“Hope for hope’s sake, hope as tautology, hope because hope, hope because ‘I said so,’ is the enemy of intelligence.” (Ta Nehisi Coats, “Hope and the Artist”)
Hope is not a wispy dandelion. Hope is one of those gnarled, thick, Giant Sequoias that you can’t fit your arms around, no matter how tightly you hug it. As I’ve been reflecting on hope, I want to share a couple of observations on how hope works—or how hope moves, if you will.
Hope humbles and hurts.
Hope is humbling. Hope acknowledges that there is something that you need that you don’t currently have. It’s an acknowledgement of a lack. Paul says in Romans 8, “Who hopes for what he already has?” Answer: no one. If you already have it, it’s not hope. It’s called having it.
Hope hurts. It’s hard to say that you desire something because intrinsically wrapped up in that desire is the possibility of that desire not being satisfied. And if it’s not, then what? You can’t help but imagine what will happen if your proposal is rejected or if your dream job never calls for an interview. And in the imagining, the hurt begins. This prospective pain makes hope a dicey proposition.
But this isn't the whole story.
Hope hungers and heals.
Hope also drives us; it makes us hunger. What you hope for defines your future like nothing else. I see this in my relationships and in the clients we serve at the Clinic. If you come from material poverty, you hope and hunger for enough. If you come from relational poverty, you hope and hunger for people to love and to love you in return.
Such adversity shapes our character and, thus, our future. This is how Paul talks about adversity when he tells his readers to rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, which produces character, and then character produces hope. (Romans 5:24-25)
Hope also heals because it is defined by the thing hoped in and hoped for. If your hope is in something stable and sure, then what you hope for will come to pass. For Christians, we hope in a Savior who died and rose from the dead. Therefore, what we hope for—a new heaven, a new earth, the kingdom of God fully present—will surely happen. This hope heals us, and transforms us into healers.
This December on the blog, we will debut a video project that highlights those who are experiencing homelessness here in Indianapolis and a few of the organizations working alongside us to stem the tide. This is dark stuff. But the people on the frontlines are being healed by the hope of a Savior who has promised to redeem us and this world. Our hope is secure.
May your hope, which humbles, hurts, hungers, and heals, be in Christ this Christmas. And may you be healed and heal as you live into that hope.
Until justice and peace embrace,