I recently read a post written from a psychological perspective that described hope as a “life force” that gives us something to live for. That sounds a lot more like Star Wars than an actual reason for hope.
So then, what is hope?
Hope can be defined and described in many ways:
- Hope is about being more engaged than being apathetic.
- Hope is a reasonable chance or ability to reach our hopes and dreams.
- Hope is expecting that events will turn out for the best.
- Hope is a reason for “being.” It is that something that is bigger than ourselves.
- From a faith-based view, hope is the confident expectation that God will do what God says he will do.
All of those things are a part of what we probably bundle together in our lives and call hope. However, we might notice hope the most when we think we are losing it.]
So, have you ever lost hope in one of these ways?
- Situations and circumstances are piling up around you and you don’t easily see a way out. Is that when you lose hope?
- You’ve just received the diagnosis that you didn’t want to hear from the doctor. Or, you’re living with an illness that affects your ability to see light and hope in the world around you. Is that when you lose hope?
- Is it the story behind your life? Maybe you’re really lived through some rough stuff between the time you were born and now. Maybe you’re living in it right now. Is that when you start to feel hope slipping away?
- Have you ever had an expectation of something such as life, relationships, school, work, etc. and you’ve found there is a tremendous gap between reality and your expectation of the situation? Is that the place where you lose hope?
- How about the places where you feel used, used up, burnt out? Is that the place where you lose hope?
- Or, how about the place where your belief has been shattered or rocked by something you have experienced? Is that when you lose hope?
One of the places many people will struggle with hope is in the face of grief. Sometimes, we view grief as what comes when we lose someone we love, when someone dies. That is definitely true. Grief, however, comes with any change and lose in life. We grieve death, but we also grieve changes in and loses of jobs, moving away from one home to another, the failure of friendships and relationships, the ups and downs that we perceive in our relationship with God.
Our grief can bring us to a place of feeling hopeless. Or, at least, it places a filter over the hope we see around us.
In the Bible’s 1 Thessalonians, Paul is writing to a group of churches and he is addressing this issue of grieving and hopelessness. Specifically, he is writing about the image of losing hope when we experience death and loss. Here is what he has to say, beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:13:
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
Paul lays out a contrast for us. There are two ways to view death and loss. One way is to view in a place of seeing no hope, that all is lost, that nothing will ever be this way again. Another way, what we could infer from his words as an “informed” approach, is to see death and loss in light of something much bigger. Seeing something bigger gives us a source of hope even in the darkest of places.
What is that source of something bigger? Well, here’s how Paul continues to describe it:
14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Ultimately, Paul pins this source of hope to the biggest message the early church was sharing with the world. Hope is rooted in the resurrection of Christ.
It’s not rooted in just the cross. Anyone can die for someone else. The source of hope, however, is what happens after the cross. Jesus did what no one else has done before. Three days later, he gets back up again. The tomb is empty. The world is changed. The darkest day in human history (Good Friday) is transformed into the light and world-changing day of resurrection (Easter). The biggest source of hopelessness (death) is defeated by the greatest source of life (God).
Hope gives us a beacon of light in the darkness so that we can move to a brighter future.
Yes, there is something bigger than what we experience that gives us hope. And, for Paul, that hope is tied directly to the resurrection of Christ.
So how do we take this and apply it in the times we feel hopelessness, when we feel as if we lost hope:
- Remind ourselves that there is something bigger and that is Jesus. Hopelessness, despair, sadness, grief, etc., trick the mind into believing that this is it, that there is no more. Reminding ourselves that there is something bigger is a way to directly confront those feelings. Ultimately in faith, we place that source of hope and something bigger in Jesus.
- Transform hopelessness with resurrection. Writer Frederick Buechner is quoted as saying it this way, “Resurrections means that the worst thing is never, ever the last thing.” Resurrection is the absolutely undescribable and unimaginable way that God directly hits the hopelessness of this world head on. Resurrection is God’s way of getting the last word in everything. No problem that we face is bigger than the resurrection of Christ. Admittedly, there are times when it has been a struggle to see the resurrection of Christ as it is displayed in the lives of others. But, that is not the source of resurrection. It is bigger than all of us hypocrites who populate churches on Sunday mornings. Resurrection belongs to God. And, now I’m feeling pretty hopeful again.
- Put yourself around encouraging people. There’s probably no greater lesson that I’m learning in my life than this one. When you are in a place of feeling hopeless, discouraging people are the equivalent of throwing a drowning person a rock. Encouraging people are realistic people who speak truth in love. Encouraging people are able to hold onto the perspective that God is bigger even when you can’t. Encouraging people have the ablity to help a hopeless person see that God never left, that resurrection is bigger than anything and that there is always going to be lightness on the other side of darkness. When you start to experience that feeling of hopelessness, immediately seek out the encouraging people in your life and path.
If your struggle today is that you are losing hope, then it is time to directly confront the issue in your life. In the moment, in the short term, the hurt and pain of life can seem overwhelming. In the short term, you might want to give up and trade the hope of tomorrow for the escape of today. Don’t. Period.
Hope, however, is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. Hope gives us a beacon of light in the darkness so that we can move to a brighter future.
Hope gives us the confident ability to know that God will do what God says he will do.
Do you need to find your hope again?
ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it. You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at email@example.com or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.