Hope is a pretty terrific thing to have, especially now. Hope, when it gets a running start, can do a flying leap over a quarantine, a hospital stay or a job loss, and help us land on our feet, emotionally, in some imagined future. Hope is a ventilator that keeps our faith breathing when life knocks the wind out of us.
Hope is terrific. But it is also tricky. Common hope, the garden variety kind, is pretty specific. Hope thinks in pictures. Hope is sure we will get that job. Jane will pass that biopsy with flying colors. Joe will come back home and all will be well. Common hope is about expectations, and pretty specific ones.
I often fuel my faith with this common hope. What is hope, after all, but faith focusing on the future. And the more specific that focus, the stronger the faith, right?
Maybe not. Common hope fueled by specific expectations can let us down. When Jesus lost his friend Lazarus, Jesus was blamed for violating expectations. The common and understandable hope of Mary and Martha was that Jesus would show up while Lazarus was sick and save him. His disciples expected Jesus to be a better friend to Lazarus, one that would show up on time and not three days late.
Jesus redefines hope in the story of Lazarus. When he asks Martha whether she believes in the resurrection, she shares her very precise and theologically correct hope that bodies will rise on the last day, and only on the last day. Jesus doesn’t reject her statement but he does move the hope conversation from expectations to expectancy. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” - (John 11:25-26) Jesus is telling Martha that hope doesn’t need to wait until the end of time. When Jesus is present, anything can happen, at any time.
Biblical hope happens when our future focus moves from a list of imagined outcomes and detects a sovereign savior on the move. Common hope sees a grocery list of good things. Biblical hope sees one like the ancient of days present, active and making things new.
Lois and I re-watched one of our favorite rom-coms the other night, ”While you were Sleeping.” It tells the story of a single woman (played by Sandra Bullock) with lots of expectations like marriage and travel whose life is turned upside down by a crazy accident and an even crazier misunderstanding of her role in that accident. Everything culminates in an unexpected but gloriously satisfying outcome after all the old dreams seem to break in pieces. One of the last lines of the movie goes something like this: “Sometimes life doesn’t turn out like we expected. Sometimes it turns out better.”
God allows times of testing, times of crisis to move us from expectations to expectancy. He wants our hope to change its focus from the checklist on the fridge to the king in the room.
So what should we expect when we are expecting? Joe may or may not come home. Jane’s biopsy may or may not be good news. I may lose that job. Biblical hope, however, sees the future as more than a shiny wish-list. It sees a compassionate messiah.
In Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You” she sings about the movement from expectations to expectancy:
“ When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”
There is nothing wrong with parted waters, moved mountains and timely answers. What should really light up my hope, however, is the presence of the one capable of all of the above but who may have something better up his sleeve.
© 2021 Peninsula Community Chapel