“It’s just hopeless!” It’s easy to think this these days. Our political system is a mess. Economic inequality is everywhere. The mental and physical health of the people we love is suffering. Small farms and ranches are going under through no fault of their own. Violence continues in our schools and society. There seems to be nothing in this world we can put our hope in for a better life.
Hope is one of those words we often use to describe things that hope doesn’t really mean, at least not from a Christian perspective. Hope is not pie-in-the-sky thinking. Nor is it wishing for something we want. Nor is it about someone or something fulfilling our expectations or satisfying our sense of entitlement. No, hope that rests in our faith in Christ is something much different.
When we wish or expect or imagine our ideal worlds, these come from our wishes, our desires, our expectations, what we want to happen. In other words, wishing and expecting are all about us.
But hope that rests in faith in Christ is all about God. Hope focuses on God’s promises, not on our own wants or demands. Hope never expects “my will be done,” only that “thy will be done.” Hope is open-ended, not certain about the who’s, when’s, where’s, or how’s of the fulfillment of God’s promise, only certain about the what and the why of God’s promised salvation in Christ. Hope waits with patience rather than rushing around in a frustrated worry that we’re not getting what we want quickly enough. Hope trusts that what God has promised in the past WILL indeed happen in the future and may even be happening now. Hope is living in the faith that God’s promise will be fulfilled and that it will happen because God loves us so much.
Really, hope is a way of life, not a feeling. In hope, we live in a joy that recognizes and empathizes with the sufferings of tragedies and unmet expectations, but still knows in a sure and certain faith that such suffering will not win out. In hope, we live out our faith-filled enthusiasm as a people whom God loves and who are called to love and serve all of our neighbors…in our activities, our commitments, and our priorities. Hope rings out in our loving and generous attitudes and in the compassion and kindness with which we treat one another. Hope is not passive; hope acts! But it always acts forward, toward the vision and mission that God calls us to live into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, hope is a gift, a blessing of new life given to us by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s pure grace that is so interwoven with faith and love that they can’t be separated. As Paul famously wrote, “And now faith, hope and love abide together…” (1 Cor 13:13)
So, my friends in Christ, “it is NOT just hopeless” and there IS something and someone to hope in: Jesus Christ and the gift of his new life promised to you. Though we might suffer under the seemingly hopeless weight of a sin-filled world, we who live in faith know and live even now a different story, the story of a hope that does not disappoint.
During this Advent season, then, I invite you to open yourself to the Spirit’s hope through the love of God poured into your hearts, to boast in your hope of sharing the glory of God, and to follow the apostle Paul as he proclaims: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom 5:1-5)
Blessed Advent to you all!
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod