Fruitful Emptiness: Hope

Scripture reflection: Hebrews 6:19-20

People throw the word “hope” around. Hope for the best. Stay hopeful. Don’t lose hope.

It seems that people think of hope as that thing you do when you wish something goes your way. You form an intention, send a request, say a prayer, and “hope” that it comes true. Your team goes to the Superbowl for the second year in a row and you “hope” for a win. Your friend is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and you “hope” for a miracle. You struggle with infertility and you “hope” for a plus sign or a smiley face the next time you take a test.

Well, obviously things don’t always go your way. Your team loses the Superbowl in the last minute at the 1-yard line. Your friend goes into remission only to rediscover the cancer a year later. You take test and after test, month after month, and still no plus sign. No smiley face.

Sometimes disappointment comes crashing down on your heart like an anvil. Sometimes it winds around and stifles you slowly like a boa constrictor. Either way it hurts, and you’re helpless against it. It hurts, and there’s nothing you can do to escape the pain.

So next time you think, I won’t get my hopes up. You hide from the ray of light. You shut your eyes against the silver lining. You decide that the hope isn’t worth the disappointment, so you armor your heart with careful euphemisms. You try to sound like you’re being realistic and even-keeled, when in truth what you are is afraid. Afraid to get hurt. Afraid to hope.

And yet God tells us to have hope, not just sometimes but always. Even when things look bleak and the odds are impossible. Even when the future is uncertain and death is at your door. Have hope.

Now why would God tell me to keep hope in my heart when more often than not it is marred by disappointment? It seems futile, even cruel.

Perhaps we misunderstand the meaning of hope because we mistake it for wishful thinking. We wish for the Super Bowl win, we desire the remission, we want to be pregnant. But what God wants for us is much bigger than the things we want for ourselves. He wants for us not just a good life, but eternal life. And the road there is sometimes easy, but more often than not it is hard. All the things in this life, the wishes fulfilled or otherwise, are part of the road to eternity. We don’t get on the road  to stay on the road, but to get to the destination.

Our ultimate destination is heaven.

Our reward for the journey is God.

There in Him is where our hope has to lie. Not just in the things that we wish for ourselves, but in the eternal life that God has in store for us.

So have hope! Say it aloud that you are hoping for the best, because you are hoping in God. Dare to ask for the best possible outcome, because that’s what He has in store. Remember who hears your prayers, who created you out of love, who has saved you on the cross and who sustains your every breath, and do not be afraid. His plan for you may be different than your own, and it might allow for heartache, even tragedy, but His plans for you are for your greatest good. His plans for you are perfect. And His plans for you are at work both in the things that bring you joy as well as the things that bring you pain.

Say it with me: I have hope. Now and always. My hope is in the Lord, and His love is mightier than my fear, my pain, and my heartache. Let everything else in this world fall apart and fade. Let my heart be emptied and filled and emptied again. Let my foes call me foolish and my friends call me naive. I know that my Father’s love has never failed me and will never fail me. So even when the world says all hope is lost, I will look to God and say hallelujah: there it is, in the pierced hands and the empty tomb, that which cannot be lost in the pain, stolen by disappointment, or destroyed by death.

Hope.

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