hoPeLately I’ve been hearing a lot of talk concerning the word hope and what it means to have hope, to live in hope, and to believe in hope. And this hope being presented, the kind that is offered, and available is a form I do not recognize. In some circles it has become a buzzword, an olive branch of trust and rescue. And the appeal is to everyone, because with today’s struggles, everyone could use a little of this hope.
And we need hope don’t we? All of us need hope. We need reassurance that tomorrow is not going to be like today, or the day before that, or the day before that. We need hope because it spurs us to carry on. It sustains and keeps us. Hope feeds our souls, and calms our anxiety. We look for it, we rely on it, we hold on to it, and we relish in the notion that there is a hope.
I need words of hope spoken in my life. I need to hear the words of affirmation, and encouragement. I need to see hope carried out, and given to the least of these. I need to speak words of hope, words of confirmation and edification. I need to surrender to hope and the infectious life it brings.
Hope draws in crowds. It stirs feelings of optimism, and positive thinking. Hope is what will lead people out of the depths of their desperate needs. Hope is an expectation, a thing to long for, the anticipation of something better. And at the same time it can be thrown around, abused, forgotten, and altogether left on a shelf.
But where are we placing our hope?
What are we hoping for?
And in whom do we place our hope?
Are we hoping for more money?
A better job?
A bigger house?
A nicer car?
A winning lottery ticket?
An easier marriage?
A more successful business?
Are we simply hoping for more stuff?
Or are we hoPing for wisdom and happiness, discernment and contentment, assurance, security, a liFe lived for God?
I've seen the word hope used on posters and commercials, billboards and advertisements, t-shirts, book titles, and coffee mugs. The call for hope is everywhere, and yet, there are countless people who exist everyday without any. The other day I even saw hope being offered by a bumper sticker. It simply read, “got hope?” and then listed a website where I assumed I could logon and find some type of hope.
But what kind of hope am I looking for?
Is hope just a word on a t-shirt that creates good feelings?
Does hope push agendas?
Can tRue hope have a motive?
Have we commercialized it?
In our attempts to find hope, have we cheapened it… Can hope be cheapened?
Is hope be found in words of mortal men?
Where are we looking for this thing called hope?
And the thing about it is hoPe is literally all around us, because God is all around us, but we are more apt to see its presence, HiS presence, in the life of another individual, than we are to see it manifesting itself in our own story. And I would argue it’s because we are in our story. 24/7/365. We know our desires, we feel our hurts, and we’re there every time we are let down.
Do you ever see someone else’s life, someone with joy and optimism and think, “I wish I could tap into that. I wish I had some of their hoPe.”
We see people with hoPe and wonder what happened to our own. What happened to the mornings I awoke to new mercy and happiness? Back before this financial problem. Back before my affair, before the divorce, or the medical bills, or the cancer, or the accident. Back before that stupid mistake, that one night stand, that third drink, that lie. Back before getting behind the wheel, abandoning that situation, taking that second shift, that second hit, back before… … you fill in the blank.
Matthew quotes Isaiah saying, “In his name…” the name of the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ “…the nations will put their hoPe.” Our hoPe, our anticipation, our expectancy is in the name of Jesus.
Our word hope comes from the Greek word elpis (el-pece’). Elpis was the name of the Greek spirit of hope or expectation. In the story of Pandora’s Box, Elpis alone remained behind to comfort mankind after Pandora released all of the harmful spirits upon the earth.
"Elpis (Hope) is the only good god remaining among mankind; the others have left and gone to Olympus. Pistis (Trust), a mighty god has gone, Sophrosyne (Restraint) has gone from men, and the Kharites, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
But as long as man lives and sees the light of the sun, let him show piety… and count on Elpis (Hope).”
The ancient Greeks believed that after all else failed, after all trust in mankind was gone, after all faith was lost, after self-control and surrender had left, after everyone else had abandoned the earth, hope still remained.
The Romans took the word elpis and the goddess Elpis and renamed her Spes. From this they formed the word desperare. We would say despair. De meaning- “without,” and sperare meaning- “to hope.” Essentially despair, is to be without hope. We feel despair and hopelessness, when we hear the doctor say, “There’s nothing we could do…” or we answer the phone to the sound of sobbing... or when your dad calls and the first thing out of his mouth is, “I think you should sit down.” When a parent buries a child… or you watch as a loved one destroys their future in substance abuse… when Jesus seems to be so far away, that we say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This is desperation, these are times of despair.
