The words came across his desk through tears laced with deep compassion. “It will get better.”
My resigned response was simple. “I hope so.”
I had used those words a thousand times in darker moments of life when pain was the order of the day. It had served as my expression of inner weariness and psychic exhaustion.
A sort of cross-your-fingers faith.
But this time despair bled through the words. There were no props of faith shoring them up. It was sheer resignation.
A verbal shrug. A sigh from the soul. A guttural que sera sera.
Those words in that moment spasmed from the darkest point in my life. They were underscored by abject failure, massive loss and spiritual desolation. They tasted bitter in my mouth as I spoke them.
That was then…
Now…I have come to embrace these words as so much more. Now its is a personal mantra with a completely different meaning.
In reality, “I hope so” is a subversive phrase. In the face of the worst circumstance it expresses a rough, raw confidence that things as they are now are not at all how they will ultimately be.
The “so” part for me has gone from a period that groans in defeat, “Is this all there is?” to an ellipsis that shouts in defiance, “There is much more to come!”
Back then it was “I hope so…”
But now it is “I hope…so.”
So discouragement never gets the final word even when routines are deadening
So no matter what I am facing, I will not quit because failure is not final or fatal
So I choose to see a preferable “then” in the face of what seems an impossible “now”
So I embrace God and good and grace even when my world screams evil and injustice
As Habakkuk once sang:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” –Habakkuk 3:17-18
Hope is that “yet”.
It has become a treasure to me–recovered from the ashes of an epic life implosion. It is supremely valuable. The most critical survival skill for a soul living in between the dreaming and the coming true.
Hope is the incredibly strong, tenacious, even visceral conviction that I am
- Defined by my Father’s affection
- Designed to live a significant life, and
- Destined to leave an imprint for good as my legacy.
In the face of each personal failure hope is doggedly determined to live on purpose. Underneath it is a passionate struggle to survive and succeed in the painful experiences of a world that can be harsh and unforgiving.
The Israelites of the Older Testament hated the Valley of Achor outside of Jericho because it was a constant reminder of where they had experienced their most humiliating defeat at the hands of a pathetic militia from Ai (Joshua 7). Much later in their history, God promised one of His old prophets, “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” (Hosea 2:15)
God was saying, “I will make the place of your humiliation the passageway to your destiny.”
Now if you see this as one more feel-good pep talk from someone out of touch with the rub and reality of life you certainly don’t know my backstory.
I have lived through the end-of-all-things-as-we-know-it stuff. Despair and I are well acquainted. Failure was my tailor and humiliation my wardrobe for years. I know what it is to stand hip deep in ocean waves and seriously contemplate letting them draw me under.
I know from deeply personal and painful experience that sometimes (often!) hope is hard. The difficulty comes from the fact that it is contrarian.
Hope says “yes” to every unquestioned and unjust “no” in life.
It confronts status quo and sabotages “just how it is”. It kicks over the injustice of money-changers in houses of love and throws incarcerating spirits of despair off cliffs in pig bellies.
Hope is a stretch because it always sees things as they are but believes them as they should be. It is hard because it yearns for what is not. “…we hope for what we do not yet have…” (Romans 8:25)
But hope is also easy because it is based on something unshakable…Someone eternal. “God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 65:5)
“My hope is built on nothing less…”
Hope is a lone tree growing in an arid desert; a beautiful flower springing from solid rock. Hope remains. Hope sustains. It is an “anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).
Hope is a resurrection in the heart. It is life poured into dead things–oxygen for lungs that long ago ceased to breathe. It is a bittersweet longing; a life-defining ache.
Hope is desperation without despair.
This is not a pipe dream or unrealistic panacea. As David knew from his own experience, “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3).
The old Apostle who had seen more pain in a few years than most of us will know in ten lifetimes, once reminded us:
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:3-5)
Like Jonah reeking of fish guts or three Hebrew boys with the hint of smoke about them, when you’ve been THROUGH exile and walked THROUGH fire and you COME OUT on the other side, you have no choice but to be a hope addict.
I am among this ragged band of survivors who wear as a badge of honor the moniker of Zechariah (9:12): “Prisoners of hope.”
A prayer for you who struggle today: “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)