Bleak hope

blog brettjohnsonbiz christmas encouragement hope Dec 14, 2020

The 2020 Christmas season is here. As we hang fragile ornaments on lonely trees it is important that we manage our hope levels. If we look at 2020 through the lens of sense and sensibility we may have plenty of reason to feel despondent. Hope is not just a feeling, however, but a choice. The beauty of hope is not that it shines when all is well, but that it prevails when life is bleak. 

Google the origins of “hope against hope” and you will find the phrase derives from the Bible where the Apostle Paul is writing about Abraham, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken.” (Romans 4:18) Before exploring this hope Abraham exercised, let’s read it in a few other translations:

  • Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead.
  • Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.”
  • “…who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken.” NKJV

What an amazing phrase: “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed.” 

Nowadays there are many who have faith in faith itself, or they hope because being positive is a good thing. The hope of scripture is not some wave of sentimental, sloppy emotion. Biblical hope is anchored to something and  allied to others. Later in this letter Paul says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s examine the supporting struts of hope:

  1. Faith: “without weakening in his faith”
  2. Joy: “fill you with all joy” Not just a little joy, not a fake-it-til-you-make-it happiness. Deep joy, often chosen against the present emotions, is an ally of faith.
  3. Peace: “and peace” This includes refusing to get in a tizzy because the circumstances are terrible.
  4. Trust: “in believing/as you trust in him” Trusting includes the active focusing of your thoughts, the corralling of your mental patterns, towards the anchors of your hope.
  5. Power: “by the power of the Holy Spirit”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

So these five things are the companions of hope, but what is hopes’ anchor? In the case of Abraham, it was clear he had hope because he believed the word God had spoken to him: you will be the father of many nations. It stood to reason that, to be a father, he would have to have at least one biological child. When he looked at the circumstances, however, they were beyond hope. Yet Abraham held the words God spoke at a higher level than what he saw with his eyes. He believed what he heard in his spirit more than what he saw in his flesh. We can do this temporarily, but Abraham did it for decades. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” Anchor #1 was the word God spoke to Abraham.

Anchor #2 was the God who spoke the word. We cannot separate these, really, because “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Today there are many “prophetic words” flying around so we need to hear God’s “rhema” (spoken) word to our own hearts AND see the God behind the word. We see through the promise to the Promise Giver. 

As we hurtle down a seemingly slippery slope to the end of 2020 let us peg our hope on the things God has said to us and the God who spoke. Then we need to welcome the companions of hope: faith, joy, peace, trust, power. Manage your hope-level. Hope is not a hapless outcome of circumstance and feeling: it is a kingdom of God commodity that must be stewarded.

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope! (The Passion Translation)

But what about my dire circumstances? Well, this a paradox of hope: like a diamond on a velvet cloth hope shines clearest against the dark backdrop of hope-denying realities. “…who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken.” Steward hope this season so that you can father the things long promised but still not apparent. Gather the colleagues of hope around your Christmas table, even if your family and friends are not dining with you. Bleak hope held firm is beautiful hope.