Have you been abandoned? Betrayed? Pushed aside? Stepped on? Forgotten? Abused? Stabbed in the back? Marginalized? Has your hope become despair? Do you feel like the deck is stacked against you and no matter what you do or say it all comes out wrong, or misunderstood, or as an attack?
The first time the actual word hope makes an appearance in scripture is in the book of Ruth where a recently widowed woman by the name of Naomi says, “Even if I thought there was still hoPe for me…”
Imagine losing your spouse and two children. Finding yourself alone, desperate, without understanding of why it had to happen to you, or what you did to deserve it, or why God didn’t keep it from happening. And for some of us we don’t have to travel too far to remember, or to be reminded of what that level of hopelessness can do to a person.
That is how we find Naomi. As a woman Naomi placed her tiqvah (tik-vaw’), her hoPe or expectancy, in her sons and her husband, and in their ability to work and provide a life for her. Her hope to carry on the name and the bloodline was in their hands. But at their death all of this was lost. And with it she lost her means of survival and her will to live.
“Even if I thought there was still hope for me…”
Even if I thought there was a chance at beating this disease... Even if I entertained the notion of forgiving him, or forgiving her after what they have done… Even if I thought I could live life without him… or without her… or without that. Even if I wanted to go back to that town after what they did and said about me… Even if I had the time, or the money, or the energy…
The Hebrew word hope, tiqvah, also carried the literal meaning of “a cord” as in an attachment to another object, or binding to another object. Naomi’s attachment to her husband, and later her sons, the binding of her life to theirs, was the source of her hope. See at this time in history women were completely reliant on the men of their family to afford a life for them. And with the death of the men, came the death of all that she knew. Her identity, her livelihood, her legacy all gone. And in their deaths she lost the ability of obtaining the basic necessities of life. Things like food, a place to sleep, a place to live, security, land to raise and harvest from. She didn’t just lose family members, she lost everything.
Have you ever felt that type of loss? The type of loss that keeps you up at night? The type of loss that makes it feel like the walls are creeping in, the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Have you ever felt so lost in your failures that you see no hope for redemption?
And still it’s there and available, and hoPe’s desire is for you to know HiM.
But you don’t understand… you don’t know what I’ve done… you couldn’t possibly know what it’s like… there is no way I could ever be taken back… the things I’ve done and said… it just wouldn’t work…
Now in the Hebrew culture someone wasn’t given a name because the parents liked it, or because of family tradition. To the Hebrews the names they gave their children had significance and a depth to them. A name was more than an identifying label, it was a description of character. The name Naomi means pleasant. Lovely. Nice. Enjoyable. But after her loss she says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara” which is the Hebrew word for bitter. Essentially she says, “Don’t call me pleasant call me bitter.” Her name, her character went from pleasant, to bitter.
Naomi was in despair. She was broken, she was without hoPe. She was without the kind of hoPe you and I need in our struggles, the kind that breaths new liFe and buries old failures.
And just as the Lord did not forget her, He has not forgotten us. The Lord took Naomi’s hopeless situation, one that seemed to be the end of her story, and He made it something more. He took destruction and desperation and began a new work, one that Naomi could not understand in her current circumstance. In her darkest hour, her story was about to be bent in a new direction, with new purpose.
Where is your story going? Where is mine? And what is God doing right now that we doN’t fully understand?
Naomi had nothing left to offer the wives of her sons. She didn’t have any money, or land, or inheritance, or other sons to provide as husbands, so she told them to leave her and return to their homes. But one daughter, Ruth, chose to stay. She chose not to abandon Naomi, and in this was born the beginning of Naomi’s return to hoPe. The completion of this hoPe would be found in a man named Boaz.
Boaz was related to Naomi's husband and under Jewish law he was one of two men who had the right to marry Ruth. Today we see this practice as odd and far from our modern thinking, but under Jewish law, if Boaz married her son's widow, Ruth, this marriage would "restore the name of the dead to his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from the gate of his birthplace." So essentially, Naomi would be redeemed to a place of that her bloodline and name would carry on, and if Ruth and Boaz were to have a child, that child would be considered Naomi's grandchild, which would in turn restore her family's lineage.
And was there ever a child born… one who would be the grandfather of the greatest political King Israel has ever seen, David, and the ancestor of the Savior King Jesus.
