Without meaning to sound clichéd, at this time of year I definitely reflect on my belief that Jesus is truly the source of my hope. In fact, he could be the source of everyone’s hope. But the truth is, sometimes life following Jesus doesn’t really work out how we planned, or even how we half-hoped it would. We get disappointed, frustrated or sometimes really, fumingly angry. But then there are times when things work out a lot better than we hoped they would. We feel totally blown away. We then question why we limited what we hoped for – what we had faith for.
I’m quite certain Christian hope is not the expectation that everything we desire will come to pass if we just pray about it enough. You know that the frustrating person at work will not suddenly change personality overnight, or that those opportunities to develop our creativity and passions will not simply be handed to us on a plate. Or even that the many situations of injustice we see across the globe on a daily basis will cease if we stay silent about those in power abusing it. This approach seems to be wishful thinking that doesn’t require much response from us.
But when we encounter Jesus, the hope that is offered to us causes us to open our hearts in response to the living God and be real about our requests. It starts to reveal the motivations behind them. We begin to trust God more and call for God’s transformational power to change our desperate situations. We listen to the Holy Spirit leading us to take action. We love more. Light is shed on dark places. We see a way forward, beyond our own wisdom, and find direction in our lives. We step out in faith. We choose to stand on the foundation of who God says He is in the midst of our circumstances. And there were many more before us who did all of this, as scripture reminds us:
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11: 1-2, The Message.
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1, New Living Translation.
A quick look at one of the original ancient Greek words used in these verses shows that confidence, originally ‘hypostasis’, can also be translated as ‘assurance’, or even ‘substance’. So, faith can be described as putting our trust in God from a place of assurance in what we can be hopeful about. Hope and faith are undeniably interlinked. Wherever this hope is found then becomes the foundation of our faith. And for me, this is Jesus.
When I hear the young people in my youth group praying prayers of thanks that Jesus was given to us as a gift, and that they thirst for God’s presence, they’ve glimpsed this hope. When these young people pray for children who are suffering, even when I know that they’ve got their own difficult situations going on, they want others to have this hope. When someone you know is going in and out of hospital with a life-threatening illness but keeps bouncing back, this is hope. When you are part of a grace-filled faith community that affirms that you are created and loved by God, even when you feel like you’ve failed time and time again, this is real hope.
Where do you find hope? And where could that take your faith?
Image: CC SplitShire