As written for the Life in Practice Blog.
When we think about hope, it can feel like this intangible figment of our imagination that is sometimes hard to grasp. Where does hope come from, and what’s the point of hoping when things look so bleak and unchanging?
The dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Everyone has at least one thing that we are expecting or desiring. Like the persistent widow in Luke 18, we can continuously cry out to God for freedom, vindication, change, or our deepest heart’s desire. It took courage for her to keep showing up and pleading her case. It takes courage to hope that God’s promises are true, and God will bring justice, fight for us, and protect us. Unlike the unjust judge in the parable, God is the righteous One who never grows tired or weary of His children. God may not move or respond at the time we want Him to, the vindication may not even come in our generation, but Compassion gave us Emmanuel – God with us, Jesus – who suffers with us, empathizes in every way, and is the Hope filled anchor to our souls. The presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us.
As we enter into this Advent season and reflect in anticipation on the coming and birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, hope is the substance that enables us to unwaveringly wait for the second coming of Christ. Hope starts by gratefully looking back, reflecting, and remembering God’s faithfulness and presence, in spite of every experience. Then looking forward in anticipation for all the times and ways God will show up in the future. Hope reminds us to keep believing that God is with us in the midst of pain, suffering, trials, and injustice. Hope trusts that God is our avenger and will not allow injustices to go on forever. Hope is the fuel that keeps us living, getting back up, and persevering, especially in the midst of unprecedented chaos. Isaiah 64:4 reminds us that “from ages past, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.” Beloved, wait for God! He hears you and sees you, and He who promised is faithful (Hebrew 10:23)!
And as we wait, anticipating the day where there will be no more tears or sorrow, we too can be vessels of hope to others. We can participate in the ever-coming kingdom of God by caring for the families who’ve suffered loss; or by feeding, clothing and housing the homeless, meeting the needs of widows and single parents, as well as children in foster care, or those who are lonely in our communities. As convicted, we can contribute to those already doing this work, and give them times of respite. Or go even further by petitioning and fighting for changes to the systems that keep the housing costs, adoption costs, and medical costs at staggering rates. All these actions require courage and hope as well.
So, as we look back in reflection and gratitude at God’s presence in our lives, and as we look forward in anticipation to God’s justice and vindication, let us courageously dare to hope and be vessels of hope!