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?
I like how the Bible renders that verse in Hebrews: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I bring that up because it seems to me that faith and hope go together like hand in glove. You can’t have one without the other. At least not in the sense that Webster defines hope. Because where is hope without faith?
Take that all with a grain of salt–I’m thinking out loud.
This is wonderful, Chris. I love when you talk about rehearsing His acts, in world history and your own. I am actually working on a post regarding the personal history part of this–it will be the basis of some changes and focus on my own blog. I also love how you point out, and your mountain picture shows, that we cannot do this hope thing alone. This is a hard truth for hermits like me, yet I know it to be true! Grace and peace to you.
There are days I wish I could go it alone, but I can’t. We are built for community, like it or not 🙂
Looking forward to reading your post. Would you let me know when it’s live, either by posting it here or letting me know on Twitter?
Beautiful post Chris. I especially like “collect substantial evidence for God’s character.” Yeah – let’s do that
Love your thought here Chad! I do believe that faith and hope are intrinsically liked. If we hope in something unreliable, we are in trouble. Our hope will fail. Yet Romans 5 tells us that hope never fails, even in the midst of trials.
Thanks for stopping by Mike — good to see you on my little slice of internet heaven! I think it is so difficult to remember that God’s character extends beyond the moment we are experiencing. Learning to do this is unnatural, and difficult, but so worth it
Glad you liked it Pilar
I’ll have to post the link here, as twitter is a totally foreign concept to me at this time. I’m doing the ‘baby steps’ method of entering the tech world and having a blog up and running is the height of being tech-savvy for me! 🙂 (Making a Facebook page is probably next, but I have to admit, the thought of learning to navigate twitter or pinterest has me quaking in my boots!) Thanks for your interest–I will let you know when it’s done.
Awesome! Cannot wait to read it. By the way, I am avoiding Pinterest too. My opinion is to choose 1-2 social platform medias that make sense, and go after those full force. Rebeca, it can get overwhelming to do too much social media; you can lose heart as a writer if you aren’t careful
Good post Chris. Without hope the people perish. Feeling like I could use some encouragement. We can get weary.
If I could, I would give you some of my wife’s homemade orange juice pancakes while we chatted at my dining room table. Her pancakes seem to magically bring joy. Alas, we are not neighbors. How can I lift your weariness Anne?
God is working. He is hope.
Thank you Chris. Sometimes my hope is in a small bag in my pocket, Hard to get to and not effective. My hope should always be in God alone.
I often put my hope in the wrong things too
Great post, Chris. Much to think about here! I stalled a bit on the differentiation between desire and hope as it raised a question in my own heart. Am I hoping for healing in a biblical sense as defined here or just indulging in wishful thinking? I think it comes down to what (or rather Whom) my hope and faith are rooted in. And when we place our faith and hope in Christ and His abilities, we have every good reason to be joyful in expectation. Though life’s circumstances weary and bring us down emotionally, our spirits can still be steady as they look beyond the temporal and temporary and rest in the eternal, unchanging character of God, trusting His word and faithfulness instead of our fluctuating feelings. Thank you for inspiring me with this message!
Your post the other day about healing really stirred caused me to think some more on what I wrote here. You know, this one –> http://wordsofjoy75.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/when-miracle-doesnt-look-like-one.html
It is hard to ask these type of questions. We are small minded and selfish, wanting what is best for us. We forget that God’s thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth…and we don’t even know where the heavens are.
And yet, we know our God is loving, and would not put us through suffering needlessly. The testimony of Job is both enlightening and discouraging. What if God is using us as a proof to our enemy that we love Him, no matter what?
I come back often to the idea of trusting God in the dark. Allowing His character to guide me, rather than my perception of His activity. I say “I come back often” because I walk away from it often too, and find myself frustrated and alone.
No easy answers here, are there Joy?
I try and base my hope of goodness upon something reliable entirely- which is God- and not upon people that are imperfect, like my husband, myself, my friends, etc. For me, that’s the only way it’s worked. 🙂
It is an enigma at times, Chris. Our handle on these things can vary according to what we may be going through and the enlightenment God has given us. Maybe the best response is to remain open minded, open hearted and receptive even as we learn to “trust God in the dark”. No easy answers indeed, my friend! 🙂
Agreed Katie. That is hard for me to walk out on a daily basis though. Sometimes I place my hope in a medicine, or a physician. Other days, I lean too heavily on my wife or friends. On the best days, I remember He who is faithful, and allow Him to be my Rock
Open minded, open hearted, and receptive — great words for me to dwell on Joy
Hi Chris! I finished the post, and renamed my blog accordingly. Here’s the link: http://rebecajones.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/building-standing-stones/ I’m not terribly tech-savvy, so I hope this works. (Actually that is an understatement, but I am learning!) If it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll try again. Thanks, and have a beautiful day!
Great read Chris – thanks for the hope! On the contrary, have you listened to/read Dr. Henry Cloud’s take on hope? I found it pretty intriguing. Essentially he says hope in and of itself is devastating. If you have, would love to hear your thoughts!
Matt, that sounds very interesting. I am going to have to look for that. Could you give me a preview, maybe a couple main points?
Check out his podcast w/ Chris Hogan on Entre two weeks ago. He basically says if you’re in Nashville and want to get to New York City, yet you start driving West, hope will not get you where you want to go.
Essentially, hope cannot stand alone. It is only effective when combined with action and consistent behavior.
The way he words it is shocking though – kind of like, hope is useless.
When you find it, let me know!
I just listened to it. Wonderful truths there, and he discusses so much more than just hope. Truly valuable stuff there.
I completely agree with what Dr. Cloud says here. The object of our hope, and the diligence we put behind it, both support whether we ought to expect good results. This goes back to the concept of hope as a wish or a dream. I contend (along with Dr. Cloud) that hope is not weak, but vital. However, it is also not enough on its own.
Thanks for sharing that resource.