Hope, I do not think it means what you think it means.
Hope is one of those words that people, including myself, throw around without a clear understanding of what it means. And let me tell you, it is hard to have hope, if you don’t really know what it looks like.
So here begins my search for a working definition of hope. One that would help me use this virtue in the midst of trying and uncertain times.
Then I found it, Eureka! Paul’s words in the book of Timothy, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (4:10)
We have it, our working definition…
Hope: To strive for difficult things because of God’s help.
So lets break this down.
To hope is NOT a passive act. Too often, when we are given the advice, to have hope, we instead feel helpless, like there is nothing we can do. But in this definition, hope is an action oriented verb. In order to hope, you have to seek out, press toward, and move boldly. Striving holds the connotation of laboring with effort, exhausting your abilities, and running with desperation. This is no wussy, relaxed, or comfortable act.
For difficult things
Oh geez, I am second guessing this definition now. Why would we strive for difficult things? Doesn’t the world teach us to take the path of least resistance, to do what feels good? Well this is not how true hope works. We are promised that hard times will come, (John 16:33) and to hope, is to lean in to the friction, not hide or run away from it. Just as there is no darkness without light, hope is not possible without the difficult and uncomfortable things of this world. We need to face our doubts and the possibility of discomfort in order to hope.
We have a purpose and a reason for leaning in to these difficult things. It is not the foolish, prideful, or rash chasing of wind. We found our hope on something, on someone.
We face difficult things because we have the assure of God’s aid. We bank on his presence in our lives, no matter if we are ‘feeling it’ or not. We do not hope in ourself, or in others alone, but in God the almighty, maker of heaven and earth. The hardest part of this is that God’s help may not always come in the way we think it should. Instead we are called to hope in the fact that God is King and can handle everything that lays in our path.
Take for example, Jesus on the cross. Here Jesus and his disciples faced one of the most difficult things in the world, even at times expressing feelings of abandonment. Looking back, we can see this was a time to hold on hope. Through the power of God, the passion of the cross brings about the salvation of the world. The cross is a picture of hope in action.
In the Lord of the Rings series Tolkien describes hope beautifully. During Sam and Frodo’s horrific journey toward Mordor, they are both weak and filled with memories of despair. Then looking up beyond the current environment of destruction and pain, Sam demonstrates the definition of true hope.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
He faces the difficulties at hand, not because he was physically or emotionally battle ready, but because he saw there was more beyond this passing pain. A forever beauty that provided the motivation to continue on. Tolkien goes on to describe that Sam no longer fought in defiance thinking of himself and Frodo alone, but instead had a glimpse of a bigger picture.
My prayer is that both you and I would, like Sam, have these moments of beauty and perspective whenever we face difficult times. For these moments remind us that pain is not the end, and that hope still remains.
More Thoughts on Hope
‘Put all your hope in Jesus. You yourself have nothing, are worth nothing, can do nothing. He will act, if only you abandon yourself in him.’ – St. Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God
”When we find ourselves in some danger, we must not lose courage, but confide much in the Lord; for where danger is great, great also is the assistance of Him Who is called our Helper in tribulation.” -Saint Ambrose
”The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.” -Saint Alphonsus Liguori
”That fear is useful which is buoyed up by hope and is not weighed down by despair.”
-Saint Isid. Hisp.
“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” -G.K. Chesterton
Finding Hope in Christ the King– The Salt Stories
What ISIS wants– Jon Foreman
I am linking up with Blessed is She today.
To read more about today’s topic of hope check out blessedisshe.net/blog.