Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is within you. — 1 Peter: 3:15b
“I feel so much better since I gave up hope.”
Startled, I almost shuddered at those words spoken by a friend and accompanied by a bitter laugh.
I refrained from trying to talk him out of such blatant cynicism, but only because I know the way it feels to look forward to something, only to have the hopes and schemes I had cherished and worked for fall apart.
I know what it is like to try to see the bright side of life, only to have my vision obscured by darker clouds. I know how it feels to have someone tell me, “Cheer up!” when my heart is so heavy I think it might fall out of my body. I’ve tried putting on a happy face when I am so worried about something that the demand to stop worrying and pretend something I don’t feel seems like mockery.
Working hard to make my dream come true, I understand the frustration of watching them drift into the horizon, chased by forces beyond my control.
The truth is that giving up hope may be the only way some of us can survive, for sometimes we just wear out. Sometimes we just can’t tolerate one more letdown, another failure, betrayal or crushed dream. Giving up hope feels like the better alternative, a relief in the face of reality. After giving up hope like my friend, maybe you may feel better because you aren’t waiting for something good to happen.
And yet, there is something in me that still wants to believe that there is “a reason for the hope that is within me.”
When attempting to talk about hope, we are caught in the same bind a when we try to talk about love. There are so many facets to hope and love, but maybe we trivialize hope when what we really mean is that we are wishing. Perhaps we should differentiate between hoping and wishing.
Here is what I believe now about hope: I have come to understand that hope is a world-view, a way of looking at the world.
Hope is a reflection of our God-image.
Hope is an orientation in life – a position we take.
Most of all, hope is the very life energy, the lifeforce, the dunamis (power) of God within us.
If I differentiate between hope and faith, it seems to me is that hope is the inner energy and faith is the action, and as I see it, love is the force that motivates
both hope and faith is love. I take seriously the memory verse I learned as a child from 1 John: God is love, and that is the only definition of God I need.
But what about losing hope…?
I really don’t like giving up — on a person, a project or my favorite fantasy of how the world should be.
<u experience is that we often lose hope because we have put our hope in external happenings or objects or people. Each of those can become an idol for us, if we try to make them the source of our hope. We lose hope when we place our hope in outcomes, some as trivial as “I hope I get a good parking spot” and others as life-wrenching as “I hope my child (spouse, friend, parent relative) gets well.”
We lose hope when we place our hope for our happiness in other people and expect them to do for us what only God can do or what we can and should do for ourselves.
We lose hope when we expect another person to be the one and only person who can make us happy, save us or accomplish whatever it is that we can’t do for ourselves. The psalmist counsels us in Psalm 118:8, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men (or women), It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Any human being who promises that he or she is the only one who can do for us what we crave or need is setting himself up on a pedestal made of clay, and any one of us who believes that promise is going to be disappointed when the pedestal crumbles.
The more we look to an external object or person to make us happy, the more we tend to lose hope.
The counsel of St. Augustine from the fourth century is helpful: God, you have made us for yourself… Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.
Attributed to Pascal, French scientist and philosopher, is this counsel: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every an which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator….”
But, how is it even possible to keep hope alive when there are so many depressing things out there?
The basic principle that I have learned in asking, seeking and knocking on the doors of people wiser than I am is consistent, and it is this: Hope is the spiritual gift of God. It is both the result of our faith in God and the cause of our longing for God. God is the Source of Paul’s Big Three in 1 Corinthians 13, faith, hope and love. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is within, and I understand that kingdom to be the kingdom of Love. Accessing the inner kingdom is the challenge, but it may be as natural as breathing, once you accept the reality of the inner kingdom.
(Check out Luke 17:20-21…if you doubt what I write.)
It’s a mystery, this kingdom within, isn’t it? –It begins with accepting and consenting to the possibility and the reality of the presence and action of God within.
How about you? To what persons, activities or substances have you looked to give you hope?
How have you tried to stir up hope by your own will power?
What does it mean to you to “seek the kingdom of God”, if that kingdom is within?
Until next time…..peace and hope to you —