Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hope

Hope is the indispensable ingredient in life.

With hope, all things seem bearable. Without hope, no matter if one had the whole world, life seems nothing but a long tunnel of despair that never ends.

What is hope? Merriam Webster defines it as: "to desire with expectation of fulfillment; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence." It that belief that something we want or desire will come to pass.

Note that hope does not incorporate any direct consideration of the odds against it. Hope does not preclude the probability of hard effort to reach the desired end; what it does do is believe that such effort will be eventually rewarded.

Without hope, effort ceases - or at least significant effort. We can go through the motion of our lives, but there is a sense of futility with which we do everything. It's the practical sense that everything we are doing is going to be packed up in a box, eventually to be sent offsite and then destroyed.

The object of hope matters as well. What do we hope in? What do we place our confidence, our desires into? Are we placing them into the appropriate vessel, or are we placing them in things which will fail us?

As a Christian, it is this point where I fail all too often. I place my hope in things of time - other people meeting my needs, a fulfilling career, a comfortable life, a meaningful existence. Not that there's anything wrong per se with these things; it's when I put my hope in these things, rather than the One who provides these things, that I ultimately fail.

And so it comes to focus. Where am I focusing my own hope? Is it on the things that will fail - those "broken reeds of Egypt" that eventually will not be able to bear the weight, nor meet the confidence I am placing in them? Or is it God, the One who Himself is hope?

But I must be careful. In placing my confidence in God, I need to be wary of the fact that my hopes are not the same as hope. My hopes are often desires; His hope is purification, salvation, and glorifying His name. In putting my hope in Him, I must needs hold all other things with a loose hand, lest in my need to have hope, I hold to the gifts rather than the Giver.

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