As children, we couldn’t wait to tear into the presents under the tree, but once they were all opened, we may or may not have played with the new toys much past the first day. We hoped for the toys on our list but did they really satisfy?
Hope is so much more than a gift list.
Hope is what carries us through disappointments, pain, and the hard times in life. Hope reminds us there is more to it all than the here and now. Hope says, “I will see you through.”
I had a childhood friend, Kathy, who after enduring polio as a preschooler, had many physical ailments. As a teenager, she underwent major surgery in the hope it would increase her mobility after spending many years in a wheelchair. She might be able to walk again! Against all odds, the surgery was a success! She worked hard for eight weeks to restrengthen and reteach her muscles to work together and was enjoying some real progress. Then suddenly, and for no apparent reason, she lost all feeling in her legs, and all hope for ever walking again was gone. What a devastating disappointment! The thing that got Kathy through – and I mean the only thing – was the passage in Romans 5 that begins and ends with hope, starting in vs. 2b:
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.”
How could this passage help her endure? And how could Paul possibly say that hope does not disappoint? Kathy was certainly disappointed. She was beyond disappointed. She had hope and it was dashed. Hadn’t she been through enough? It was enough to want to give up altogether. What is the point of hope if it lets you down at the moment you need it most?
Hope does not disappoint.
Kathy decided that if these words were from God, they must be true. She dissected this passage, starting at the end and working her way backwards. How could Paul say that hope does not disappoint? Because “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Kathy claimed this right away: she was not alone. Her heart was full of God’s love, thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Whether she could walk or not, Kathy decided to take a big picture view and live in the reality of the love of God that filled her with hope. Was her hope for walking again renewed? Did she cling to some foolish notion that she would one day walk again? Yes! Walking alongside her Savior on the streets of gold, fully healed, fully whole. For that, she’d persevere for a lifetime.
Back to the beginning of the passage. This is how it is possible to find hope in God in the middle of a trial. Even in a wheelchair. Kathy chose to rejoice in her suffering, watching herself persevere and grow in character, resulting in renewed hope. She was a blessing to all who were fortunate enough to know her. Kathy received her eternal reward and is enjoying perfect health on strong legs that will never fail her again.
Hope for eternity gives us the ability to endure, and even rejoice in our suffering. During Advent, watch hope give you the strength to persevere through the darkest days. As we look for the light at the end of the tunnel (the coming of Jesus!), let’s find hope in the truth of God’s presence and promises.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)