I’ve spent a lot of time in 2019 reflecting on the dynamic between hope and fear, and what these things look like in our daily lives.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, hope is one of the three gifts that remain: faith, hope, and love. The word comes up over one hundred times in the Bible, and we are admonished not to fear over three hundred times. I can acknowledge how integral hope is to my faith, and that it and fear can’t occupy the same space. If I’m honest, though, I still struggle to define and understand hope. Fear feels much, much closer to me. At the beginning of this year, when someone asked me what I hoped and feared for 2019, my fear felt so obviously more likely than my hope, I was challenged by the ways my attitude and perspective were out of line with Jesus. How can I engage the God of the resurrection without hope?
Hope has always been just for the future in my mind. I haven’t seen it’s value in the present. I haven’t seen my choices in life, work, ministry, and relationships, as choices between hope and fear. I didn’t recognize hope’s relevance to difficult conversations, building community, doing mission, and interacting with Jesus.
Hope, to me, was a Pollyanna-like outlook; rose-colored glasses. It felt unrealistic and cheap, a way of avoiding and escaping the actual pain of the world- of difficult medical diagnoses, broken relationships, and systemic injustice. Hope has been a form of denial, a trite statement in times of trouble that provides little true comfort.
Because hope has felt weak and impotent to me, fear has often felt like the safer option. Fear has a clear list of the reasons why I shouldn’t have that conversation, shouldn’t try that new idea, shouldn’t say yes to that person. Fear explains all the things that could go wrong and leaves me frozen. It lets me feel like I’m in control while it grips me around the neck. Fear paralyzes and silences.
Hope, though, is not about control at all. It is about freedom, about choice. Hope doesn’t mean nothing ever goes wrong. It is the thing that we cling to when things do go wrong. The reminder that this world is not our home, that sin and death do not have the final say. We fix our eyes on what is unseen and eternal, and we do not lose heart. Hope is an empty tomb after three days of death and decay and defeat. He is making all things new.
I read recently that “the quality of being both real and imagined [is what] makes hope so powerful it’s almost unstoppable” (Jewelle Gomez). Hope is not relegated to the future, not a way of saying everything is okay. I still don’t think hope is easy to access, but I have been trying to get to know it better. When I think about what I want to see Jesus do in my home church, I can choose to lean into the vulnerability and growth that I hope for in our group, through prayer and preparation and asking my community for help. Or I can opt toward fear, and spend every week wishing things were different but refusing to believe that they could be. Entering into this year, setting goals for work, I had to choose between hope and fear. In the midst of the stress of tax season and following up on the movement’s annual budget and helping other ministries gain their own 501c3 status, I could choose to operate out of the fear of not having enough time, not getting enough done. I could let that shut me down, diminish my productivity, and make me less likely to say yes to serving microchurch leaders to the fullest in every moment. Or I could choose hope. Choose to see the ways that Jesus uses our faithfulness and obedience in the Finance Department to free missionaries up to do the work God has called them to. I can choose to set reasonable expectations so that I will be able to do that work with care, and to make myself relationally available even when I’m busy. To open my eyes to the reality of God’s provision as He multiplies the little time and resources that we have to make a major kingdom impact on our city.
In this way, hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s planning and action. It is still about our desires: what do we want to see happen in our families, our neighborhoods, our city? It’s also about seeking the heart of God, though. What does Jesus want to see in those places? And can we remember that in Christ, who conquered death, all of God’s promises to us are yes (2 Cor. 1:20)? Can we choose to operate out of hope instead of fear?
Finance Support Staff