Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

— Romans 12:12

In tough and uncertain times, it can be difficult to look beyond what’s currently happening in our lives and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether we’re going through a big life change, a hard time with our family, or personal health concerns, an optimistic frame of mind can help us see a difficult challenge as an opportunity for gratitude. When you’re feeling low, try to find the silver linings in your hardships. 

People can survive with minimal amounts of food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation, and even affection. For example, take a look at the Digambara of Jainism. They are male ascetics who relinquish all property and wear no clothes. They are extreme in their belief in non-violence, even brushing away the path in front of them so as not to step on and possibly kill a living creature. They drink water from a gourd, beg for only a handful of food, and eat only once a day. However, if they hear a cry for help, animal or human, they forgo their food for the day and try to help whoever is in need. What drives them is the hope that their devotion to asceticism will allow them to achieve moksha, a spiritual release that ends the cycle of reincarnation, and the liberated pure soul goes up to the summit of the universe and dwells there in eternal bliss.

The idea of moksha is similar to our idea of heaven. We hope that we live our lives in such a way that God’s love will envelop our souls after death, and He will welcome us in heaven, where our souls will dwell in eternal bliss. Have you ever wondered what hope truly is? It is a difficult term to define because it is more than just wishful thinking, though that is how we often use it. It goes deeper than that. Even dictionary definitions show that hope should be more substantial than mere wishful thinking. One dictionary defines it as “a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

One scholar said that for those who do not know Jesus, hope is a verb. But for the Christians, hope is also a noun. This is an important distinction. Hope is not simply something we do with teeth gritted and fingers crossed. Hope—joyful expectation—is something we have. We possess hope because we know the God who is the source of and the reason for our hope. True hope is not simply the equivalent of “hoping” everything will turn out for the best. True hope is dynamic and powerful because it considers the circumstances of life realistically—and then confidently rest in the promises and character of God. 

Hope gives us life. The fictional author Pittacus Lore wrote, “When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.” Can we survive without hope? I think the answer to that question is that we cannot survive physically or spiritually without hope. Physically, if we abandon hope, we would give up our minds and bodies, and life would no longer be important to us. Spiritually, hope is the essence of the Christian faith. We hope to go to heaven one day, we hope that God hears and answers our prayers, and we hope that our labor isn’t in vain. Proverbs 23:18 advises us, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Hope can be an expectation and anticipation that rests on what we believe. This means that for Christians, hope can be as strong as what we have learned about God’s goodness and faithfulness. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In a way, as long as we have hope, we have the Holy Spirit within us. Lamentations 3:20-24 says, “My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” 

As the flowers start to bloom, the leaves begin to bud in the trees, and the sun stays out a little longer, we’re reminded that spring is the ultimate time of renewal when we can take the time to reset ourselves and spiritually prepare ourselves for the year ahead.  As the poem An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope says, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest.” Over a hundred times, the Bible mentions hope. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” We should follow the example of the American historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman who wrote, “I inhale hope with every breath I take.”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “Hope

  • Ryan

    Faith and hope go together. I might even say that the stronger our faith, the greater the hope. I.e. Hope becomes active in our lives. I often think of those people born before Christ, who had no religious affiliation, did not know of life eternal therefore they must hav lived for the day. No hope in the afterlife. Hope does spring eternal every spring but real hope must linger always. If we lose hope our faith weakens and vice versa. The two are intertwined. The higher the one, the higher the other. If we are blessed to have Both in abundance then we start to look start to view life in an eternal perspective. With that point of view we look to charity, life beyond ourselves, because we realize we are not alone. We are one eternal family, one eternal round. No man is an island. It is the duty of those who know the truths, to warn others.

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