On the first day of summer vacation, our family flew to Europe for my brother’s wedding. After spending five days on a small island of Greece in the middle of the Aegean Sea, our family ferried to Athens for a few days.
Here’s the best way I can think to describe it to you: We went from playing in the crystal clear ocean, riding mopeds up and down the one road on the whole island, exporing nooks and crannies in search of the best gelato….
…to gritty Athens. Though still pretty, it was full of people, graffiti and honking horns. We arrived at our hotel and decided to walk to the main city square… except we took a wrong turn and ended up on a really dodgy street. We tucked the kids in close and pushed on, walking quickly until we ended up in a huge open square, with people selling everything you can imagine.
A teenage boy came up to us and began to tie a bracelet onto William’s wrist. He started to chat in broken English and told us it was a gift to us from him. “For your sports,” he kept repeating. The bracelet had the word ‘hope’ embroidered on it. We told him no, we didn’t want to buy his bracelets, but he insisted. “For your sports,” he smiled. “No money. I give to you.” He was such a nice kid, so eventually we believed him and started to walk away with our free gift.
Except that’s not what he meant. Apparently his hope wasn’t free. And he wasn’t giving the bracelet to William for his “sports” it was in exchange for “our support”. When we handed the bracelet back to him and told him we wouldn’t be paying him any money, he looked as us angrily and walked away.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that we thought he was handing us hope— in the form of a bracelet— for free. But when we finally believed it, it was taken away.
I started to think about my relationship with hope— the tiny four letter word embroidered on the free-but-not-free bracelets. So often I treat hope skeptically. I’m careful with the way I hold it, at arm’s length, so that just in case things don’t work out the “right” way, my heart is still protected.
Is hope really for real? Can it be trusted?
The great Homer Simpson once said, “You tried and failed. The lesson is… never try.”
If I’m not careful, those are words I live by. But believe me, I don’t want to live by the words of Homer Simpson. Very few of us do, I think (And if you do, well, you’re probably reading the wrong blog). So what does it take to break down the walls of our heart and live as people who hope?
This verse sits on the windowsill next to the kitchen sink:
“And this hope will not lead us to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because He has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with His love” Romans 5:5
I can’t help but wonder if you’ve ever felt disappointed by hope? If you’ve prayed, trusted, believed, proclaimed… and then something goes horribly wrong.
You studied for the test, but still received a failing grade.
You went to the counseling, but nothing changed in your relationship.
You prayed for a change of heart, but the anger won’t go away.
You hoped for a miracle, but instead you were met with silence.
When someone or circumstances mess with what we thought to be true, we’re quick to turn and walk the other way, aren’t we? Not so trusting, not so willing. We refuse to be so naive. For some of us, we find our waning hope affecting every area of our life. And we just want to run back to where it’s safe and quiet and beautiful again. Where the decisions don’t seem as complicated and the ache in our hearts can be soothed. We tried and failed… so the next safe move seems to be to quit even trying.
But I believe God wants us to live in the intersection of hope and sorrow. To cling to His promise to us, even when it seems that all has been lost. And Romans 5:5 speaks to what we know to be true, not what we feel. N.T. Wright says, “We mustn’t imagine that our feeling of being close to God is a true index of the reality. Emotions often deceive. Paul (the author of Romans) is summoning us to understand the reality, the solid rock beneath the shifting sands of feeling.”
Our hope is in Jesus.
Not in our circumstances or our feelings or other people.
Not in our future or our church or our government.
Not in our wombs or our parenting skills or bank accounts.
Our hope is in Christ.
That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”
When we finally realize what hope truly is, it ceases to be a buzzword. When we look for it in the world, we find it in exchange “for your sports” and as quickly as we put it on our wrist, it’s snatched away. When we look for it in Jesus, we find it transforms us. It sustains our soul and reconciles us to Christ. It comes to us in our suffering and our darkest hour and brings us peace.
May you today find the hope of Jesus you’re longing and searching for. May you quit grasping for empty hope and find the True Hope that doesn’t lead us to disappointment. May your heart be filled with the love that the Holy Spirit promises us and may you see just how dearly you are loved.
I’m Sarah and I write about the intersection of hope & sorrow in our lives. It’s a privilege to have you along for the journey. Would you like to receive a bit of quiet encouragement from me to your inbox?