Week 1: What is Hope?
“I hope you have a good day!” “I hope you have fun!” “I hope you get good news.”
Hope. We say it often, even flippantly. But what is Hope?
I recently said to a friend who suffers from a life of isolation and hardship, “I hope things shift for you soon.” To which they said, “I don’t believe in hope. Things either are, or they aren’t.”
For them, life is a framework of facts. Things exist and happen to you, or you need to make them happen for you, but hope is useless because there is no action behind it and no evidence that we have any reason to believe something different will occur than already is.
In a turn of a few phrases they shifted my perspective on a word I use frequently to encourage and support others in their journey. So after quick consideration and careful reflection, I said, “May I pray for you, that your situation changes?” To which they readily agreed.
Action. Prayer is hope in action. I was doing something that had some potential to evoke a change rather than saying something into a void that landed as empty and useless to this person in real need. Even though we do not share a belief system and they hold little value for God, doing something (praying) was better than saying something (I hope…).
So what is hope? How did that word wiggle its way into our vernacular?
In our context, at the core, I believe that Hope is the action of God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into this dark world to live like us, be tempted like us, to teach and train us and ultimately to die for us in order to create a bridge back to God.
Hope, in the form of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, lifted the real and felt separation between humanity and God as a result of our sin.
My only real hope in this life is Jesus Christ. Without him blazing a path to glory, life would be blind darkness, isolation and bitter hardship. Perhaps I might fight temporary solace in fleeting joy, but when the world presses in with all its weight, I’d be crushed.
With Christ, when we face trials, we have Hope. Not empty, useless hope, but one real Hope in Jesus, who understands our plight and enters into it with us. He shoulders our burdens, heals our pain and understands our affliction when perfect healing doesn’t occur.
1 Peter 1:3-6 says…
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is our Hope
Week 2: What is Light?
In our homes, light is pretty straight-forward. We flip a switch when we walk into a room or turn on a lamp when it’s too dim to see the pages of our book clearly.
In the natural world, light shines each morning as the sun rises, casting a warm glow on one hemisphere of the earth at a time and all of creation within its reach.
But the Light of Christ? The Light of the World? How do we define that?
With wars raging across borders and people dying senselessly, it is easy to feel that darkness is winning. That somehow, the dawn of Christ’s Light hasn’t hit those parts of the world yet.
Wars aren’t just over borders and dominion in far away places. Everywhere we turn we are confronted with layers of conflict; big and small, important and seemingly trivial. Conflict in our towns, schools, homes, minds and even hearts. Sometimes we feel darkness creeping into our established safe places, laying claim to that which we have fought to protect.
Where is the Light in those spaces?
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Light illuminates our path when we follow Jesus. Light clarifies our thinking when we follow Jesus. Light reveals the true facets of our heart when we follow Jesus. Light brings warmth and comfort in our isolation and pain when we follow Jesus.
Once again there is a call to action. Just as Hope is not an empty word, but God’s perfect love in the action of sending Jesus as a bridge, and in response, our prayers are Hope in action; Jesus offers us Light in the act of following Him.
Some of you have had very bad weeks already. Your world feels dark. The enemy of Christ would love for you to stay in that darkness, but lift up your eyes, dear one! Remember whose child you are!
In these dark days of hardship, trial and strife – Lift your eyes to Jesus. Hope in Him as a solution and let that motivate you to follow Him in the heart of your difficult situation. Maybe this looks like finding truth in scripture to combat lies you are believing. Perhaps it is getting on your knees in prayer. Or turning away from a sinful pattern. It could mean just sitting with Him, allowing Him to be with you in your grief and pain. For you, maybe there are other action steps He is asking you to take today to follow Him – but when you do, His Light is assured! Whether it comes immediately like an on-switch or more slowly like the dawn, it will come.
The Light of Life will come when you follow Jesus.