I spoke to a few friends yesterday about hope, more specifically the absence of hope and how to acquire it. The holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years can be very difficult. Memories both joyful and painful are brought to the surface. As a result hopes can be heightened or diminished. For far too many the familiar words of Proverbs 13:12 are painfully true:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…
”Most of us, in the midst of difficult circumstances, could make the following argument “if something, anything good would finally happen, then I would have some hope!” Hmmm… I’m encouraged when good things happen and that encouragement may make me feel better but that’s not hope. Hope doesn’t come from receiving the object of our affection. In order for it to truly be hope, it must be present before there is any evidence of our desire.
My question is… what is hope? Hope means to wait with an eager expectation. Peterson’s The Message interprets hope as being passionately patient. Passionate patience and eager waiting… not words I would usually pair up, however, they suit the paradox that is hope and they do it very well. For me they stir the image of a small child on Christmas morning in those final moments before permission is given to begin opening their presents. Or a first time father pacing intensely as he awaits word of his newborn.
If this is hope, and my well has run dry, how do I get some? You may not like my answer; actually its Saint Paul’s answer from chapter five of his letter to the Romans:
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…”
OK, let’s track this back… I’m tired of disappointment so I want hope. In order to obtain hope I need character. Character is developed by persevering and perseverance is the right response to suffering. Hmmm… Could it be that I am right were I need to be? I pray asking for hope and God gives me suffering to endure that character might be formed, thus producing hope which will not disappoint.
Pondering… pondering… pondering…
Maybe I’ll just start praying for encouragement and blessing instead… :)
God of all hope, give hope to the hopeless today. Encourage and bless us where we are and lead us to our destinies, amen.
© Tom Zawacki 2006
Art Credit: Longing by David Costello