I pray also that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." -Ephesians 1:18
When you think about hope, what comes to mind? Honestly, I haven't had a lot of patience for hope, lately. If you've ever tried to conceive a baby without success, you know what hope feels like, and you also know how it feels when that hope comes to nothing, month after month.
I went to a retreat recently, and I've been working through a lot of the things that I learned. You know how sometimes, God just sort of whaps you over the head with something? That was this retreat for me. This is some stuff I'm working through- it's not perfect, and I'm definitely not living it out as well as I should. This post is really a reminder for me.
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We're surrounded by the word "hope."
Campaigns have used it as a promise, a theme, a catch phrase. It's commonly used to be encouraging- "There is always hope" is one of those phrases that's used a ton on social media and memes and all kinds of things. "I Hope..." is the title of many songs. In fact, that's one of the ways we use it most.
"I hope he calls." "I hope I make the basketball team." "I hope I pass my LSAT." "I hope her chemo shrinks the tumor." "I hope this wrinkle cream works." "I hope this is the month I get those two pink lines."
From the big things to the little things, we hope.
In Ephesians, Paul tells us that God has called us to hope. What does that even mean?
Well, I think an important distinction needs to be made here.
See, there are two different definitions for the word, "hope."
The first is the way the word defines hope.: the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen : a feeling that something good will happen or be true, the chance that something good will happen
While there isn't necessarily anything wrong with "worldly" hope, it does present us with some problems.
It's not certain. There's a chance, but no guarantee.
If I'm hoping to get that check in the mail and I don't, I'm disappointed.
If I hope that a loved one will beat cancer and she doesn't, it's more than disappointment. I'm being beaten against the rocks of my hope, crushed, torn apart.
Worldly hope has the very real possibility of letting us down, and when it does, we can be devastated.
This type of hope also makes us hope in something fleeting or out of our control. Putting my hope in this particular wrinkle cream may very well be misguided. I might have hope that my husband brings me flowers, but he's human- and humans mess up and disappoint us. I might study very hard for a test, hoping that I pass, but my trust is really in my own intellect, or maybe even my flash cards!
Trusting in something fallible makes us vulnerable to disappointment, as well.
Surely, that's not the hope Paul is talking about here. God wouldn't call us to to be let down and devastated, or to put our trust in the wavering things of this world. Why would He want us to know that kind of hope?
The Bible defines hope very differently.
:to expect with confidence, expectation of fulfillment or success, to place trust in the promise of a future event, to anticipate with certainty
As Christians, we hope in something we know. As the saying goes, "We've read the end of the story, and we know who wins."
We have a future in heaven, through the blood of Christ. We trust in that, we put our hope in that. We know that the God who loves us works all things for our good. That's hope. That's our focus.
But oh, my goodness, that is hard.
How do we go about living a life filled with Biblical hope? Honestly, I am truly struggling with this. These are the two things I've been focusing on recently.
Remember and Remind
"This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
For his compassions never fail, they are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion;
Therefore, I will wait for him.' " -Lamentations 3:21-24
It may be an event in our own life- an answered prayer, an event (that seemed like a total mess at the time) where you can see God's leading now, a miracle...
It may be a Biblical event, the life of a founder of the Church, or even reflecting on the cross.
Remember God's faithfulness to you, and remind yourself that God is your portion.
"...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." - Romans 5:2-7
Rejoicing in suffering seems totally counter intuitive, doesn't it? Trusting that God will produce good things in our lives through suffering will provide hope for the future. And isn't it amazing what it says here? Hope does not disappoint us- because God has poured his love into our hearts! God obviously knows what's best for me- He made me, after all. And I know that God loves me. I have to trust in that. I have my hope in that.
That's the hope to which He's called me- to the hope of my salvation through the death of Christ, to the assurance that what He's promised will be fulfilled, the trust in His goodness and mercy towards a sinner like me.