Hope. An expectation of or desire for something good to happen in the future.
At some point last month, I sat among the women of our community group and couldn't think of a single prayer request to offer, even though I felt adrift in a sea of chaos. I couldn't put my feelings into words until later when a friend from that group asked me how I was doing, the real question, not just the passing courtesy. It was a hard question to answer. Luckily it was a friend who expected a real answer, and I said, "honestly, the best news I could get right now would be that I had a terminal illness or that Jesus was coming back tomorrow." Like the best of friends, she wasn't embarassed by the weightiness of my confession, and so we embarked on a short conversation about hope that stirred new thoughts and feelings to the surface.
I have been aware for some time of this overwhelming desire to be with Jesus, not because I'm particularly holy, but rather because I have no reasonable hope that my life here will get better before then. Yet I have also felt this desire to be peculiarly sinful because it is a desire borne from weariness rather than love, a desire more focused on squirming out of responsibility rather than following Christ. I suspect that anyone who has also seen her future drastically redefined by the illness or death of a family member might feel this way.
So I find myself on a prayer journey towards hope. At a funeral recently, so many strange phrases were thrown out about deceased loved ones, that I began to realize that people, myself included, have no idea what the Bible says about death, resurrection, heaven, and the new creation. My heart has always been stirred by passages like Isaiah 54 and Revelations 21 that speak of creation being made new and whole again. Yet I find myself stumped at how this future changes my life today.
So I picked up a book called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. It's been sitting around for a couple months, and the Spirit finally pressed it on my heart. In grand Eeyore fashion, I picked it up and said to myself, "Well, maybe it'll do some sort of good because, after all, it does have the word hope in the title." Big pathetic sigh.
I hesitate to quote the book because I am pretty sure I haven't got to the really good part yet. I'm still in the opening chapters, where I'm only underlining about half the sentences. But I will leave you with this tidbit:
Hope, for the Christian, is not wishful thinking or mere blind optimism. It is a mode of knowing, a mode within which new things are possible, options are not shut down, new creation can happen.I'm learning that God is transitioning my hope from a small, selfish desire for things to work out for my good in this world to a broader way of seeing the story of Christ unfolding in his new creation. That maybe he wants to transform not only my actions, but the way I see his story unfold in the world.