Unpacking the lofty ideal of Hope

Hope. It’s a funny concept.

Sometimes it feels too abstract to take seriously. No one’s going to fight you on the claim that hope is a nice sentiment. It’s good to have hope. It’s a much nicer feeling than despair. Not only that, but there’s case after case confirming that people who have hope have a higher resolve to fight their obstacles, to overcome setbacks, and to ultimately break through in the end- whether that means fighting off a threatening sickness or coming back late in the ballgame. Plus, we love the way the word feels coming out of our mouths. Lips pursing forward as a breath erupts into vowel at the front of our mouths. The four letters helped put the American president into office.

And yet, hope has got to be more than a sentiment.

I don’t know about you, but if hope is simply a sentiment, then that does’t give me a whole lot of hope. If hope is simply the presence of this internal drive to get what I want, I honestly don’t see that going anywhere. I’m just human. I know my own limitations. I can’t fool myself.

To many, hope is synonymous with wishful thinking, associated with crossed fingers and held breaths.

I’ve learned that hope is more synonymous with faith. Just like faith, hope must have an object.

Tim Keller once said that he thinks the main reason people doubt has little to do with science vs. faith or the problem of pain, but simply because to many, faith and hope seem to simply mean believing in something that’s too good to be true. I can most definitely relate to this statement.

But to me, the mere presence of hope is an indicator that hope has an object.

I’ve experienced time and time again… hope isn’t crazy.

Around a year ago, I figured I was a shoo-in for a certain job. I figured it must’ve been God’s plan for me, since so many things from my past experiences set me up for it nicely. When I didn’t get the job, it was a strange feeling. I wondered if all the things I had told myself about God having such plans for my life were just things I made up for myself to entertain my brain. At the end of last summer, though, a sudden, random, perfectly timed visit to an office landed me a job working with autistic kids for a year. A job so rewarding it overshadowed any potential the other job had to offer.

Many months after that, I found myself in an even worse position relationally. Especially when it came to dating… or not doing very much of it at all. I was faced with a recurring bout with loneliness- something I’d had to shake off time and time again in the past. This time, I felt my mind working in a familiar pattern. I had been reminding myself that God holds back nothing from us that would really be good for us, and that applies to the world of relationships. Were I truly ready, I’d have one, but I had a few things to work out that I couldn’t admit. I again started to question if all that was made up to console my loneliness. Of course that sort of wallowing was exactly one big reason I wasn’t ready for a relationship, and why I wasn’t being given one.

But still.

After battling through, I saw hope on the other side. I chose hope. I decided I wasn’t crazy and I refused to deny any of the principles I came to believe in.

It wasn’t too long after that when I became very much okay with being single.

And it wasn’t too long after that when I was single no more.

So strange.

Really, life isn’t that cut-and-dry in how it solves itself. I trimmed down a lot of details, and when I was actually going through those experiences I never felt like what I was hoping for was close. But in retrospect, they were so, so real.

And to be honest, I second guess my own beliefs all the time. Do I really think justice can come to North Korea? Do I really think there’s something more to this life than just our physical existence during our time on Earth? Do I really think the good guys always win in the big picture- and that if the bad guys win, then you just need to zoom out more?

The answer is yes but sometimes, in some ways, no.

Sometimes we associate the world belief with a subscription of intellect. Or with an emotional resolve. But it’s something more. It’s the soul above the head and the heart. Often it doesn’t feel like the good guys will win. Often, it’s hard to intellectually acknowledge or explain anything beyond the physical- I have trouble with that stuff enough.

Sometimes it seems too good to be true. But hope isn’t crazy. And faith isn’t just a feeling. They’re part of a trifecta of things that are eternal: faith, hope, and, Love. And these things aren’t emotions and they aren’t logical.

They, as things eternal, simply are.

It’s hard to explain faith, hope, and Love using other vocabulary, other comparisons, because they are eternal. Instead, other things are understood based on these. Their explanations are hardwired into us.

Faith, hope, and Love are.

God introduced himself as I Am.

Hopelessness is deceptive. It can be tempting at times. It can be easy not to trust in the God who is and to use hopelessness as a false friend that can protect us. Save ourselves from the letdown. The problem is- that false saviour can sink us like nothing else.

Hope, in retrospect is inspiring. It looks like the story of one of my heroes, Louis Zamperini, the subject of the novel Unbroken, surviving all kinds of hell. But when you need to grasp it, it can seem absurd and wishful. It seems we hope for different things… jobs, spouses, financial security, families to be reunited, justice, freedom, seeing a Loved one again. These are usually good, but lofty, seemingly impossible things- they’re just too far away. Realities in the distant future… if they’re even realities.

But they are. They seem like different things, but they are one thing. Good. And if it is good, then it was started by God, and God is faithful to finish what he started. And these pictures in our hearts that we have of good aren’t just distant. They’re present in the present. They take the form of hope.

Philippe Lazaro2012