Tuesday, May 8 2018
They are from Colombia. But they had moved to Canada for two years to study theology at a seminary in Vancouver. And I, after spending a few weeks with my parents in Ontario, had flown out to BC to visit my young Colombian friends there.
Those were the four block letters sitting on the windowsill of the window in their apartment when I arrived.
The letters were about 10cm tall and were painted white. As they sat there, they made a fitting foreground for the lovely downtown-Surrey backdrop that could be seen through and behind them.
I remember that I spent a long while looking at those letters and meditating on the short but significant word they spelled: H-O-P-E.
Their stark whiteness reminded me that HOPE is something pure and holy. It is the complete, trusting, child-like assurance of things desired and believed, “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). They speak expectant possibility into my sometimes discouraged and doubting heart, and they inspire me and motivate me to choose holy trust even when I cannot see (especially when I cannot see) what I am believing for.
Those letters sat there on the shelf, quietly and patiently, as HOPE does. It waits. And waits. And waits. And does not grow weary in quiet and patient waiting. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25) Those letters reminded me and encouraged me to not give up, to persevere, to keep on keepin’ on – to have the confidence that one day things would be different, things would be better.
Those letters sat there steady and sure, constant and unchanging. They were there, without moving or changing position, the whole time I was visiting them. They were just there, speaking security and strength into my sometimes anxious and fearful heart. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7) Yes! The steadfastness of HOPE is like an anchor for my oftentimes storm-tossed soul.
But, as I continued to ponder those four letters, I realized that one was toppled over. The “H”, the “O” and the “E” were standing upright and tall. But the “P” was tipped over, and was half-lying on its round side. And that too, is how HOPE is sometimes. Not always perfect, and standing straight and strong. Sometimes HOPE falters, and stumbles, and falls. Sometimes my HOPE is standing tall and sure in some areas of my life, but in others it is wavering and floundering. But then, as did the unknown author of Psalm 119, I too say, “Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!” (Psalm 119:116) And as Job 14:7-9 says, I too can choose to believe that “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”
HOPE. Without it we die. We may not literally have what we need or desire at times, or what we believe to need and desire – but, although it doesn’t seem to be so, that is still alright. But when we lose HOPE, when our confidence in the promise that better days are coming withers to nothing, when our HOPE dies, then we too die.
HOPE. To have a pure and holy, quiet and patient, steady and constant, sure and unfaltering HOPE does not come easy. In fact, it is impossible, were it not for the One we are told to hope in. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 43:5) Hoping just in ourselves, or in others, or for our circumstances to change for the better, that will get us nowhere – that hope will surely fail and disappoint. But hoping in the Lord of heaven and earth, the Almighty One, our Savior and our salvation – that HOPE will never disappoint, and that HOPE will never put us to shame (Romans 5:5).
And so, we must get to know this God of HOPE who we are told to hope in. We must turn to the Bible, the book that speaks of Him, the book that was written for our instruction, to encourage us to endure, to give us HOPE in the God of HOPE, the God who never disappoints and never fails (Romans 15:4). There is simply no other way. As human beings, we trust and hope in what or whom we know. What we don’t know, we cannot trust or hope in. And so, when our faith is weary and weak, when the letter “P” in our H-O-P-E has toppled over, then we must open the Scriptures, and read, and get to know, and learn to confidently trust in the God who declares that He is HOPE.
Dear friend: are you struggling today? Struggling to believe that your life will ever change for the better? Struggling to wait quietly and patiently for a long-anticipated answer? Struggling to persevere and endure in the midst of confusion and pain and doubt? Struggling to maintain a steady and constant HOPE in your heart?
Dear friend: this is my prayer for you today. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
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