone. Fortunately, like love and like faith, the Father lavishly pours out hope over me, more than enough for all my needs. Often it feels like a struggle, like a battle, but it is always there in sufficient supply.

So today I celebrate hope, not with a pastel smile but with a fierce intensity and rigor. Hope brings joy and sustains life through every trial. It must or 'tis not hope. And it endures.


Jeff said...


Wilson said...

Well-said. Thanks for that.

Oakley said...

This is one of my fav blogs of yours yet. I really like the line "pastels won't get it done." Having hope is so rewarding because a person often has to work so hard to keep it. I like the notion of the ferocity of love, and like to think that the only hope a person ever loses is the kind that they give away willingly.