Hope is a powerful word. You may have used it, like me, once or twice in the past week. You may have said, “I hope I can meet my bills this month,” or “I hope I can see that concert,” or “I hope you remembered to take out the trash!” Hope can be a desire, a wish, or an expectation that something good lies ahead.
[image by anna siran photography]
But is there more to Hope than simply longing for our desires, wishes, or expectations to materialize? Something inside of us tells us that Hope is as necessary to our lives as food or water. Not only is it necessary – it is powerful medicine for the soul.
We begin to get a glimpse into the basic necessity of Hope by analyzing what happens in peoples’ lives when they have it – and what happens in peoples’ lives when they don’t.
1. Hope Can Move Us To Change Ourselves
Hope, stirred within us, can move us to change ourselves.
In just the right doses, Hope can literally alter our minds, our attitudes, and our actions. Science tells us that Hope even alters our physical bodies. One minute we are stuck thinking one way, spiraling recklessly down into our self-carved pit of fear. Then, in the very next moment, a word of Hope can make us feel alive, refocused, brave, encouraged – ready to cut our way through a black forest of doubt to reach a bright, new destination.
Without hope, we know what happens from raw experience. People resign themselves to dark, sad existences. Relationships crumble into dust. Addictions rise to fill the soul-cavity growing inside. Suicides scar families. Divorce splits homes. Tribes, communities, and societies begin to, sometimes violently, come apart at the seams.
A simple verse, lifted from the pages of Proverbs in the Bible, pronounces the central place of Hope in a fulfilled life:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick;
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12 NIV
Hope-dealers everywhere know the power of this simple, 4-letter word. Presidents use the word in slogans to inspire the nation – and to encourage us to believe in their programs. Marketers use the word to get us to appreciate their next product – and to believe it’s worth every penny of our hard-earned money. Experts (in any field) use the word to encourage us to give them our trust – and to get us connected to an organization they’ve created.
Suffice it to say, Hope in any form is powerful medicine for what ails us. But true Hope, lasting Hope, will never be found in a President’s promises, a Marketer’s products, or an Expert’s systems.
Why? Because human beings will eventually, if not inevitably, fail us. The promises coming from endless sources can only be kept if the promise is truly within one’s power to fulfill. I can keep my promise to my son to give him a new laptop for his high school graduation present – but I can’t promise him that his future will be without difficulty.
2. Hope Can Excite Us About The Present & Future
And that brings us to it. Daily life is full of needs, desires, expectations, and dreams that no human being – including us – can ultimately fulfill. Who can promise to bring peace to the desolations of the heart, to comfort the ragged soul in tragedy, to apply resurrection balm to the sting of death? Who can make such promises, great and small, and consistently fulfill them in both the present and future?
But our current definitions of Hope are downright whacky.
Hope must take on a vibrant, more transcendent definition – one that presidents and products can’t offer.
Hope that lasts is the Hope we all crave:
An unyielding expectation of good
That comes from knowing Someone who can deliver on His promises;
Promises that concern the human heart,
The world in which we live,
And the eternity that sprawls before us.
That Someone, you and I and multitudes across history have discovered, is Jesus. Jesus has made God’s promises to us come to life in full, vivid Technicolor. The Scriptures record these promises for us, promises telling us that God’s extraordinary goodness is spilling over into our ordinary lives. Here is just one of the promises that only Jesus can fulfill:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NIV
In other words, Jesus is the Someone who has your back, who is with you in every circumstance, and who is ultimately in charge of your present and your future. He alone can bring healing good out of horrible evil; resurrection’s life out of insurrection’s death. No president, marketer, or expert can promise you that kind of Hope. Jesus, however, can.
3. Hope Is The Only True Remedy For Despair
When Jesus compassionately looked into the eyes of a man who had just lost his little girl (Mark 5), he understood that human beings are quick to despair. Our moods rise and fall with our circumstances, and whether we’ve lost our keys, our job, or someone we love, despair is always waiting in the shadows to suck us in, isolate us, and break us.
Hope is the only true remedy for Despair.
What Hope-powered words did Jesus speak to the man in the face of his crisis? “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:35-36 NIV).
Over the last few years of recording these brief “stories of encouragement” aired on Keep The Faith, I’ve discovered that all of us need to hear Jesus’ words, again and again, as each day’s challenges confront us:
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Everyone has some hidden battle with despair going on inside of their souls almost every day of their lives. Our fears and worries may be different, but they all stem from the same root system. Despair is our common enemy, and Jesus didn’t come to calm it or counsel it – he came to defeat it.
How Stories Bring Hope
Do you remember stories about people, and their difficult circumstances, that gave you Hope? Amazingly enough, I have found that a simple story, with a simple lesson that calls us back to Hope again, can be enough to encourage us to get up and fight for our lives against despair.
Some of the nearly 2M listeners at Keep The Faith radio have kindly told me that the everyday stories I included in my book, 30 Stories Of Hope, whether they be about a moment with my grandfather, a group of boys making snow cones, or my journey through unemployment, have helped them or a loved one to find the light of Hope streaming through the clouds of their circumstances.
What are your stories of Hope? Stories can give us the strength to tell our own stories in a new light, and even to “make encouragement contagious” when we tell others.
Like ancient travelers, we need Hope-filled stories, Scriptures, and songs to inspire us along our journey. We need Hope-filled friends, family, and faith communities to carry us through our next challenge. More than anything, we need the God of Hope to transform our minds, our attitudes, and our emotions with His lasting Hope.
Hope Is Found In A Person – Have The Courage To Hope Again
Every day I talk to people who are facing the battles of their lives. Divorce, cancer, aging, shattered dreams, unemployment, financial crisis, wayward children – all of these challenges are being faced on the frontlines by people whose courage is often remarkable to me.
It will take courage for you to hold on to Hope today. Your heart will be embattled on every side. But please remember as you step forward – Hope is found in a Person, and that Person is on your side. Lean into Hope, into Jesus, with everything you’ve got. You’ll make it.
No one else is smart enough, good enough, kind enough, rich enough, or talented enough to be the eternal Hope you and I need.
Take Hope; God is working in your story right now.
[ excerpted from the Introduction to 30 Stories Of Hope: Daily Readings To Encourage The Heart ]
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