We live in a cultural moment that seems hopeless. We do not yet have the benefit of hindsight or the perspective that time brings to truly understand the global and personal impact of the Covid pandemic as it continues.
Hope is something we could use.
However, it seems any mention of a better tomorrow is quickly met with dismissals about politicizing the situation, ignoring science or being heartless to the hurting. Can no one talk of a better tomorrow? What is hope look like today? How do we maintain hope in the midst of a seemingly overwhelming reality? The emotional drain and havoc caused to mental health is well attested to and we could all use relief.
Hope is a powerful motivator. It can be referenced flippantly as in, “I hope I find a parking spot” or more genuinely, “I hope they get better.” As we clarify definitions it is important to see how the foundation of this kind of hope is often nothing more than an optimistic outlook. And certainly, we have all experienced a bit of self-fulling prophecy that can float us for a while. But being genuine is not a solid foundation for lasting hope. We can genuinely rest our hope on the wrong foundation and we will be sorely disappointed. In the middle of a stretched-out pandemic or long personal struggle we need something more deeply satisfying than naïve optimism or an ability to be genuine. We need hope with more substance than wishful thinking.
What does a gritty hope with substance look like? Paul wrote in the first century to the church at Rome that, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Hope is confidence that despite what I experience now in difficulty that God is working to bring me through. Through it, not around or out of. Instead of a wishful escape we are confronted with the reality of how difficult life is and the promise that Jesus brings satisfying hope as our lives stay near him through mess.
Hope is the result of perseverance through hard times that refines one’s character.
Hopeful language finds itself in our conversations, art, and prayers. Yet it is rarer to find people who through perseverance and shaping of their character have become people of hope. People whose outlook is honest with the reality of the world, empathetic with others pain and optimistic about tomorrow. In the fullest sense of the word, filled with hope. I want that kind of gritty hope that stands as a beacon of peace in the midst of chaos and that is a calming presence in my neighborhood.
Q. When I desire to feel hope, what am I actually grasping for? Control? Comfort?
Q. How does hope shaped over time differ from wishful thinking?