In times of trouble, we hear a lot about hope. Perhaps more than we’re in the mood for, frankly. Ever feel like the worse things get, the more we’re told to have hope? Hold on to hope, embrace it, reach for it — it starts to sound like some kind of workout regime.
Sure, hope and exercise have some qualities in common. Like exercise, it has short- and long-term benefits and requires more discipline then we’d like. The trouble comes (again like a workout) when it’s touted as an easy fix without understanding why it’s so important or what it takes to maintain.
We practice hope every day at World Vision Advocacy. Advocacy begins with hope. But sometimes, it’s hard to see progress. Sometimes the finish line seems farther away than when we began. Sometimes our hope feels small.
In order to work toward a world of justice and kindness, we first have to believe it’s possible, even if the road ahead will be long. If we have hope, we can start. If we are rooted in it, we can keep going.
Here are 5 things we’ve learned about what hope is and why it matters in our lives:
1. It’s a slow burn
A hopeful person isn’t necessarily perpetually happy and chipper. Hope is best when it’s strong and steady, like a lighthouse quietly guiding us forward. Think of the persistent widow in Luke 18: She kept asking and asking and asking for the unjust judge to give her justice. There was probably no single day when she thought for sure that the judge would grant her request. Instead, she had just enough hope each day to keep asking, and her persistence finally paid off. She got justice. We can draw strength (and strategy!) from the widow’s story.
On the Advocacy team, hope gives us the strength to keep going through injustice and heartbreak. It’s a persistent, even stubborn, belief that there are still good things to come.
2. Hope is an anchor
Hebrews chapter six says that God’s promises are an anchor for the soul. An anchor keeps a ship safe and in place — but it doesn’t keep storms from coming. Hope is like that: hidden but working, small but powerful, and present even in the fiercest storm.
Our hope doesn’t always make sense to people on the outside, because they don’t see the reason for it. People on the outside might only see the trouble in front of us, and we do too, but we also hold on to the hope that there is good yet to come. Believing in those good things, though we don’t know what form they will take, keeps us anchored instead of floundering.
“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”— Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)
3. Hope foils fear
Fear bellows to us that the world is ending. Hope counters that the story isn’t over yet.
When we’re afraid, we scramble to protect ourselves. We want guarantees and assurances, instead of the quiet calm that hope offers. But Psalm 33 talks about kings not being saved by the size of their army and warriors not escaping based on their strength. We need something even stronger.
When our hope is rooted in faith, it’s stronger than fear. That doesn’t mean we’re always free of fear, but fear loses its power over us, because our hope in God is the best defense against whatever comes against us. Even when our hope feels small, it’s enough to keep fear from overpowering us.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.— Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)
4. It doesn’t ignore heartbreak
Sometimes, hope seems too fluffy. Quotes about hope work great on bookmarks, in greeting cards, and framed on our walls. Hope is a great encourager, but it’s not a band-aid to smooth over real heartbreak and pretend all is well. It goes deeper.
Hope sits with us in the pit. It doesn’t promise that everything’s going to be fine. It acknowledges that there’s pain, but it also acknowledges that there’s reason to keep going.
In Psalm 42, the psalmist says, “My tears have been my food day and night,” and goes on to remember times of “shouts and joy and praise” that are now past. Now his soul is downcast, and he feels forgotten by God. But he still chooses to put his hope in God, though the sorrow has not yet passed.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.— Psalm 42:11 (NIV)
5. God is our source
There are days when choosing hope feels like climbing Everest. In advocacy, we work against intensely dark situations: increasing child marriage rates as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, refugees living crowded together in harsh conditions, mothers unable to feed their children, and more. We talk about this heartbreak daily, and we know that the people whose cause we’re fighting for have to live through it. How are we supposed to choose hope when the world seems hopeless?
But as people of faith, we don’t have to rely on our own strength or circumstances. We believe the story of the world is a story of hope: God created us with love, sent his son to pay the price for us when we became separated from God, and plans to restore the world someday to the way it was meant to be. This gives us hope for the bigger picture.
For the day-to-day, we take hope in the fact that God is with us and working alongside us, giving us strength.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.— Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)
The writer of Hebrews also reminds us that Jesus is our forerunner, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf …” (Hebrews 6:19-20, NIV). It’s as if Jesus is just ahead, cheering us onward, reminding us of the victory he’s already won.
Jesus has invited us to work with him for justice and goodness in the world right now, even though the work won’t be fully complete until he returns.
When we advocate, we show God’s love to others by working for justice, and that love is motivated by faith and spurred on by hope. Advocacy is rooted in the hope that we can create change because Jesus is working alongside us and cheering for us — and that’s what keeps us going.
These are the lessons we’ve learned. May they inspire you to keep going even in challenging times!
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, …— Hebrews 10:23-24
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Top photo: Neivi, who is 7 years old, plays and smiles outside of the church. Neivi shares, “I believe in God because without Him I am sad. I believe in him because he gives us wisdom, love and happiness.” (©2019 World Vision/photo by Ben Adams)