Hope – A gift from God

“Lord, I am not asking that you make me score a goal. I only ask that you give me a gap.”

A young man is said to have prayed these words before a soccer match. And that is more or less how the hope of Christians should work. Because hope is a verb. It is something which you and God make happen together. And the work which must be done is yours.

But is there a right and a wrong way of hoping?

Well, sometimes one gets the idea that people just hope that the worst will not happen. Well, that may be one way of hoping. But we as Christians have more access to hope than this. Yes, we may hope more, much more than this.
The Bible is brimming with hope. It spills from every page. The Bible actually tells stories of hope, because that is what our relationship with God gives us: hope.

Let us take Job. Things happen which steal away all of Job’s hope. He loses everything. But Job does not, in fact, allow his misery to take away his hope. Job keeps hoping in God. God will bring about justice. God will take care of him. Job hopes. And so, Job’s tale also ends on a hopeful note.

The concept of “hope” is one of the concepts which appears in the Bible most often. In truth, it appears in so many forms that we cannot even keep count. We cannot even say how many times “hope” is mentioned in the Bible. We only know that every page in the Bible is brimming with it.
The message of Jesus is, after all, that we can forever place our hope in God, and that He will not desert us even in death. And that is what kept Paul going when we was under house arrest, and in prison, and took beatings: the hope that tomorrow will be a better day and that there will be a tomorrow, even if you struggle or even if you die.

But the Bible has long been about more than the hope of eternal life, although it is our most special message of hope. The Bible tells of people who kept hoping every day because they believe in God. When there was famine in the country and even the king could no longer hope, it was the prophet Elisa who came (2 Kings 6:33) and told the people to invest in the day of tomorrow! And behold! The hope did not disappoint, and food was provided for them.

The Psalms are also songs of hope. It is hope to a melody. It is the Top Ten of hope in the Bible. And it is not just a cheap hope which you imagine. Every time, the psalmist tells (for example in Psalms 7 and 22) how he had deep doubts and had reason to fear for his life. And how hope taught him to taste life again, and to fill himself up with it.

Let us revisit the idea of hope being a verb. In other words, it is not something which God owes you, but something which you tackle together. Hope is actually something which you owe to other people. You know how it feels when someone walks into a conversation and brings everyone down. No one can hope when that is the case. With your hope, you can ignite others, as Paul did with the prophets of old – and Jesus himself. Just as you can take the life out of them with talk of hopelessness and a stiff upper lip.

Yes, hope is a verb. It means to take the gap when you see it, and to believe that the gap will come.

Hope requires a special way of thinking

What sort of mind must one have to keep hoping that the gap will come and then to take it? What type of furniture goes in a hopeful head? And what type of friends should you invite? Hope’s friends are enough sleep, eating right and regular exercise. A tired, slow mind filled with sugar and fat cannot hope. Despair’s friends are overexertion and not having any fun, and in the Bible it is quite important that one look after one’s body so that one’s head will work. Just look at how Jesus cared for the bodies of others with food and healing so that they could stand up and hope.

In the Bible, God allows people to fly because they have hope. Like David who takes on the enormous Goliath because he believes in God. And David was only a boy of twelve or so.

Of course the Bible does not expect us to float around in the clouds with a silly bunch of hope in our heads until we come crashing down. No, the hope which the Bible speaks of is a realistic hope. It is a verb, a head which can take a gap, on a body which maintains healthy habits. It is not a reckless, irresponsible hope. It is, in fact, a hope which makes one feel safe. Psalm 59:9-10 says: You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. Hope must not wrench you from the reality of doing things which are too severe for you. Hope must allow you to take the gap which God allows you to see.

But what can we hope for?

What dare we hope for? We hope for eternal life. But do we also dare hope that this life will change? And what must we do to earn this type of hope? Please read Psalm 119. It is a long Psalm, and it should be a long one, because it is filled with hope. Verse after verse, the psalmist revels in his hope.

He deserves to hope, because he abides by God’s commandments. But if you think about it carefully, God’s commandments are, in fact, to hope! God’s commandments teach us to live healthily so that we can hope on tomorrow.

Maybe today we have a miserable life, even though we abide by God’s commandments and although we live a healthy life. May we hope that this will change? Are we not then tempting God?

God given each of us the basic right to human dignity, and it is an inalienable right. God will never take away our right to live a dignified life. He created us with that right. Therefore, if our lives take away our worth and we lead lives in which pain and humiliation and a lack of money robs us of our dignity, then of course we may hope that life will change. But for what type of change may we hope? That if we are poor, that we will become rich? That if your husband or your wife or child is hurting you, that they will suddenly stop? We may hope for a gap, to think differently about our lives and pain, or to work on it differently.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you, says Psalm 143:8. And is it not the love of God which lets us hope, which opens doors for us, which allows us to see the gap? It is experiencing the love of God which brings hope for the day.

Despair cannot take God’s love away from you. Hope helps you to make an opportunity out of a tragedy, or bad news – a gap which must be taken.

Hope is to give God a gap in your life

When you hope, you are really acknowledging that God senses your needs. You give God a gap in your life. You invite God to walk with you, and our great God walks with you. This we read in the Bible time and time again. God does not only walk with the greats and the pious and the saints who do everything by the book. God walks with Eve after she and Adam have left paradise. God walks with Gideon who comes from a family without status. God walks with Moses who has a disability. The road of hope with God is for everyone.

But what if the hope disappoints?

If you do not receive what you hoped for, and life does not change? Did God then cease to walk with you? No, hope is taking a step. Sometimes hope is just a step. It is one step away from despair. It is a step towards feeling better about life. It is a step closer to a different person. It is a step with God.

To hope is to say: I will not be kicked around and shaken by life. With my head and my heart, I take control over my life. And I do it through my faith in God and his good will for me. My faith allows me to hope, and my hope allows me to live. Now and forever.

The challenge of being a Christian is to be an instrument of hope – for yourself and for others. And we learn this from Jesus, who loved us incessantly and always will through the Spirit. The Spirit which lives in us is a Spirit of hope. It is the Spirit which allowed Martin Luther, the great Reformer, to say: Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant an apple tree today!

Christina Landman

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