Hope

I first wrote this in 2011, just after my family had received shattering and life-changing news.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Faith. Today I find my thoughts dwelling on Hope.

According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, Hope is one of the three things that is eternal, the other 2 being Faith and Love.

The last month, for reasons I’ll not go into right now, has been one of te hardest of my life. Harder than my brother’s death. Harder than my father’s cancer and death.

The thing that has kept me moving is Hope. It’s fragile. It’s sometimes just out of reach. It gets put off.

We all live in a constant state of hope. We hope we’ll get the promotion, win the lottery, get the girl. These little hopes keep us moving. Then there’s the bigger ones. We hope the test result will be positive, or negative, or neutral. We hope it was a mistake. We hope it wasn’t. (whatever “it” is!)

But these hopes are not exactly what was meant. The “Hope” Paul speaks of is Eternity. But it’s not the only time Hope is referred to in the Bible. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. And so often we have to live with a deferred hope.

This 21st Century is filled with deferred hope. It’s the trademark of modern life. Hardly surprising then that there are more people diagnosed as depressed now than at any time in history, and medications to counter the effects of depression are handed out to children like candy.

Now I’m not opposed to antidepressants. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve needed them in the past. I used them for over 2 years to help me get through a deep depression a few years ago, and my friends who got round me and helped me through that time can testify to the state I was in. And to my attitude to these meds before and after I had to take them.

But this isn’t about medication. It’s about Hope.

Hope when I was depressed, was a continually elusive phenomenon. Always just out of reach, and always “tomorrow”. It was soul destroying. I struggled with suicidal thoughts (and a few tries) and self-harming when the emotion was too strong. The hope I had was that the pain would stop.

Christ suffered pain and emotional torment in the Garden before the crucifixion. He sweated blood and cried out to God to let the cup pass from Him. Ultimately He regained His Hope by handing His despair over to His Father. It took me several years to be able to do the same. Jesus’ victory may have been finalised on the Cross, but the greatest battle, arguably, took place in Gethsemane.

And Hope won out.

Jesus’ human nature didn’t want to be crucified. Who would? His human hope was the passing of the cup. His Godly Hope was us. We were the Joy set before Him. Our salvation and restoration of relationship was His Hope.

We must lean on God, accept His Spirit as the Comforter, and look to His Hope for our lives. We must live as though now is the only moment we have, because it is. We are only guaranteed this heartbeat. But Hope for our Eternal Future is what we must hold on to.

Hope is sometimes all we have. Paul and Silas hoped God would move in the Jail Cell. Paul chose to stay in this world when he wanted to go to the next for our benefit, but that too was a hope. At times all the apostles had was the hope of what would come in the next world, and it gave them peace in this.

“Let not your hearts be troubled” is a recurring theme in John 14, 15 and 16. Jesus repeatedly said to the disciples not to be troubled. Then He went out and was crucified. The disciples temporarily lost hope because they missed what He had told them. To avoid anyone else having to go through that John wrote a detailed account of what Jesus taught them that night.

He pointed out how important perspective is. Hope is based on perspective. We cannot be hopeful if our perspective is wrong.

Hope is eternal. It is tied to eternity. But it is easily overthrown in this world. The Enemy is an opportunist, and since Hope leads us into Faith and Love, he seeks to destroy it.

Guard your hearts, for they are the wellspring of life we are told be the writer of Proverbs – possibly Solomon. Hope feeds that spring. God speaks to us through the Heart, and we must guard it. Hope gives us life.

Hope made us ask Jesus in in the first place.

Guard your heart. It’s fragile. But strong when it’s filled with God’s Hope.

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