|image by qthomasbower
I have many friends who practice a “one word” type of resolution each year. After thought/ prayer/ consideration, they select a single word that will serve as the focus or motivation for the year. They meditate on it, study it from an intellectual and biblical standpoint, and try to absorb the fullness of it into their lives. I have watched this ritual from afar and admired the dedication and tenacity it takes, but I have never chosen a single word for myself. Until now.
The Compassion Bloggers Network asked contributors to pray about what word focus God might be placing on our hearts for 2018. My search brought me to HOPE. If you read my blog much at all, you know 2017 was a hard year for me and my family. And though I very much HOPE 2018 will be better, this has nothing to do with my word choice. I chose HOPE because I believe the spiritual meaning of it is quite misunderstood and I want a better grasp of it.
A dictionary definition of HOPE as a noun is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” As someone who is now a card carrying member of the cancer community, I hear the word bandied about often. Each type of cancer has their own color “hope ribbon” like the one pictured above. And many other physical and mental conditions vie for our time, funds and loyalty with ribbons of their own. Everything from AIDS to Tourette’s and all the alphabet letters in between. For the cause nearest and dearest to us, we want research. We long for understanding and compassion. We pray for a cure – a better life for those suffering.
Hope as a verb means, “to want something to happen or be the case.” It’s common usage might be represented visually by something like this:
|image by minh.tnm
As in, “cross your fingers and HOPE for the best”. Commonly heard in sentiments like, “I HOPE you feel better soon.” “I HOPE my presentation goes well.” “I HOPE you find a job soon.” “I HOPE we win the game.” “I HOPE peace comes to this country.” All good things. But we aren’t guaranteed any of those things. Just because we think something should be a certain way, doesn’t mean it is. Not all children are fed. Not every injury is healed. Not all disease is cured. Our HOPEs are often nothing more than wishes. Anyone who has lived in this messed up, broken world for a minute can attest to that. As the old Disney song says, “a dream is a wish your heart makes”, but a wish is not enough to build your world view on. If we put all of our energy into trusting that one day, things on this earth will be different, we may lead ourselves down a road of bitter disappointment.
Author Aubrey Sampson says, “Hope, biblically, is not ‘looking on the bright side’…Nearly every time hope is mentioned in scripture, it is always about the object of our hope, Jesus.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” But what is it, biblically, that we can hope for? My HOPE is in the following four verses. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 NIV No matter how my days are playing out, no matter what or who I have or don’t have, my Savior loves me. He saved me because of His mercy. I will forever be grateful that I did not have to earn that salvation, because I never could. And since He has made me right with Him, I have life for all eternity. Heaven. Forever with Him. The Bible says so. God says so. As a result, “Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 NIV