And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5, ESV)
We use the word hope in our daily conversations often. I hope I make it to my meeting on time. I hope I make this putt for birdie. I hope he will call me tonight. I hope she likes my gift. I hope I don’t hit it in the water. I hope it doesn’t rain. I hope I don’t get stuck in traffic. I hope you are getting the idea!
But when the rubber meets the road during times of hardship and suffering, do we really understand what it means to hang on to hope when it feels like our only lifeline during a storm?
According to Dictionary.com, hope is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.” It’s easy to embrace this definition when life is on cruise control with no apparent obstacles ahead. Baker’s Evangelical dictionary defines hope as “to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.” The Greek word Paul uses in today’s scripture is elpis and holds the connotation of “confidence, expectation, or to anticipate (usually with pleasure).” The latter two definitions require active engagement of the heart and feels risky. Risky because embracing hope also means welcoming potential disappointment and heartache.
I have been reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans recently and this caught my attention: “And hope does not put us to shame.” As I compared hope (confidence, expectation, to anticipate) and shame (feeling of being exposed or humiliated), I found myself wondering if I really believe this to be true in my own life. Have I leaned into hope only to feel exposed and foolish? Yes, and I have run for the hills. Have I waited with expectation and received what I was longing for? Not always. Is hanging on to hope easy? No!
Paul’s message in Romans 5 is that hope strengthens through struggle and trials. Dan Allender describes the nature of hope as faith for the future. Not in an optimistic point of view, believing in a gospel wrapped in a false reality, but in a way where we hold both death and resurrection life together. Having hope for the future is embracing the both/and. Hope brings agony and waiting, and it also opens our hearts to be as close to laughter as we are to crying in any one moment.
In the waiting, for the unseen to become seen, we will experience suffering [broken relationships, job loss, death, unexpected health changes]. If we stay attuned to hope, our suffering will build perseverance to keep moving forward. The space between suffering and perseverance opens our hearts to groan and engage our heartache with tenderness and truth. As we persevere with confident expectation of our eternal future with Jesus, more of our true character emerges and hope becomes the force that redirects our sails to risk and dream again.
In perfect summary, enjoy this great assurance: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20a NIV).
May 26, 2016
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