This is the first week Advent the Christian calendar. On Sunday we lit the the Hope candle and throughout this week, we focus on the hope the coming of the Christ child brings to us and to the world.
Advent 2020 is arriving in a desert thirsting for hope.
So many of us have been—and continue to be—battered by this year. The need for a light to appear at the end of this long dark tunnel is real.
Certainly, there have been times during this dark year when I have felt helpless:
Helpless to protect my children from the stress and isolation of quarantine.
Helpless to keep my family safe.
Helpless to bring peace in my community.
Helpless in the face of injustice.
Even when I’ve socked in by the heavy fog of helplessness, I’ve never lost hope that everything will work its way out in its own way. I just need to take the next right step even though I can barely see past that.
We are hardwired for hope
“To live without hope is to cease to live.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky got it right. Hope, real hope, not wishes and dreams, is powerful.
Do live like we believe that? We use the word a lot: I hope I’ll get to see you soon. I hope the kids will be able to return to school in the New Year. I hope the vaccine works. I hope you feel better. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.
We tend to say it when something feels just out of our grasp or control. And so, we weakly hope for something better, something we’re not sure will really happen, something else other than what we have.
We’ve stripped hope of its power so that it’s nothing more than a want or a wish.
Hope that does not disappoint
I was listening to a meditation on hope during my walk the other day and I heard Romans 5:3–5:
. . . but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (NASB)
The phrase, “hope does not disappoint” kept ringing in my brain. I have heard this passage a million billion times. It’s been a memory verse at multiple points of my life. I KNOW this, but on this day, it was a fresh reminder that my hope had been misplaced. I was settling for a watered-down version of hope that was actually a wish in disguise.
The hope that does not disappoint is powerful. It’s what keeps people going through the darkest of times. It is tied to the eternal truth of God’s goodness, which anchors us through all kinds of storms because hope does not disappoint.
Belief in this kind of hope is so much more than a shoulder shrug, “I hope it’ll happen.” This kind of hope is not tossed around, “I hope tomorrow will be better.” These are wishes and wants.
Hope is what you turn to when things get hard. It is your source so that you can keep going when the gas runs out. Where do you find your drive to press on despite hardship? When the fog of helplessness is thick and heavy, what allows you to believe it will not be there always? What propels you to take the next step even when you can’t fully see where you’re going? Is it a hope in something that might be or in something that is? The latter is the hope that does not disappoint.