What is hope?
Hope is a concept that haunts us through the most difficult passages of our lives — times when we are discouraged, in pain, in despair, and wanting to give up. Whatever the cause or origin of our difficulty, we feel as if we are walking a tightrope. “Hope” is the only ray of light we imagine at the end of the tunnel; we have no idea “if” or “when” the end is coming. Even the most faithful become discouraged, as history shows. Times of war are especially taxing as so many suffer from the consequences, with no idea of timelines for relief.
Hope is often confused with faith, to which it is not unrelated but in fact separate from (as we shall see). Sometimes hope is the only thing we have to hang on to. It is invisible, tenuous, impossible to quantify and very much misunderstood.
There is a subtle function going on when we are in the fire of affliction that forges something beautiful, if we can endure the process. We will identify the catalyst that gives “hope” its function.
The scriptures sequence “faith, hope and love (…but the greatest of these is love” I Corinthians 13:13) is in that specific order for a purpose. The principles are applicable to all circumstances.
When the three words “faith, hope and love” are randomly rearranged, the lesson is lost. The key is in understanding exactly why “hope” is different from “faith”. Hopefully (pun intended) the explanation will surprise!
“Faith” itself goes beyond belief and knowledge. It is possible to have knowledge without a concrete “faith”. Most of the higher spiritual senses are tested IN THE FIRE, when we are under hardship “in the kiln of affliction”. If we endure suffering we graduate; if we fail, we do not.
The missing factor in “hope” — the catalyst for success
Uniquely, “hope” is missing in the list of spiritual gifts mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (5:22-23). “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering [aka patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” do not include the word “hope”. Hope itself accompanies faith in that faith is tied to an assured waiting for things one doesn’t yet see but hopes for. But hope has a special function to perform.
Why is “hope” not a spiritual “gift”? If hope cannot be gifted then it is something we must develop ourselves for building character. It is for our testing. Given it’s placement in the word trilogy, hope’s importance is shown to be the bridge between faith and love. Both faith and love grow stronger from exercising “hope”. Even trust is increased as the process of growth forms a basis of experience for future long trials. While hope is being tested, there is only one way to hang on to it when all seems lost.
Time as a Mystery
With our lives tethered to the inescapable element of time, no one escapes its entrapment. When stress increases, there is a natural desire to break its barriers — in other words to “cheat the clock”. While faith or belief can exist in a fairly static mode, something else must happen when a long period of time is attached to suffering or delayed expectations or goals.
Time is where we suffer, where the separate quality of faith is tested. Time is how and why we are forced to learn to s-t-r-e-t-c-h faith beyond our normal endurance. It is where we either break or conquer. It is where we resist the wrong urges to escape through inadvisable or simply wrong means, and it is where and how we prove our faith. As part of the process we learn to turn away from darkness and reach for light. Whatever identifies as “light” increases hope the same way sunlight stimulates a buried seed. Turn off the negatives! The rewards come with hindsight, when “time” ceases its bondage to the situation.
Under the crucible of time, we must not break to wrong temptations “hoping” to shorten the process. That doesn’t mean we do not take reasonable measures to mitigate against and alleviate the suffering! But if we “hope against hope” when we feel we are losing hope, when others around us are losing theirs, then we have not lost hope! Quietly, invisibly, as hope endures, our capacity to love and trust increases as well. There is no shortcut. There are never shortcuts to building good character. There is only yielding and submission without ever giving up. Staying the course despite the headwinds. Praying when we can no longer tread water. Because that is how we find that we were able to endure after all. It is how we conquer.
Copyright 2022 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Sharing permitted only with appropriate credits.
Dreamstime photo credits:
Featured photo “Hope”: Photo 186934333 @ Natali Filina
“Faith” in the fire: Illustration 206431228 @ Cmlndm
Time clock and space: Illustration 6229895 @ Eti Swinford
Stretching rubber band #1: Photo 92900551/Beautiful @ Pojoslaw
Stretching hand/band #2: Photo 167646532 @ Jakkarin Jindapon
“Do not give up”: Photo 42417018/Hope@ Arnel Manalang
“Faith, hope, love” metal plaque: Photo69752383/Faith Hope Love @ Suzanne Cook