This is Day 12 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
Because you are praying for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is helping me, I know this trouble will bring my freedom. I expect and hope that I will not fail Christ in anything but that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth, whether I live or die.”– Philippians 1:19-20 (NCV)
Hope is not a denial of reality, but a perspective that includes and looks beyond these current and often discouraging circumstances.
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from jail, and it is what some people refer to as the “rejoicing” letter. Let that sink in for just an extra second. Read it again if you want to. Paul was incarcerated in Rome, uncertain whether a death sentence would be handed down by Caesar, and fully aware that his circumstances were somewhere between unfortunate and terminal. Yet, his words were full of joy, gratitude, and most of all, hope. He was confident that despite the reality of current or foreseen circumstances, God was working good in the lives of His kids, and He would continue to do so, for Paul and all of humanity.
I have to get brutally honest for a few minutes. Hope has not come easy recently. That’s tough to admit for this hope-Girl. And it’s not because my personal circumstances have been difficult, although they have been. I think it’s because the state of our nation and world appears to me to be dire. And as Bernice King (the daughter of MLK Jr.) says, to be truthful about those things, hope requires to believe in better. And I’ve found that last part nearly impossible in light of humanity’s endless cycles of hatred and violence. If it’s not the war in Ukraine, it’s the polarized politics and if it’s not racially-motivated mass shootings, it’s climate-change-driven wildfires and it feels like the only way to hold onto hope is the ignorance of burying my head in some hole of sand.
But, listen. Look at my face. I can still believe in better. You can still believe in better. We can still believe.
Why? Because that’s what makes us different. As Christ-followers we, by definition, are believers.
In John 6:29, Jesus says the one work required by God is to believe in the one He sent. My only job, your only job as a Christian is to believe in Jesus. And Jesus redeems anyone, heals anything, makes everything new. He makes things better. You know it’s true. You’ve seen it.
When all we long for is progress, He fulfills that promise. When history keeps repeating and we realize that humanity is still just as broken as it always was, Jesus renews our hope and calms the storms of anxiety. He reveals the micro-miracles in every heart redeeming every evil for good.
I’ve found myself saying this inwardly with a sigh when I see some goodness or loving story: “Oh phew, my hope in humanity is briefly restored.”
But what’s wrong with that sentiment is that my hope never should have been or can ever be in humanity. Humanity will keep disappointing me, if that’s where my hope is.
The truth is that humanity is broken and will be until Jesus comes again. It will not “be okay” and I’m ready to shed the naivete that it will be, this side of heaven. I’m looking at the world with realistic eyes, and hoping in Jesus. He can, does, and will restore us. His Kingdom is here in part and is coming soon in all its fullness. You and me, we’re a part of that Kingdom-come business.
Hope How-to: Be honest with God about your hopelessness today. What or whom do you wish you could put your hope in, but you’re realizing that’s an unworthy vessel for hope? How does that make you feel? What circumstances in your life or society or the world do you wish could be better? What is breaking your heart right now and causing hopeless feelings? Jot those down or speak them aloud to God or a close friend. Don’t be afraid to be fully honest. Shed any ignorance or naivete and admit that your hope is not and cannot be found in the resolution or improvement of those things. Cry out to God for His hope and presence and re-locate your hope if it has been placed in anything but Him alone.
Prayer: Oh Lord, I confess that I’ve struggled to believe for better recently, and maybe my Dear Reader has also struggled. And while I know You’re working in lives and communities and in our world, sometimes the suffering and evil is just too prevalent for my human eyes. I find it hard to focus on Your goodness and miracles and light because the evil is just so dark. Please help us all, Jesus, to realign our hope in You and to see the goodness you give every day in grace upon grace. Guide us into greater depths of trust and show us glimpses of eternity where we won’t have to muddle through the grief of this fallen world. Help my Reader today, Sweet Lord. Show her how to believe in You. Thank you for calling us and making us Believers, and for showing us that belief is all that is required for eternal fountains of hope.
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with love from my Nest,
(photos taken at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego)