Hope Floats. It’s the title of a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. It was filmed in the small Texas town of Smithville, not far from my home.
I’ve been intrigued by the idea of hope for a long time. Hope is a topic or word that I meditated upon for a while in my spiritual time.
In timely fashion, I picked up a book about hope called Irrepressible Hope, compiled by the Women of Faith leaders and was drawn (and still am) to life stories whose woven theme centered around hope. I highly recommend this book – I believe I passed it on at some point probably swapping it on paperbackswap.com, but now I wish I still had it!
Hope is something I like to give to people. How do you give people hope?
Where Can We Find Hope?
My husband attended a celebratory mass at church some time ago. The priest/speaker told a story about when he was a new to the ministry and a single mom came to him for help. She knocked on his pastoral door, seeking the leaders of the church as one in desperate need might do. With her youngsters in tow, she told this man that she had no money and no food for her children. She was indeed desperate, and he felt her anguish over not being able to feed her young babies.
He went to the store and purchased several bags of groceries and various needed items such as toilet paper and soap. He delivered these items to her door and she was grateful, but she looked at him and said: “I need these items, but what I think I need more is hope.”
I am going to pause the story there and ask you – what would you have replied to this woman? What could you have said or then done that would have represented hope to her?
Have you ever been like the woman in this story? Grateful to have an immediate physical need met but hungry and desperate for so much more?
Jesus Has Always Offered Hope
Jesus encountered women and men like this every day during his years of ministry on the earth. He even told the devil that man shall not live by bread alone, so he knew that an immediate need for bread or other sustenance only solves one problem, but not man’s deeper desires and needs.
When the disciples and Jesus were meeting with thousands of men, women, and children in the desert and Jesus had been teaching them all day, they became hungry and thirsty. The disciples recognized their own physical needs and pleaded with Jesus to let the people go home so they could find nourishment before they fainted from lack of food in the hot sun. Jesus replied: “You feed them.” Was he testing the disciples somehow or did he mean they needed more than food and water?
When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, she thought he was seeking water. But Jesus was seeking much more. He was seeking her. And she learned during her encounter with the Savior that she had also been seeking more.
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:13-15)
She had been seeking hope.
When Lazarus died, his sisters, Mary and Martha were understandably heartbroken. Jesus had heard Lazarus was sick yet he did not go to him and heal him.
“Why did you not come? Why did you let him die?” they demanded when Jesus finally showed up. Surely they had faith – they knew that if Jesus had come he could have healed Lazarus – they had faith in the Savior and His power they had seen demonstrated time and time again.
So, why did Jesus delay and wait until Lazarus was so dead that he stunk? Many reasons, theologians will tell you, but I think one is applicable here: he knew Mary and Martha had faith, now what they needed was hope!
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
Would they ever again doubt the goodness, the power, and the love of the Almighty after seeing their dead, decaying brother raised up from the dead? I think not! Hope is a good thing…keep reading.
When Jesus rose from the dead and met with his disciples he had some restoration work to do with Peter (for more on restoration click here) Peter wanted a quick absolution and forgiveness and indeed Jesus did want him to know he was forgiven.
But, Jesus then went on to tell him, three times, “Peter, feed my sheep.” Surely Jesus did not mean literally feed a flock of sheep and he did not just mean feed his followers with meals.
He meant to care for them so they know there is hope. Share with them how you have been forgiven so they know there is hope. Point them to ME so they know there is hope. Mentor and befriend them so they know there is hope. Encourage them with words and hugs and kind acts so they know there is hope. Walk beside them and help them problem solve so they know there is hope. Remind them of My promises in My word so they know there is hope.
Back to the Hungry Woman and Her Children
This might be what you expected the religious leader to do in the story of the woman and her hungry children. It broke my heart to hear how he responded.
To a woman who was seeking hope for immediate sustenance but also for hope that her circumstances could and would change, that good would come from her pain she was experiencing today, that her children would have food and love and a bright future, this was his response:
“I wish I could give you more but all I have are these groceries.” He left her still hungry, still empty, and much, much worse than he found her: without hope.
Hope Is a Good Thing
There’s a wonderful line from a viral hit movie, The Shawshank Redemption where Andy – a man falsely accused and sentenced to life in the state penitentiary – has just been brutally treated and demoralized by the warden. His friends are worried he is going to kill himself – that he has given up hope.
Andy instead is offering hope to his best friend, Red. He tells Red that when he gets out he needs to head to a place in Mexico where he can live out his life on the white sand beaches sailing the crystal-clear waters. Red admonishes Andy to stop such foolish talk because it’s false hope and hope in the penitentiary will eat a man up inside. But Andy responds later to Red in a letter, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the greatest of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
It’s so good, you’ve got to see it! This movie gives me goosebumps over and over each time I watch it!
Can you even imagine how Peter felt when Jesus appeared to him from beyond the grave and assured him that despite all his shameful betrayal and his capitulation into fear (cowering to a young girl and denying his Savior) that he was forgiven and that tomorrow was a new day, a day filled with hope because his Savior had conquered death and all sin? That’s some goosebumpy imagery. You can’t watch that on YouTube but you can read about it here.
The Bible says that faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1) We emphasize faith and love a lot in the church and religious circles, and indeed love should be the motive for all we do and love was what drove Jesus to the cross.
The Bible also says that without faith it is impossible to please God, so yes faith is important also. (Hebrews 11:6)
But hope, well…without hope our faith and love really would not matter, would they? We extend love and we believe in faith for better things for ourselves and others because we have hope that those things will happen. We believe those things will happen because we believe that God is ultimately good. That the promise of Romans 8:28 applies to us despite our current situation or frame of mind:
Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.
Hope is not a fairy wish, a daydreamer’s musing about “I hope I grow up to be tall and pretty.” Or “I hope it’s sunny for our picnic tomorrow” Hope is a substance. It’s real because the One who offers us hope is real.
I’ll draw on a word picture I use to get me through dark moments and help me believe that there is always a way out, always hope that something will change even if I can’t see or even imagine it.
I think of God as a fiction author. Pick your favorite. J.K Rowling, Nicholas Sparks, C.S. Lewis…think about the power that is in the pen of the author. The author decides the fates of the characters. The author can rewrite an event or conjure up a hero or hatch an escape plan.
Just like your favorite action movie…when all looks lost and hopeless, when the heroes have reached a dead end, when they are backed into the proverbial corner and the villain is about to feast on his winnings…something you could have never dreamed up happens and our heroes escape to live another day or rid the world of evil.
That’s how I envision tomorrow when I am stuck. I cannot conjure up a way out of my predicament or pain, but God can!
If that sounds a little like our favorite villain/heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, then yes, that’s where I’m sure I got the idea of thinking about tomorrow with a plot twist. After all, I only read Gone With the Wind three times starting in sixth grade! And, after all, tomorrow is another day!
Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. Romans 12:12
When my husband was suffering from years of chronic back pain, he broke down one day and cried to me, “I can’t go on like this. There is no hope. Nobody can help me.”
Imagine hearing that! I acknowledged that pain because it was real and it was visible in his drawn and tired eyes and I knew how long he had fought and I knew he fought not for himself for but for me and the boys. Then I said, “There’s always hope!”
I didn’t know what hope was left because we felt like we had exhausted all our options and resources from neurologists to pain clinics, to acupuncture. I refused to give up hope because I knew that God knew there was something out there that we did not yet know. Dropping to my knees I asked God for wisdom, direction, intervention, a doctor who could help.
The next day we made an appointment with the doctor and asked about physical therapy – thinking “last chance and the only thing we haven’t tried.” By chance (not really!) – our doctor admitted later – she pulled the name of a therapist who practiced a type of therapy that indeed not only provided hope but healing.
I’ll never forget, only weeks later after the hopeless conversation we had in the car parked in the garage, when my husband called me while I was sitting in a hotel room out of town and, with joy and hope I had not heard in his voice in years said, “I found someone who is going to help me. She promises she can fix me.”
Was his pain removed after one visit? No, of course not – then how did that one visit change his demeanor so much?
Hope. She gave him hope!
The next visit I attended with him and I sat in the treatment room while she gently examined his back and talked to him. I began to cry when she said, “I know how depressing chronic back pain can be, and I know how discouraged you’ve been, but I promise you there is hope and you will live a normal, pain-free life again.”
What in the world was I hearing? A person in the medical field talking about hope? No fancy needles, no drugs, no surgery. She provided hope first because without that my husband would have struggled to follow the protocol she outlined. Six months later he walked out of her office released to do anything he wanted including golf, chopping wood, and lifting his bride of 28 years over the threshold of their new home. Without this miracle, we would not have been able to live the life we have now of running a farm.
Do You Need Hope? Do You Know Someone Who Needs Hope?
If you or someone you know have been unable to find relief from a back injury or chronic back pain, this is the type of therapy my husband found that literally saved his life.
Don’t ever underestimate how much we all need hope, but more importantly don’t ever underestimate that God is able to rewrite the ending, change the outcome, or use the past to bring renewed hope to you and others. Please take the time to link to the verses I’ve cited here or look them up in your Bible. Meditate on them. Write them on note cards or turn them into prayers. We all need reminders in order to keep our minds focused on hope.
Courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own. ~ Michelle Obama
When we meet someone’s immediate and physical needs we are indeed doing God’s work, but that Jesus is always concerned about their spiritual needs as well. Let’s not neglect to offer the hope that we have to those in need of this precious commodity, and by doing so, you will continually fill your portion of hope.
Hope is not finite, we cannot outgive God, and we can’t use it up. We can deepen our faith and understanding of hope by offering it to others and seeing their faith develop before our eyes.
I leave you with my prayer for you~
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope. Romans 15:13
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