I want to try to illustrate a little better how faith and hope actually work in the real world, in this life in which we truly live. To put a little skin on this, I'm going to use the skeleton of a story from this season in my life.
This has truly been a season of hope for me. God has taken me on a journey that even a few months ago, I would have never thought possible. Through courage and strength, presence and provision, and a whole mix of other things, what has unfolded has been, to say the least, very cool. To say the most, it's been nothing short of a miracle.
And I almost missed it.
I almost missed it because I let my heart hold on too long to misplaced hope. Hope was clearly the foundation of the journey - the belief in a better tomorrow. Trusting in the whispered promise of God even when I could not see it, necessarily, unfolding before me. Hoping this works. Hoping I'm strong enough. Hoping God shows up for one more day. Hoping...hoping...hoping...and holding onto doubt. Hoping for tomorrow, failing to believe for today.
I missed most of what God was doing, most of the small, incremental, faithful steps He was taking to make tomorrow possible. To bring about the promise He had given me. To manifest the very thing I was hoping for. But not hoping in the purest sense; so often, it was the doubt to which I was clinging the most. Hoping, but holding out the possibility that this may not work. Or rather, God may not be able.
It's hard to say such things, but that's what our misplaced hope sets us up for. That's what happens when we're hoping today with faith for tomorrow instead of the other way around. We're always thinking more about what happens if this doesn't happen than we are holding onto the real possibility that it's already happening!
And then, sure enough, little things started happening. The kinds of big little things that a person just can't ignore and so I had to figure out what I wanted to do with all of that. I could reject what's already happening, holding onto the big picture of tomorrow. But that doesn't feel quite right because today, these little things, they sort of feel like something. Do I want to miss the something because it's not everything? Can I spend my life waiting for everything when some really good, really cool things are happening right now?
It's this sort of moment that pushes us into the better understanding of faith and hope. At least, it's this sort of moment that pushes me into it. Here I have something that's really happening, that's happening right now, and it's good. It's something to believe in right now (faith). And yet, it's still not everything. It's not the fullness of the promise. But it makes tomorrow more possible. Or, more probable. It makes tomorrow easier to believe in (hope).
Some people might say this is "celebrating the little wins." Maybe so. It's being conscious to what's already happening without losing sight of what is to come. It's believing in tomorrow because there's so much to believe in today. And believing in today because there's so much to believe in tomorrow. There's so much in both that we're not ready to let go of, and the only way to have either is to hold on to both with faith and hope. Grab hold of all of it. The little wins and the grand scheme. Let it all sink into your heart.
If you had asked me early on whether this journey was worth it, whether it would all pan out the way I was "hoping" that it would, I would have told you that I didn't know. I would have said it was one of those small steps in a faithful direction, and that I was aware of the possibility that this whole venture may fail. I'm still aware of that possibility, but it seems less probable now. Because this is happening. It's already possible because it's already being done. A little at a time, every day, something new to believe in while continuing to believe in the promised tomorrow. A tomorrow that gets one day closer every time I open my eyes and choose to believe. Every time I choose faith, my hope gets a little stronger. And it's happening. It's really happening.
I think it takes things like these, journeys like these, to bring us to a place where we can understand such difficult things as faith and hope, as belief, as trust. It takes things like these to open our eyes not just to tomorrow but to today. And so, I'm thankful for these things. Even when they haven't been the easiest things. Even when they haven't been the comfortable things. Even when they haven't been the gentle things. They have still been the blessed things. They've been something to believe in.
Because that's all we can really do. Believe.
Faith, hope, and love - these three remain. But the greatest of these is love.
But faith and hope are pretty beautiful, too.