Hope: A Heart Condition

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It is one of the peculiar traits of the human heart to hope. Time after time throughout history, human beings have rallied – independently and collectively – to overcome overwhelming obstacles – often driven by little more than a glimmer of hope, a dream, a desire. The American civil rights movement comes to mind. The many wars and the hundreds of battles fought in them. The holocaust. Space exploration. Another try at trusting someone with your heart.

Hopes, dreams, and desires are intangible. Just ideas that something will turn out OK. Someday. Somehow. Eventually. Hope is dependent on the condition of our heart.

In the words of Jesus to “do not fear”, “have no fear”, “fear not” and “do not be afraid” I find an unspoken-yet-positive instruction: hope. We are told not to fear because fear kills hope, and we Christians have plenty of reasons to hope God will take care of us, now and forever. Choosing to hope instead of nurture negative ideas of the future is an act of obedience grounded in faith that God will take care of… (fill in the blank).

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I thrive when I have hope. The absence of hope is demoralizing, depressing, and defeating. Yet hope doesn’t exist for its own sake. Hope is good, and it can help sustain us during times of trial and tragedy. But it isn’t its own end. Hope is an arrow flying toward a target, a desired result.

This is where I go off track. In many cases, I think I know what the target is. A new job. A completed home improvement project. A successful commute to work. A relationship. Many times those things do become reality. But I usually find something else has transpired in the journey to the target; something internal. Something in my soul.

The Moses that led the Israelites to the edge of the promised land was not the same as the stuttering, anxiety-filled Moses at the burning bush. Somewhere along the journey Moses was transformed from a man of uncertainty to a man of great hope. He learned to trust in God and not himself.

On that first Easter, the disciples were transformed from disheartened and fearful people to hopeful and brave humans, willing to advance the kingdom in the face of persecution and death. They learned to trust in God and not themselves.

In 2012 I stood in front of the congregation of my church and told my life story: the good, the bad, and the ugly. That’s part of our baptism ritual: tell your story then get dunked. It was the first time I told the story to people outside of my familiar 12-step recovery crowd. I was filled with anxiety; visibly trembling and shaking. The cold water didn’t help either. These days I tell my story with a casual calm I could never have anticipated. Somewhere along the way I was transformed from a man full of anxiety into a man with hope. Well, mostly. I am still learning to trust in God and not myself. That’s hope.

There are so many things in which we have no choice: how tall we will be when we grow up, the color of our eyes or skin, when and how we will die, whether the currency value goes up or down, if it will rain today, will the Dallas Cowboys ever win another Superbowl.

We do get to choose, moment by moment, whether we will embrace fear or hope. Will we trust in God, or in ourselves?

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25 ESV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 ESV

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 NKJ

We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, but especially of those who have faith. That’s why we work and struggle so hard.  1 Timothy 4:10 CEB

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