HOPE(01): first thoughts
I once read that a person can survive about forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air—but for only one second without hope. I don't know who was the original source of this statement or how accurate the numbers are, but it certainly conveys the vital nature of hope in this desolate world. It seems that hope, whether real or perceived, as grounded expectation or wishful thinking, is essential for human life.
For those of us who have found new life in Jesus, hope is a key feature of our redemption. The Scriptures present it as an attitude or perspective that alters how we navigate our days on earth. It is an awareness that beckons us toward our deepest longings to a place where promises find fulfillment and dreams are realized. The hope presented in the Bible is not an illusive dream but a guarantee sourced in "the God of hope" and the person of Jesus. The Apostle Paul ranks it among three enduring elements—faith, hope and love. Peter calls us to be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us. As I read the Scriptures, I find that our hope is not merely an optimistic feeling tucked away in the background of our thoughts, but is more like a pervasive expression of the narrative that now defines our lives in Jesus—that larger story of redemption that both precedes us and is yet to be completed.
Over the past few years, I have established a practice of researching specific topics with the intention of exploring the vastness of our life in Christ—of gaining a deeper understanding of specific aspects of that life and practical experiences of their reality. Those topics have included contentment, mercy, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each of them was chosen because it seemed to fall into the grey areas of my faith. They had been small stones that filled in the space around larger rocks. They had been worthy of recognition, but not of deep study and contemplation. It was the acknowledgement of my shallow understanding and trite definitions that provoked me to consider these topics. But it was my growing awareness of their prominence in God’s mind that launched these perennial journeys. In each case, the biblical discoveries have been profound and the personal experiences transformational. This year I’m focusing on HOPE.
I’m approaching this as an evolving study that will not follow any direct pathway toward a predetermined conclusion. If it works out like the other studies have, I will collect as many questions as answers and end with as many mysteries as conclusions. If I have done this well, HOPE will truly define my life in Christ and take its place as one of the larger rocks.