As we struggle through this global pandemic, people all over the world have been doing a lot of hoping. But if we’re honest, much of our hope is expressed in running internal monologues that sound like this:
I hope nobody stands too close to me in the checkout line.
I hope the governor won’t extend the stay-at-home order again.
I hope my parents don’t forget to wear their masks.
I hope that person who just coughed isn’t sick.
I often find myself stuck in these thought loops lately, especially on trips to the grocery store. But it occurred to me recently that these are “negative hopes”—things I’m hoping against, not hoping for. They’re words that I use to ward off danger, like someone holding up a cross in front of a vampire. They’re not the kind of life-giving, life-sustaining hope that Jesus offers.
In their book Dear Parent: A Guide for Family Faith Formation, Laura and Robert Keeley observe: "Real hope is much more than that. Henri Nouwen wrote that 'hope is open ended, built on the trust that the other will fulfill his or her promises.' Hope is built on trust, trust that is well earned. We don’t hope “just because.” As Christians, we hope because we believe that God will keep the promises God has made. This kind of hope is fundamental to building our faith, and it’s found only in God."
Real hope is based on promises like this: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be terrified. I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands” (Isaiah 41:10, NIrV).
And this: “The Lord himself will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you. So don’t be afraid. Don’t lose hope.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIrV).
Those are words we can cling to no matter what happens. They offer the kind of hope that can shelter and sustain us, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
In her novel Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver writes, “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
That’s deep. Read it again. And maybe once more after that.
How might you and I “live under hope’s roof” in the midst of change, anxiety, illness, and uncertainty? What might that look like in our homes and in our churches? How can we encourage each other to focus on what we hope for, and the One in whom our hope is rooted, rather than what we’re hoping against? There’s no better time to find out than now.