Hope! A word that is used in different ways at different times…..
“I hope you are feeling better….”
“I hope to be with you next time…..”
Even “let’s hope and pray”.
I wonder what you are hoping for? Let me guess…. an end to this lockdown; the safety of your loved ones at this time; eradication of the virus; a return to “normal”.
As I was reading the Bible passages over Easter, I read a verse that struck deep within me:
“we had hoped that he was the one who was going to save Israel”. It was spoken by two of Jesus’ disciples as they walked the road to Emmaus, with a stranger who has come alongside them, who they later recognise to be Jesus as he breaks bread with them.
There are other occasions within the Bible when people express a similar kind of sentiment; the obvious one with the people of Israel in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. They had hoped that everything would fall into place, and into their laps, with the gift of the Promised Land, and when it didn’t, and they went through tough times, the people grumbled.
There is a proverb that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Hope is a combination of the desire for something and the expectation of receiving it, but when we think that what we are hoping for is not coming fast enough, how do we respond?
As I’ve listened to the news briefings in that last few days, so many of the questions were about when the restrictions would be lifted; whether they would be lifted at the end of the initial three-week lockdown. How I wish it was likely to happen but in listening to the experts, and having received a letter to say that I need to be isolated for at least twelve weeks, I am not getting my hopes up. It seems to me that we have to be careful about what we hope for.
In the Bible the people were encouraged to wait patiently; to trust in God. There is a close connection between hope and trust. Christians might say that their “hope is in Jesus”; it is in the hope of the resurrection from the dead that Jesus experienced that first Easter, and which is promised to all who believe in Jesus, at the end of time.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the faith of all followers of Jesus; our hope comes from trusting him and his promise that he goes before us to prepare a place for us, so that when he comes again he will take us to be with him. When people died years ago they were described as having “gone home”. That description points to familiarity and relationship; it is the experience of followers of Jesus to know and call God by the name of Father (actually more like the familiarity and intimacy of “Daddy”) and so the trust that is built up and the hope that we have for the future is in God himself.
Having said that, it is not always easy. Sometimes hope and trust are actually an act of the will; just as love is also a choice. I choose to trust. I choose to hope. I choose to love.
In these challenging times, what we feed our minds with matters. We can look forward to the end of the current pandemic, but we might have to be patient (and that’s not always easy!). Anxiety is a natural response to situations outside our control, especially when there seems to be no end in sight or when we don’t understand all that is going on.
Paul, writing to the church in Philippi, reminds them that God is near to them and then says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer….. present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He then goes on to extoll the power of positive thinking – the focus on what is lovely, noble, right, admirable, pure, praiseworthy or excellent; to think on those things “And the peace of God will be with you.”
My hope and prayer for you is that in the disorientating circumstances that we all find ourselves, you might experience God’s peace and a well-being that helps you to keep hoping, with patience, that will see you through, however long it takes.