I asked my eight-year-old what hope meant. Liam answered, “It’s when you put your faith in someone and trust them to do what they say they’re going to do.” Then Sawyer piped up: “And it’s when you feel joy too!”
Wow! Hope equals faith, trust, and joy! I never cease to be amazed at what these boys can teach me, and I honestly could not have chosen better words to describe my journey with hope. A few weeks ago, my wonderful pastor—Pastor Jer Swigart—asked me to talk with him in front of our church about my experience and understanding of hope. It was such a privilege to get the opportunity to share with my new church family how God has built hope in Ryan and my hearts through times when all hope seemed to be lost. You can listen to our conversation here, but I want to share some further thoughts on this topic, with my sons’ wisdom as my guide.
Hope requires faith, and the faith cannot be misplaced. My faith is in Jesus Christ and his salvation. I have never seen Jesus in person or audibly heard his voice, which is why it is through faith that I believe he lived, he is still alive, and he will return to make all things right someday. My faith is not in healing, prosperity, or happy endings. I long for all of those things at different times, but I cannot build my faith and therefore my hope of them. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I longed with all of my heart to see my mama healed in this life. I wished and prayed for her to live a long life by my side and see her grandchildren grow up. But my deeper hope for her was built on my faith in the Savior we both believe in. I had and have faith that through her death she was truly healed beyond death’s reach and reunited with Jesus face-to-face. So while her death wrenched my heart in painful ways I cannot accurately describe, it did not make my heart sick. There is a big difference.
Hope requires trust, and the trust has to be rooted in truth. I trust Jesus to fulfill his promises, and I trust in God the promise-keeper. Jesus promised, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He promised peace through trouble and ultimate victory through his victory over the world. He also promised, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). I trust his word that he is the way to our Heavenly Father. I have to be careful not to build my hope through trusting promises of the world and not of Christ. I cannot believe that good behavior leads to a trouble-free life. I cannot believe that my faithfulness will guarantee my desired outcomes for my life or the lives of others. I cannot believe that my understanding of justice, fairness, and good story-telling should have any bearing on God’s work in my life and His master plan for the entirety of humanity. If I put my trust in any of these messages, my hope will be crushed when my plans do not line up with God’s plans, which are always better even though they are often harder. When I trust Jesus to give me peace, to overcome the world, and to lead me to God, my hope grows.
Hope breeds joy, and this joy can defy any circumstance. For me, it always comes back to joy. Joy is God’s gift to me every single day. The rest of Proverbs 13:12 says, “but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” When my longings/hopes rest on my faith and trust in Jesus, they are fulfilled all the time. And when I take the time to recognize my hopes being fulfilled, I am overcome with joy. This joy galvanizes me to share my “tree of life” with others. As I seek to build hope in others, I am further filled with hope. It is a beautiful circle.
So today, my prayer is that your faith is in Jesus and your trust rests on his promises. May your joy grow as you see all of the ways Jesus loves to fulfill our hopes in him, especially when it’s in ways we could never have thought of ourselves. And may your joy inspire you to build this same hope in others. For hope in Jesus is contagious:-)
I hope you enjoy my talk with Pastor Jer, as I map my relationship with hope through my cancer and grief journey.