Three years ago I started writing a “year in review” blog. Measuring by life events alone, 2010 sucked. But considering how I’ve experienced God’s hope and joy, this was actually the best year of my life so far.
A solidarity is forming within me as I’m learning to hope. Coming through suffering with more hope than before feels like being grounded by a cruise ship anchor:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us… (Hebrews 6:19, 20)
This verse says that hope is an anchor; it grounds us. Emily Dickinson described hope as “the thing with feathers,” a bird that “perches in the soul” and sings throughout life’s storms. I’ve heard hope sing to my soul, but what’s more useful in a tempest: a little songbird, or a cast-iron anchor?
Both the Victorian poet and the first-century author of Hebrews identify that hope is tied to the soul, because hope is emotional, not rational. The day after my second consecutive miscarriage, I started hoping for another baby, though the day before I never wanted to be pregnant again. Hoping so soon after tragedy doesn’t make sense. That’s why it’s hope. For “we do not hope for what is seen, but what is unseen” (Romans 8:24). Hope looks forward to a reality we aren’t experiencing just yet.
What can we look forward to that will carry us through suffering today? Romans 5 explains:
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:1-4)
If life seems to be working here and now, we don’t feel much need to look forward to a better place. Life never works for long, though. We can’t choose much of what happens to us, but we can choose our response: we will mope or hope? Hope is also a choice. Even in mourning we can thank God for the life-changing, undeserved access we have to a personal relationship with God. This is what Hebrews 6 means by a hope “which enters the veil,” where Jesus has gone before us. Jesus has gone between us and God so we can intimately know Love Himself. Hope looks forward to the day when we will more literally experience our privilege of entry into the throne room of the Almighty.
My life has been light on suffering. This little taste of tragedy this year made me long for eternity when one day I’ll see my Father and my children. Hope is knowing this life isn’t where it’s at, but God’s Kingdom is. When God establishes His Kingdom on earth as well as heaven, there will be peace: no more war between nations and family members, no more oppression and injustice, no more pain and death. Can you imagine waking up tomorrow to nothing but good news stories and loving, meaningful interactions with all your friends and family? That’s a little bit what God’s Kingdom will be like. And we don’t have to wait till heaven to start experiencing peace and joy:
hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Rejoicing in God means our hearts are brimming with His love, and we can start sharing that now. I’ve got my work cut out for me if I’m really looking forward to eternity since I want to take as many friends with me as possible. Hope supplies a new zeal and urgency about sharing the good news of God’s grace with others who desperately need access to His throne. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has put eternity in everyone’s heart, so all people hope for something better. By sharing “the reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15) we can bring good tidings of great joy to all the people.