Why pay attention to hope? I've been wondering this for several months, ever since I had an invitation to speak at a Christmas event on the topic of hope and anticipation. Hope really hadn't been on my radar, so to speak, for a long time. Perhaps it was because I had been working very hard during the past several years on being present. As a Myers-Briggs ENTP, I'm easily captivated by possibilities - naturally drawn to hope. But this future-bent way of looking at things kept me from ever enjoying the today that was yesterday's tomorrow. And so began a long season of letting the future fade and training my focus on the here and now.
Hope is different from its cousin, faith. The writer of Hebrews says that "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (9:1) Faith turns something that is not seen into bedrock reality. It grounds us. As a Christian, I have faith in a God of love. This loving God, who exists as strongly in my mind as the chair I'm sitting on, is also, by faith, a God of infinite power and wisdom. By faith, I believe that this God is constantly providing everything that I will need to live a life that is good and meaningful, full of joy and connection through the Spirit of love.
Faith is a given. I can take it to the bank. But hope is a future word. Hope brings me into the area of things which are not yet, things which are good, but are still to be decided. Hope involves me as well as God. Despair, or the absence of hope, drains me of energy. It chills my soul, and paralyzes my ability to imagine anything good might happen. It leads to death. Hope, on the other hand, opens me up to possibilities. If I believe that God is truly good and that boundless power is linked to that goodness, then I am energized to move forward, emboldened to grasp onto life.
Earlier in Hebrews, the writer encourages his readers to not be discouraged in their efforts to follow God. Instead, he urges them to think of hope as an "anchor for their soul." My husband, Dan, has often illustrated this verse by an experience that he had while living in the Bahamas. While out on ocean one day, the motor on their boat stopped, causing initial alarm. But he remembered a strategy that he'd heard about, and began casting his anchor in the direction where he wanted to head, and then winching the boat over to the anchor. Then he'd toss again. It took a long time and plenty of muscle power, but in the end, he realized his hope of making it to shore.
We are currently in a situation that requires hope. There is a temptation to give in to fear, which can lead to flailing about or a sense of impending doom. But we don't have to give in to temptation. Now is the time for both faith and hope. Faith grounds us by assuring us that God is loving and powerful, that the future is secure. Hope grabs onto that faith and energizes us to throw out the anchor toward what is yet to come.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on Flickr