“Faith, in one sense, is simply a readiness for God.
A kind of emptiness waiting to be filled, the way an empty cup held out by a beggar is ready to be filled.”
Are you a hopeful person? I’m not asking if you’re optimistic, which may look similar on the outside but doesn’t share the same faith roots. I’m asking if you are a hopeful person because of your faith in Jesus Christ and his promises concerning life abundant and everlasting. Are you a person who lives hopefully in the face of life’s ups and downs?
Quick side bar: A friend once told me she thought that married couples have a responsibility to be a reasonably happy person for the sake of their spouses. I’ve thought a lot about that idea, debating it in my own mind. Can I will myself to be happy for the sake of Carrie? Is it fair for me to expect the same of her? Won’t certain personalities have an easier go of this than others? What about those fighting depression? As I’ve reflected on this idea, I’ve concluded that my friend is right: I am called to strive to be the best and happiest version of myself for Carrie that I can be, even as I continually do so imperfectly.
I believe that something similar is called for when we think about being hopeful believers. It’s not that we aren’t allowed doubts, bewilderments, and questions on our faith journey. See the book of Job if you ever wonder about that. But if we make doubts our only focus, we are missing something vital about the practice of our faith, because it is possible for us to develop hope-building skills.
So what might it look like to cultivate hope? Lewis Smedes proposes, “Hopeful people believe that in a God-energized universe, life can be better than it is.” Cultivating hope begins with what we choose to believe about God, the world, and our place in it. Do you choose to believe in the death and resurrection shape of life? Do you choose to expect and anticipate the presence of God’s empowering and convicting Holy Spirit in your life? Do you choose to believe, even in the face of devastating setbacks, that though “the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice?”
Cultivating hope includes daily practices and dispositions. Do you practice forgiveness toward those who might otherwise shackle you to the past? Do you choose to treat others as you have them treat you, regardless of their response? Do you live in such a way that within your sphere of influence, you’re helping create the kind of world you believe God will ultimately bring about?
So are you practicing hope in your journey of faith? Do you cultivate hope, lean into hope, pursue hope in the face of the ever-changing weather conditions we call life? I hope you do!