The header image for my site shows two people climbing a mountain of pain toward hope, but this begs a question:
What exactly is HOPE?
Like many other words, hope has been emptied of meaning by today’s culture.
Hope is a wish: I hope the Cardinals win the Super Bowl (sad Arizona football fan).
Hope is weak: I hope I get a promotion even though I haven’t worked to earn it.
Hope is founded on nothing but air: I hope milk goes on sale.
If we are climbing toward a weak wish founded on nothing but air, we are set up for disappointment. Thankfully, this is not the hope I have in mind. I am thinking of the hope Noah Webster spoke of in the original Webster’s Dictionary, published in 1828 after 25 years of research and study.
After painstaking inquiries, Noah Webster arrives at four definitions of the noun hope.
1) A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this, that it implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety.
The key differentiation here is between hope and wish or desire. True hope always gives pleasure or joy. As we climb through abuse and chronic illness, there is a risk of confusing desire with hope. Of course, we desire to be well, but do we hope for health?
Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good.
Whew, this definition of hope can feel out of reach…which is why neither climber in the image at the top of this page is at the summit.
I am convinced of this one thing – we can rarely if ever dwell alone in a place of “well-founded expectation of good”, because our mind plays tricks on us. Cynicism wrecks our confidence in the good, and we are left grasping at straws. Left to our own devices, What ifs and If onlys replace hope. We need each other.
That which gives hope; he or that which furnishes ground of expectation, or promises desired good.
This definition poses a key question to us – who or what are you placing your expectation of good upon? If there is one thing I have learned over the past decade while struggling to reconcile pain and sorrow with my faith, it’s that every single person will disappoint me.
My wife will disappoint me.
My mom will disappoint me.
My pastor will disappoint me.
It even feels like my God disappoints me. Except. I know in the depth of my being that He is good. Every day. All the time.
Even when I feel painfully alone and filled with sorrow. God is working. He is hope. (You can tweet this)
This brings us to the fourth Noah Webster definition of hope.
An opinion or belief not amounting to certainty, but grounded on substantial evidence.
Hope is sometimes based on the preponderance of evidence, rather than absolute certainty. So it is when my daughter still has epilepsy after so many desperate pleas for healing. So it is with you, when your abuser isn’t met with justice in your timeline.
We must choose to look at God’s track record, and trust he still has our back when we feel alone. I believe it is in these moments where we develop perseverance, as we begrudgingly wait for God to act.
During these moments, I always rehearse his greatest acts in the world’s history, along with my personal history. By doing so, I allow myself to collect substantial evidence for God’s character to present a fair case. Otherwise, I look only at my circumstances and wrongly weight the case against him.
Are you hoping or hoping?