By Lynne Baab–
“Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness.”—Desmond Tutu
I want to tell you about my decade-long journey of trying to figure out what hope is and how to choose it.
In 2010, I had a weird physical ailment. My left foot was cold all the time, and my energy was low. Over the course of the year, my foot got colder and my energy dropped lower. In the second half of the year, I cut back my work hours and began medical testing. The medical testing dragged on for many months, and the neurologist I was seeing couldn’t find anything wrong.
On March 5, 2011, some elders from church came over to pray for me. Within days, my energy started coming back and my foot stopped being cold. This was the only medical miracle I have ever personally experienced. What a gift.
I was very grateful for God’s miraculous healing, but I was numb and a bit raw from months of not feeling well. It was as if all of my sense of hope was stripped away. So I decided to focus on hope for the remainder of the year.
I bought myself a ring with anchors on it. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). I wore the ring throughout 2011, and when I looked at it, I pondered what exactly hope is. I began noticing the word “hope” all over the place, in poems, hymns and people’s spoken and written words. Emily Dickinson’s words about hope are often quoted:
Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.
In those months of recovery from my mysterious illness, there was nothing with feathers perching on my soul. I just couldn’t get a hold of hope.
The months went by, the numbness and rawness receded, and slowly but surely I began to feel some flickers of hope again. I kept thinking about a praise song, “In Christ alone, my hope is found,” and a line in an old hymn (a hymn that I never liked), “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” By the end of 2011, I decided that my hope is in Christ, and that’s really all I can say about it.
However, I wondered if I was still a little bit hope impaired, so I kept wearing the ring with anchors on it. I read words like these of Desmond Tutu: “I am a prisoner of hope. Yes, many awful things happen in the world. But many good things have happened and are happening.” I found myself wondering what it would be like to feel like a prisoner of hope.
A few years later I was still pondering what exactly hope is. I was also feeling a fair amount of hopelessness because of so many painful things happening around the world. I decided to do a survey of the 165 verses in the Bible about hope. I learned that Bishop Tutu’s words about being a “prisoner of hope” are a quotation from Zechariah 9:12. I found that rooting my sense of hope simply in Christ has biblical precedent. The psalmist writes, “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth” (Psalm 71:5). Paul calls Jesus “our hope” in 1 Timothy 1:1.
I found numerous verses that imply that hope is a choice. We choose where we will set our hope.
“We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people” (1 Timothy 4:10).
“Set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed” (1 Peter 1.13).
“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11, 12).
Several psalms link hope with God’s love and God’s word:
Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love. . . .
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 18, 22
My soul languishes for your salvation;
I hope in your word. . . .
You are my hiding-place and my shield;
I hope in your word (Psalm 119: 81, 114)
The Bible has a lot more to say about hope. I love Colossians 1, a chapter that mentions hope three times.
Since 2011, while I’ve been pondering hope, I think I’ve done one thing wrong and one thing right. I have felt like something is wrong with me because I still feel hopeless more often than I want to. I regret that self-criticism. But even with moments of hopelessness, I have definitely tried to live in God’s love, faithful to God’s word. From the scriptures I looked up, it sounds like I have been setting my hope on God, without naming my actions that way.
So many of the Christian spiritual practices described on the Godspace blog help us to live in God’s love, faithful to God’s word, which I have come to believe is the foundation – perhaps even the essence – of hoping in God.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). As we enter 2020, a new year and a new decade, I definitely want to join with other Christians in affirming “our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people” (1 Timothy 4:10).