Hope can be a big problem

Hope can be a big problem.

Not that it should be but there’s no getting around the reality that hope can cause all sorts of issues and provoke decisions and lead to mischief of one kind or another.

I’m feeling the difficulty of hope right now. And I’ve felt it for a while now.

Hope is a problem because it awakens the human soul to the potential of there being more. Often hope contains a clear picture – of a another person, or of a certain opportunity, or a particular success, change, or transformation. Hope can quickly become pining, and pining can easily turn into despair. Israel found this pattern in the wilderness. It was the freedom of beginning their journey that sparked the grumblings. They cried out to God while slaves. They grumbled before God after they were let go. Because of their hope.

I have vague hopes and I have particular hopes. There are realities in my life that I would like to put behind me and there are realities in my life I would love to embrace.

Hope itself isn’t the problem, of course. It’s the human reaction to hope and the often inherent lack of faith hope reveals. Hope can’t thrive without its compatriots faith and love. Hope without faith leads to rash decisions and ungodly actions. Hope without love leads to arrogance and selfishness.

I’ve gone through the cycle of these over the last few months, feeling a lot of hope, a whole lot of hope, but trying to secure this hope with a focus on God rather than on my own efforts, efforts which God has repeatedly reminded me are not the source of any positive future.

My hope is in God. That’s a lovely religious thing to say, the sort of thing I might say while singing a worship song or in convivial banter after church. Yet more than words are necessary for my hope to really be in God. I have to actually follow God and take the path he lays out for me. Otherwise I could easily become like Israel in the wilderness, or Saul before the battle, or maybe even Judas, whose betrayal is thought by many to be a result of his trying to provoke Jesus into acting.

Jesus, on the other hand, had a lot of hope. So much hope in the work of God that after his baptism, the moment of his clearest revelation thus far, he left the clamoring crowds who were eager for a good word, and went into the wilderness to be alone and to be tempted. He had so much hope he died, died even a death on the cursed cross. That’s hope. He had so much hope in the broader work of the Spirit he let go having to control and manage and force.

Real hope, real hope in God means I have to let go of my hopes, not lose them as much as release trying to manage or control or plan. Maybe that’s why Jesus admonished the rich young ruler to sell everything.

In a way, in our present society, we are a lot like the rich young ruler, able to force our way towards our hopes, hopes that might be vocation, or finances, or ministry, or with that lovely young woman we’ve had our eye on for a while now. Letting go of ruling these hopes is extraordinarily difficult, because who would think life comes from taking up the cross?

Yet, I have to remember, and keep remembering, that hope in God is often counterintuitive and only by releasing it all can I really discover the fullness of his promises, not the shadows and ghosts that my efforts seem to gain.

Maybe too this is why religions are so often evil. People have hope of something more but got it in their head they are the ones responsible for achieving these hopes, trusting in an all powerful God that needs conniving and tricks of his followers to accomplish the goals. Maybe too this is why having hope can be a burden, because the drive towards ambition is so deeply embedded that to let go of orchestrating these means almost denying my status as a 21st century American man.

Course, hope can also be beautiful, like sailing on the open ocean in a fair wind. It can open possibilities and renew the soul towards abandoned dreams.

This hope in hope is why I keep at it. Which is why I pray. I need God’s hope. And I need the Spirit’s constant counsel in keeping me walking within a faith and love filled hope.

Otherwise, I’m a real mess.

This was written May 14, 2007

A couple years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because this was written early in 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next couple of weeks or so.

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