I keep hope tightly wrapped around me now. There have been times through the years, the long days and nights of wanting so desperately to see some stability in my daughter’s life, that I have come close to unwinding all of my hope like thread from off a spool. But the unwinding tends to cause a lot of tangling, knotting, and general emotional mayhem to happen! Hope does no good all balled up in a wadded mess. Have you ever tried to get the knots out of a mishandled skein of yarn or an unkempt bobbin? At best, it frays patience. At worst, it proves impossible.
Hope is often very slippery and hard to keep hold of. When one’s efforts appear to fail or when a victory is followed by a setback, optimism tends to leak away. Today may look awfully discouraging. Yesterday may have looked that way too. But hope based on circumstances is fragile and likely to fail. Too much hope placed in something (or someone) fallible is risky. But hope placed in immutable, unchangeable, benevolent and transforming love and power is a sure thing because it means you ALWAYS have something to be hopeful about.
When it appears that all reason to hope has vanished, you have entered a danger zone. Hopelessness hurts you and it hurts everyone around you because the decisions it fosters are rarely the best ones. Hopeless days breed desperation, unbridled emotion, irrationality, and depression.
My sense of hope has been challenged countless times. I’ve often stood at the brink of hopeless, feeling very much like I may as well dive in head first. One thing that has kept me from it is the same thing that has kept many others throughout history — continued faith in a specific promise from God. A favorite example of this is from Joseph‘s life (the guy in the Book of Genesis). Joseph had dreams as a youth in which he could see himself in a future position of leadership and importance. He made the mistake of voicing this to his siblings, who reacted by selling him as a slave and telling their father he’d been killed. I cannot do the story justice by trying to sum it up so briefly, but Joseph’s dreams did eventually come true AFTER a long list of tragic events that could have annihilated anyone’s hope. He was seduced by his master’s lecherous wife, falsely accused of adultery, and thrown into a dungeon and forgotten for years. Through it all, Joseph held fast to the promises his dreams represented because he knew that the giver of those dreams was God Himself.
Every promise was kept and brought to pass. Not only was Joseph released from the dungeon, he was made a ruler in Egypt. He was so full of wisdom and insight after spending so many years shut in with God, that he led the nation successfully through seven years of famine. His character, forged in the fire of trial and tribulation, is universally admired. He forgave his brothers and took care of his family.
His summation of the whole ordeal is beyond beautiful. It’s something only a hoper could say: “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)
If I behold discouragement and disappointment, I am faced with a choice. I can choose to let it dictate to me my level of hope and optimism or I can go back and recount the promises I have received. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He still makes promises and He still keeps them. Obtaining one, believing it, and learning to wait patiently for its consummation are strong weapons against despair.