Hope is a funny thing. Most of us struggle with the idea of hope because in most cases, it seems so baseless. Our hope is rooted in our own fantasy. We know it's a vapor, a wind...a dream.
But hope is not a dream; it's a question.
And this makes hope even harder still.
Dreams dare to dream, but hope dares to ask. Hope rises in your chest like a lump in your throat until you can barely squeeze the words out, then demands you speak them anyway - Lord, is there any chance that this is what You have for me?
Hope has to ask. It has to know. Otherwise, it is no hope at all. And it's not enough to know that what you're hoping for is in line with God's character. No, that's not enough. Just because God does a certain thing, just because He is a certain thing, doesn't mean that that is your certain thing. Not at all. That's a smack in the face of modern Christianity, of the prosperity gospel as we know it, but it's also the truth. And we know this.
We know this because we know people, or perhaps even we ourselves, have prayed for healing, knowing that it is in God's character to heal, but healing doesn't come. We have prayed for peace, knowing that it is in God's character to share peace, but peace doesn't come. We have prayed for one thing or another, knowing full well that this is the thing that God does, but He has not done it. Not for us. And we're quick at this point to turn that painful silence one direction or another - either God is not who He says He is or we are not so precious to Him after all.
I dare say in these circumstances that what we have prayed is no hope at all, then; it was only a dream.
See, dreams prepare to wake. They know it's coming. They know they can't live in this suspended reality forever. At some unsuspecting moment, it will all be over. It will vanish like the wind and be replaced by this horrible thing called "reality." That's what we think is happening when our prayer goes unanswered, when all we say we "hope" for fails to come to pass. That's why our hopes are often dreams and not really hopes. Dreams never ask; they only expect. And only half-expect, for they know there is a good chance they will never come to be. Dreams always prepare to wake.
But hope...hope prepares to grieve.
Hope asks because it has to ask; it wants to know. But there's something more tangible to hope, something that's much more than a mere vapor. Hope rises from the deepest part of our being and when it's gone, it leaves an emptiness that must be dealt with. When a dream vanishes, it's like the wind is sucked out of us, but we can always take another breath. Hope is not so fortunate. Hope leaves a gaping hole inside of us when it is dashed, and it demands that we grieve.
Yet this is precisely why we must dare to hope, rather than to dream. We can't spend our lives dealing with vapors, living on winds. We have to dance with fullness and emptiness, with the real, tangible things that could make us or break us. We have to hope. And when we hope, we have to ask. And when we ask, we must be prepared...to grieve.
Because the answer to our hope may be "no."
But it's never just "no." It's never even just "yes." Hope never settles for so simple an answer. It can't.
More on that tomorrow.