I’ve heard it said that you can live several weeks without food, several days without water, and several minutes without oxygen; but you can’t live one second without hope.
If this is true, I want to know what it means to have hope.
I once had a friend describe to me a difficult time she had faced. She ended the account with these words: “But now, I have so much hope.”
I didn’t understand what she meant. I, too, had come through challenges, but hope had never entered into my retelling. I’ve thought a lot about this in the years since, as the cycles of life continued and I’ve faced even more challenging times. In those dark nights of despair, here is what I’m learning about hope.
Hope is believing that God will work all things together for good, even if it’s not in the way you would have chosen. And when we don’t feel like we believe that, hope is waiting to see if God will come through for us anyway. Hope, I have learned, has very little do to with feelings. Hope is not the same as peace. Hope is not the same as happiness. Hope is an expectation and a waiting and a holding on.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “When you’ve reached the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” That, my friends, is hope. In fact, one of the original Hebrew words used for hope can also mean a cord used for attachment.
That cord is our hope in God.
Not in a person. Not in a certain outcome.
When the world plunges us into darkness, hope is hanging onto God.
Hope is waiting for God when there is nothing else to wait for. Hope is continuing to live for God when there is nothing else to live for.
Hope is also the baseline for faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.“ Faith is putting hope into action.
Think about the experience of driving on a dark road and needing to make a left turn. In that split second before your headlights swing around, you turn into pitch darkness. It can feel as though you are about to drive off a cliff. You cannot see anything, and you know the world outside is moving very fast.
In that moment, hope is believing that when you turn the car, the road will be there.
Faith is actually turning the car.
And this, as Paul said, is not by our own doing, but as a gift from God.
Hope in the darkness is not something we do alone. On the other end of that cord is a loving Father, strong enough to defend us, loving enough to protect us, and gentle enough to hold us. When we have done all we can do, our only job is to stand firm. Hope is waiting to see what God will do next. (See Ephesians 6:13.)
Hope in the darkness may not be the blazing light I thought it was. But the darker it is, the less light we need to see by. And as I wrote once before, God will teach us how to hope in the dark. There are times when hope may feel like a thin thread between our hands, but do not let that fool you.
Hope is as strong and as long and as wide as the Father’s arms that hold us.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly, who recently passed away but is not forgotten. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.