In search of....hope

IMG_5943What do you hope for? Perhaps a better question is--what do you define hope to be? We use the word rather flippantly sometimes when we say things like--"I hope it doesn't rain at our picnic, or I hope I win that contest, or I hope the house sells quickly, or I really hope I get the job, or I hope I get a raise, or I hope...well, you get the idea. So many things in life turn into wishes and wishes grow into hopes and dreams. And when we pursue those dreams, we do so out of hope that we will see, feel, taste, touch, the things for which we hope.

But is it really hope to just wish and dream?

Some would say so. Even Proverbs tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart sick." I've known that feeling, haven't you? But I think that type of hope qualifies more as a deep longing, because I don't think I have ever felt heartsick over rain at a picnic or loss of a contest. Like the word "love", "hope" has many depths of meaning, and I think we miss the truest sense of hope if we only apply it to superficial life things.

IMG_5937Hope in its truest sense is linked to the Giver of hope. It is also linked to faith and love.

Have you ever felt truly hopeless? Emotionally, I've come close. But my feelings, as true as they were at the time, can't compare to the real hopelessness in the world. Just read about the devastation going on in parts of the Middle East, see the haunted look in the eyes of children in war-torn Syria, see the fear and hopelessness in the faces of terrorist victims. Many people on earth have reason to feel hopeless. Suicide rates aren't just numbers, they reflect the lives of emotionally tortured people who lost all hope in living. That kind of hope deferred truly does make us heartsick. And heartsickness leads to despair and despair to desperation.

Desperate people do desperate things.

But hope can change that, if we will let it.

IMG_2436Where do I find this hope? Like the woman at the well asked Jesus, "Where do I get this living water so I don't have to keep coming to the well." (Jill's paraphrase) Another way of applying her question might be, "How to I get this living water, this source of hope you are offering me, so that I don't have to keep feeling this way?" The woman at the well couldn't have been pleased with her life or she wouldn't have avoided the rest of the women in town and been at the well when Jesus saw her there. But I suspect she was just desperate enough to avoid the gossips, the arrogant glances, that she couldn't take it any more.

Hopeless people grasp at any glimpse of hope offered. As Jesus offered that Samaritan woman that day. And she grabbed hold with both hands, desperate to be filled with something to fill the ache hopelessness had left in her.

Living water, was the term Jesus used to offer grace to this hopeless woman. Living...He came to give life and to give it to us in the fullest possible way we could live it. Abundant, overflowing, joyful, faith-filled life. As if He was echoing the woman's ancestor Moses when he'd said, "Choose life that you and your descendants may live." I'm offering you living water...Living...Jesus has the power to turn life into something worth living--real life--full life--true life.

IMG_2428Water...Why did He choose to use this metaphor for grace? Think about it for a moment. We are told we are made of water - lots of it, and we are supposed to drink many glasses of it daily. Living water moves, it is not stagnant. Standing on the shore of a lake or ocean is one of my favorite places on earth to be. Water lapping the shore is restful. Waves pounding the surf, can have the opposite affect and bring fear and destruction. But it is not stagnant, and it's living liquid shows the power of the Creator who told the waves just how far they could go before they must stop. (Job 38:11)

Living water is also a symbol, I think, of the Holy Spirit who lives in us when we put our trust in Jesus, when we lay aside our hopelessness for His hope. We do not live as those who have no hope. When real life hits hard, when we stand at the graveside of a loved one, when we hear news that devastates, when we walk through the valleys of life and the wastelands where living water seems far away, we can cling to the hope God gives us each moment. Hope that He keeps His promises because we've seen Him do it.

IMG_5127"I will never leave you nor forsake you," even if everyone else does.

"But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."

"Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." (Emphasis mine)

The kind of hope that lives, the living water, the living hope, comes from God. We can search the whole world for superficial hope, but hope in things or people will never last. Everyone will eventually let us down. Everyone but the only One who can be trusted and who is here now, I AM, living forever.

So we live in search of knowing Him better, of knowing His peace...His hope...and so much more. Where does living hope lead?

I'm ready to find out, aren't you?