What does Hope Look Like?
The 1950’s are characterized as a time of innovation and energy, optimism and hope for the future. Popularized in the late ’50’s by Frank Sinatra, the song High Hopes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. I remember singing the song in my elementary school music class. It had a catchy tune, and a message that the impossible was not so impossible after all, and that troubles and hardships would flee like the pop of a balloon. These are wonderful thoughts, but do they contain substance that we can cling to? Is an attitude of hope alive today? Just what is hope, and what does it look like?
For Americans, hope is tied into the American Dream in ways both large and small. We still believe that with enough hard work and resourcefulness, anyone can make it in America. Opportunity is available if one works hard enough. This is well and good, but the generalization falls short for some. Society seems bent on deteriorating. It is harder than ever to make it on one’s own without a hand-up by a caring individual or two.
The dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had, or that events will turn out for the best.” As a verb, hope means, “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence,” or “to believe, desire or trust,” or “to feel that something desired may happen.” On a scale of one to ten, how hopeful do you feel?
Cautioned that one should not base one’s happiness on feelings, which are quite fickle, but rather on what is real and true, we often find that things hoped for are not within our grasp. They are future possibilities. Hope, which is a feeling, must be based on something else that is real and true. I can say, yes, I have hope, because generally 95% of the things I fear never come to pass, or because time passes and I do get through the difficult things one way or another. Often things turn out okay, but not always. Sometimes things just plain suck. Bad things happen. People get sick. They hurt. They cry. They suffer losses of all kinds. Jobs, faculties, health, loved ones. Not to mention the pain of relationships gone bad.
During these dark times I force myself to look outside of my current calamity. I lift my eyes up and allow myself to take a God’s-eye view of the world and my place in it. Like a bird or a pilot, I soar above and look down on the earth from a wide-angle view, outside the bounds of time. Troubles seem small, and the things that seem to matter so much shrink and wither, leaving me with the essence of what really matters. That is, who am I? Who does God say I am? What do the things I worry about today matter in the big picture? What does matter?
My brother loves to fly. To him, a sailplane is the ultimate experience, with not even an engine disturbing the calm and peace as he soars above the earth. It is simple and alive. I find the same experience in nature. When I’m on a mountaintop, away from civilization, or taking a walk in the woods , none of the normal distractions intrude. It is me, the earth and sky, and the presence of God.
Several studies in recent years have shown that nature is essential to the physical, psychological, and social well-being of humankind. The complexities of life create many of our problems: boil it down to the basics and many of those problems dissipate. Become a minimalist and you will decrease stress. Let go of fear and you will have peace. Get in touch with nature and you may well touch something else you desperately need.
One of the beauties of faith in a God who cares, who has a purpose for your life, who holds the world in his hands, is the lack of a reason to fear. If God is God, and we live our lives before him as he enables, with integrity, humility, and a good work ethic, there is no reason to fear. We can leave the number of our days in God’s hands. We can relax and feel content about who we are and what we have done with our lives. Not only that, but we know that the mistakes we’ve made are covered in God’s forgiveness. There is hope for the future because God is there.
Two verses are especially relevant here:
Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (New International Version)
Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (NIV)
In conclusion, I trust that my “high hopes” are not a pie-in-the-sky figment of my imagination, but are based on something real and true. I have great optimism for mankind, who has achieved unbelievable and marvelous things that I see with my own eyes every day, and who has capabilities that could change the course of the future. After all, man is made in God’s image.