Do You Hope Well?

Hiking through Grotto Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Hiking through Grotto Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

There’s something very special about the expectancy of good things.  It lifts our spirits; it helps us focus; it helps us to dream and use our God-given imaginations; it reminds us of God’s goodness; it gives us joy in what God is doing which the Bible calls our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  In its rawest form, the expectancy of good things is the basis of hope, and the opposite of hope is fear.

In our culture today, we have an absence of hope.  We’ve been told that we can’t have everything we want, so we might as well settle down and be grateful for what we have.  We believe that we shouldn’t be too hopeful – after all, what if it doesn’t work out and you’re disappointed?  We find that people who aren’t hopeful don’t appreciate our hopefulness.  So we simmer down a notch or two in the name of balance and compassion to those around us and keep our hope inside.  But when you keep hope inside, it has the tendency to lose its luster.  Soon enough, hope has waned to the status quo of surviving without any more difficulty than necessary.

Mt. Baker from the Artist Ridge Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Mt. Baker from the Artist Ridge Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

We weren’t made for a hopeless life.  We are called to live in Christ’s victory, but we are also called to have hope for the future.  The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  Paul told the Romans, “Rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12).  A living hope isn’t dead – it’s alive and working right now in our lives.

Wildflowers below the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming
Wildflowers below the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

To some extent, God is the one Who provides us with hope.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope,” Paul wrote in Romans 15:13.  Don’t underestimate that: It’s the Holy Spirit who brings us hope.

Dry plants and rock formations in the Valley of Dreams East, Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness, New Mexico
Dry plants and rock formations in the Valley of Dreams East, Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness, New Mexico

Yet as I watch Christians on my social media platforms, I see too many people who sabotage the hope in their lives.  It usually starts out with boredom: They begin searching for or listening to something that will tickle their emotions or stimulate their minds; something that will explain the depravity they see around themselves.  This leads them to news outlets that prey on fear, misery, and “what ifs.”  It’s not that the outlets are giving them lies (at least in every case), but the way that the information is portrayed is a dismal outlook on the future of America and Christians, specifically.

An old cabin in the woods in Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park, New York
An old cabin in the woods in Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park, New York

Agreeing to this agenda blocks the Holy Spirit’s work in these believers’ lives by making them lose hope.  Without hope, it’s very difficult to have faith (Hebrews 11:1), and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  When we watched that apocalyptic movie/documentary, we didn’t realize that it would separate our hearts, minds, and emotions from Christ!

Twining Peak near Linkins Lake, Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, Colorado
Twining Peak near Linkins Lake, Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, Colorado

I’m not trying to say that we should go around in some sort of Pollyanna non-reality where we believe everything is just ducky.  Spiritual battles tend to have a way of cropping up to teach us otherwise.  But what I am saying is that to have a vibrant relationship with Christ, we need to hope well.  Anything that sabotages our hope is a road away from God – because it makes us doubt the goodness and love of God.  Even in the worst of situations, we can still hope well if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us and shape our outlook on the future.