Devotion – June 20 – “Biblical Hope”
I was no longer a boy, but not yet a man, when I found myself going through a difficult time in life. Navigating oneself through those High School years, can be tough on a person, especially when the vision of the way he hopes life would be, bumps up against the reality that life isn’t that accommodating.
I sat across from my mother pouring out my pain. She listened with such intensity, that somewhere along the line, she not only heard what I was saying, but she was feeling the pain I was bearing, in her soul, too. When I finished talking, my mother remained silent for what seemed like a long time, she then took hold of the back of my head and pushed it into her shoulder. She held me there and said, “Dan, things will work out. You’ll be fine.”
Her words contradicted what I was feeling, so I asked, “Really?” Her arms wrapped around my boy-man body and she said, “Absolutely.”
Though, feeling foolish for being an almost-man and needing a hug from my “mom,” I didn’t pull away. I needed that hug. I needed that assurance. I stayed there until the certainty of her words had soaked into me. When they had, I slowly moved away from her comforting shoulder and said, “Thank you.” I then made my way back into that sometimes-difficult world, trusting her words implicitly.
My trust in her words ran deep, because in the course of my turbulent years of growing from childhood to adolescence, and now towards manhood, her words had proven valid and true. I had no reason to doubt her now. So, I was able to re-enter the world truly believing that things were going to be okay – not easy, she never promised that, but she promised enough – things would be okay.
My mom taught me what Biblical “hope” is.
The theologian N.T. Wright wrote about Biblical hope and while doing so, showed how different it is from worldly optimism: “Hope and optimism are not the same thing. The optimist looks at the world and feels good about the way it’s going. Things are looking up! Everything is going to be all right! But hope, at least as conceived within the Jewish and then the early Christian world, was quite different. Hope could be, and often was, a dogged and deliberate choice when the world seemed dark. It depended not on a feeling about the way things were or the way they were moving, but on faith, faith in the One God. This God had made the world. This God had called Israel to be his people. The scriptures, not least the Psalms, had made it clear that this God could be trusted to sort things out in the end, to be true to his promises, to vindicate his people at last, even if it had to be on the other side of terrible suffering.”
The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans (8:24-25): “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
What gets us through tough times? Not optimism, because we all know life can be very hard, and sometimes when we envision the future, there isn’t, enough things “looking up” to sustain us. Simple hope isn’t any better. To look into the darkness and make the flippant comment, “Let’s hope for the best” is not a hope, I will trust to follow.
But faith in God’s hope is enough. It gives us that “dogged determination” to keep moving forward even when things are dark. It is knowing (not just being optimistic or superficially hopeful), really knowing, that the God who made the world can be trusted to sort things out for us. We know in the end, even if we have to endure some terrible suffering, we will make it.
~ God bless you all, Dan