Hope is such an encouraging word. We say it all the time: I hope you feel better, I hope you get the job, I hope it all works out. Dictionary.com defines it as: “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.” We keep hoping “to feel that something desired may happen.” We don’t know that it will, but it could happen and in saying “I hope,” we mean that we will wait together for whatever is to come, anticipating the best outcome.
However, there is a different kind of hope we discover this time of year – a deeper spiritual hope. This is an extended level of trust, often based on past spiritual experiences or shared stories. It is a hope placed in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a prayer we offer to God, believing in our own spirit, that God will manage the details as we walk with him.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction
of things not seen.
– Hebrews 11:1
Spiritual hope is more than good wishes that things will work out. Spiritual hope is having confidence in someone greater than ourselves. It is believing our lives are better because we put them in the hands of Jesus and therefore, we become something different.
What does that actually look like? I see it all the time in my life and others who trust in Jesus. For example, I knew I needed to get out of debt. I knew I wanted to stop worrying about back taxes. I hoped I could dig myself out and yet lived each day in fear of the phone ringing or IRS showing up to take my car. One night I cried out: “help” to God thinking he would just make it all go away. Instead I heard a clear message to get a job to supplement my retirement and to start dealing with it. So I did. I began to breathe a little and I hoped I could make it all better. Yup, there is that old “me” solution again!
It wasn’t until I really began to read my Bible and learn more about God’s desires that we live without focusing on having more “stuff” and instead focus on giving away to help others, that my life changed. I placed my hope in Jesus and the Holy Spirit to guide me into making better decisions. Little by little, God showed me how to give more of myself away and slowly, to dedicate more of my finances to helping others too. I came to trust him to call me into new things and to trust him to use the money he was providing for my bills and my donations. Today, my hope is firmly placed in a joy that comes from experiencing a blessing, and watching blessings extended from that, in the name of Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m still very much a work in progress. I made the first step to IRS and God sent an incredible person to work with me- even adjusting what I owed. He opened one door after another, leading me back to full time work (I call it church ministry). I was able to gradually increase my giving and one day I realized I was giving ten percent and didn’t miss it. The hope I have in Jesus brings me a sense of peace in the midst of a sense of responsibility.
As we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas, I encourage you to find a devotional or prayer study that will guide you into a deeper relationship with our Lord. A relationship full of longing to know him more and an expectation that your life will change. I’m praying you find HIS hope this Advent season.
Advent photo from St. Paul’s UCC