The Challenge of Hope
Grasping the understanding that our anticipation really is in Christ.
At a point where most of the big things still stretch out before me, this is a good thing. But I’m learning it’s also a scary thing. Because sometimes hopes are disappointed—in fact, devastated. Sometimes God doesn’t give us the things we want. What does this mean about God? Doesn’t he want good things for me? Is hope just about looking toward heaven? Do I have to accept that the good things I want might not happen in this life?
When something is new and exciting, it’s so difficult not to put my hope in it. As much as I may tell myself that I’m putting my hope in Christ, and isn’t it nice that he seems to be giving me this relationship or outcome or whatever it is that I want, at the moment it seems like he might be taking it away I get angry. I lash out. I ask him why he would do this to me, give me these hopes and then mercilessly yank them out from under me. Why would he be so cruel, I ask.
God and I were having this all-too-familiar conversation one Sunday not long ago when a lyric in a song caught my attention: “my hope is in you.” It’s a common lyric, actually, and it’s in at least three worship songs I can quickly think of. It was this phrase that lodged itself into my brain and for the next week I was obsessed with the idea of putting my hope in Christ. Sure, it’s something I’d say I do. Or at least I know I’m supposed to. But what does that really look like? What does it look like to put my tangible hopes into a spiritual being? Do the things I want even matter?
Over the course of that week, I wrestled with these questions. I gathered every song I could find with the word hope in it, looking to get to the bottom of what it meant. I started reading multiple books I thought might be helpful. I spent intense time with God, and even more time talking to other Christians about what he was showing me, and asking for their wisdom on this increasingly complex idea of hope.
“My hope is in you” turned over and over in my mind, and even though I still could not articulate exactly what it looked like in my life, I could sense that I was fumbling in the dark toward something beautiful, a light that my heart recognized as truth. It seemed enough to keep repeating the phrase, trusting that in time it would become true of me and I’d understand what, exactly, it meant.
And then the next week at church we sang a song (“Land of the Living” by Enter the Worship Circle) that perfectly put into words what my heart had known. After describing the joy of gazing at God’s beauty with our eyes and worshiping him with our lips, it says:
My heart will be dancing when it knows that you are with me And I will see your goodness in the land of the living.
God does want good things for my life here on earth! Certainly hope points me toward heaven, where all my pain and brokenness will be restored, but right here, in my present, God wants to point me to the goodness that is even better and more fulfilling than the things I think will satisfy me. He wants to point me to himself.
To have hope in Christ is never to be disappointed—his beauty, his presence, his goodness are unchanging and eternal. When I focus my energy on seeking and praising him, there is no chance of disappointment. This happens in the act of worship, when I turn my eyes and lips and heart to building a relationship with him. How freeing!
Not that I have it all figured out. I’m still learning what it means to be excited and hopeful about what will happen in my future while submitting that to a hope in Christ’s being and presence. It’s going to take a lifetime to figure it out.
So what does it mean to you to put your hope in Christ? How do you balance pursuing a life on earth that is inevitably shaped by relationships and outcomes with seeking God’s goodness?