Get Your Hopes Up
I've been reminded this week of the necessity of hope in our lives. There are few places harder to be than in the shadow of despair. Despair is what you feel when you think you know the end of the story, and the ending is tragic. In other words, the light of hope has burned out.
We all know that this world is broken, and far too often things don't work out the way we dream. Doors close. Relationships crumble. Bodies fail. Friends let us down. Our sense of safety erodes in light of violence surrounding. There's no shortage of stories with tragic endings in our world, and in our own lives.
But it occurs to me that even though we know and experience such brokenness, the eyes of faith refuse to see a lost cause. No closed door is the last possible door to investigate. No relationship is so broken that it can't be repaired. No sinner is beyond the reach of grace and redemption. Even the sickness that ends a life doesn't have the final word for the Jesus-follower. There's always life on the other side.
The problem, of course, is that we don't know the future (at least not the immediate future). So when we're in the middle of the brokenness, it can be very difficult to imagine the script changing. A happy ending can seem so outlandish that it feels ridiculous to cling to one, like the snowman from Frozen dreaming of sunbathing on a summer beach. Let it go, pal. It's not gonna happen.
It's into that darkness, the despair that envisions a horrific outcome, that the gospel speaks. In fact, the gospel is such outlandishly good news that it would be ridiculous to believe - if God had not explicitly told us so. Romans 5:5 assures us that "hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom he has given us." To say that hope doesn't "put us to shame" is to say that it gives us what we're dreaming of. The thing we're hoping for comes to fruition.
To illustrate the opposite: When my beloved Houston Texans began to show glimpses of a formidable offense in 2017, I began to hope that they would have a successful season, and perhaps even contend for a championship. But my hope "put me to shame" when our shiny new quarterback, Deshaun Watson, ended his season early with a knee injury. The ending I was hoping for didn't come to pass. My hope was misplaced, and it put me to shame.
The gospel doesn't do that. The hope of eternal life will NOT "put us to shame," because it will come to pass in reality. The NIV says that hope "does not disappoint." We'll get the ending we're dreaming of, because God is always true to his word.
So if you're in a dark place, unable to see the potential for a positive, redemptive outcome, and tempted to despair - remember that the God you worship, the God who loves you, is working, even there in the brokenness. Even there in the hardest situation in your life. Even there in that relationship you are certain is about to end. Even there in the fog of heartache and loneliness you think will never lift. The gospel is true, and the God of the gospel specializes in turning these dark, seemingly hopeless situations into stories of his grace and faithfulness.
Step back from your situation. Put your eyes on the God of the gospel.
And get your hopes up.