“The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” which is the genealogy, the descent of Jesus. Naomi’s story is one where we see God moving and working and turning the situation back to a place of harmony and holiness the world would come to know as the hoPe of tomorrow.
The other day a friend of mine told me of a woman who has learned she has a particular disease that does not have a cure. And this isn’t one that you get from coming into contact with something, or someone, or because you chose to do something or go somewhere or because you’ve been bitten by something. This is one that just happens and doctors have theories, but they aren’t exactly sure of the cause. So he tells me about this woman and how it’s not fair that she has it. That she doesn’t deserve it. That no one deserves it, but especially not a person as genuine and loving and pure as her.
But for this individual, for her, she sees it as, “a gift from God.” And she tells people about this gift, and she shares her hoPe, and she believes it. She’s not just saying it, she actually believes it.
I mean she’s not angry or bitter or feeling sorry for herself. She actually believes that this disease is a type of unknown “gift from God.” That is knowing what true hoPe is. That is knowing hoPe on a personal level. That is the kind of hoPe worth talking about, and living for.
She knows that it might feel like God is taking life from her, that He has abandoned and forsaken her, that He has forgotten her, at the same time she knows hoPe. She knows surrender. She knows redemption is near.
And I know of another woman who is fighting the same disease and she jokes about it. Her and her family, they make jokes about it. And some of these jokes are like, wow, that’s more than borderline inappropriate, you all ran past the line and just kept going. But joking around, laughter, this is how they handle it. This is how they proclaim to the world that they tRust God’s larger plan. They see a bigger picture. They make fun of a disease because they are not going to allow it to control, run, or disrupt their joy, their LoVe, their hoPe.
See these people, these families realize liFe is short. That liFe is this gift, that all of life is a gift, and in order to accept and fully live this gift—you, I, we— must hoPe in something more, and someOne more than our circumstances reflect. We must tRust in someOne who is larger than a disease, or an addiction, a heartache, a broken marriage, a suicide.
As Christians our hoPe comes from One source. As a body of believers we place our tRust in One name. We base our expectancy, and we are bound to One thing, because the promise says we will never be forsaken.
In your abandonment, in the time of your betrayal, in your abuse, in your despair, in your loneliness, there is hoPe. He is here, He is waiting. And it might feel like the darkest hour, it might feel like a wrongful trial, and an impossible climb. It may feel like Friday to the point of death, even death on a cross. But know, know deep inside, know and tRust that victory is granted, death has been defeated, and Sunday is coming. That redemption is coming. Know that resurrection has come, is here and will return.
HoPe is seeing beyond your current state of despair. HoPe is knowing you have an illness, a sickness, a disease, that will likely one day take your life, and not accepting its desire to control you and how you’re going to live.
HoPe is seeing beyond the addiction, and the torment to a new day. HoPe is in knowing you don't have to live this way and your sin is not the end of the story. HoPe is in believing Jesus when he says, “Your brother will rise again.” “It is finished.”
Your depravity is not the end of your story. Your affliction, not the end of your story. Your heartache, your dependence, that divorce, that fight, that lie and gossip, that misstep, that wound, that affair… not the end of your story. God has not forgotten you and your current situation is not the end of your story.
Hope is not a website, or a government, or a t-shirt, or a campaign slogan, or one man proclaiming hope.
HoPe is clinging to the jar.
HoPe is still with mankind.
HoPe is in redemption of your liFe.
HoPe is in the blood.
HoPe hung on a cross, and defeated death.
HoPe is in HiS name.
HoPe is spelled... Resurrection.
One little word "hope" and as you have clearly outlined, our world is propelled by it.
Hope is not only esteemed by Christians, even the world recognizes the value of hope.
Hope is often like faith, we can mistakenly hope for hope or put our faith in faith. I don't believe this is what God intended. While we recognize the value of hope, its apprehension is often illusive.
It seems to me that hope is the offspring of faith and love. In other words, if there was a husband called Love and his wife was called Faith, their firstborn's name would be Hope.
Parentage is everything! If Love proves to be self- serving, then hope is never conceived. If faith is not steadfast and nurturing, then hope is stillborn.
If however, Love is of eternal substance and Faith nurtures the seed of eternal Love, then a child is born, "a blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ".
Are we placing our faith in God's grace or have we played the harlot with our faith and trusted in the things of this world?