After Love and Faith, Hope is number three. People tend to dismiss Hope as the cute but fluff-headed, emotional baby sister. They say, Hope is not as hard-working as Love, not as intellectually confident as Faith. They say, Hope is often a disappointment.
I reply, they are mistaken. I here will praise hope.
You may be surprised that I value hope. Perhaps you have heard me growl, “I am the enemy of wishful thinking!”
I have wasted and seen wasted too much effort on unfounded fantasies, on irrational choices, on self-serving plans, on convenient beliefs, on assumptions and presumptions . A child hopes for recognition. Christian students predictably hope for Christ to return before exams begin. A girl hopes to change her lover. A worker hopes for promotions. A parent hopes their child will bring them pride. Many earnest hopes are not fulfilled. People are disappointed when they hope. So to avoid disappointment, they avoid hope.
Consider though, that hope is more pleasant than the alternative. Regarding the worst outcome, Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote, “The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.”
Consider also that people without hope tend to give up, to not exercise creativity, and to hoard their resources. When the unexpected opportunity arrives, these people are unprepared.
But with hope energizing their ideas, with hope strengthening their hands, with hope bearing them on in endurance― sometimes, improbably, people succeed.
"Rabbits give up when they're caught by coyotes ... they consent to die because they’re animals and can't understand hope. But humans are different. They fight against death no matter how bad things seem, and sometimes, even when everything's against them, they win." ― Nancy Farmer
“Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” ―Martin Luther
“Hope is like lead in the pencil, without which, you can't write even a single word in Life.” ― Tausif
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ―Napoleon Bonaparte
"I believe that history is not made by cynics; it is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.
And let us be these people" ― Tzipi Livni, 2013-07-30
Sometimes you can act to serve hope. Sometimes you cannot act toward hope. Always you can pray in hope. Without hope, only with grinding mechanical dullness do I pray or act.
Faith is grounded in blessings of the past. Love lives unconditionally in the now. Hope focuses on good in the future.
Hopes can be general: safety, honor, companionship, a sense of significance. Maslow called such things "needs" and ordered them with physical survival as foundational. This scheme strikes me as problematic in view of bravery, self-sacrifice, high heels, and other manifestations of hope. Take that, Maslow.
Hopes can be distant in time, like wanting to live healthily to an old age. They can be distant because they require intermediate steps, like winning a Nobel Prize. I must have near hopes linked to those far hopes! Thus I hope, pray and work for my daily bread. I hope, pray, and research; maybe not earning a Nobel, but taking solace that these nearby goals are worthy in themselves. If I lack related nearby hopes, then however noble, my distant "hope" is really fantasy. Two questions to ask: What far-out hopes do my nearby hopes serve? Are my distant hopes served by any corresponding, practical nearby hopes?
Hopes can be presumptuous. Such a hope ignores God's stated designs. Yes, God surprises, but historically surprise happens most when hope is in God and trusts his timing and means, not presuming a specific convenient blessing.
"Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!" ― Psalm 19.
“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ― Daniel 3
"Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down’ ... Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”' ― Matthew 4
When a wish is entirely unselfish, then it is definitely hope. If I benefit solely, then this is desire. Most things are a mix.
We too often blame hope for our failures. We might as well blame oxygen.
Failures? Yes, hope accompanies failures. Love and faith also attend failures. Wise people make mistakes. As I recall, failures in my life have come more often when I acted from ignorance, coercion, or trying to save face.
Randal, an energetic, bright fellow I knew, hoped to be a prestigious lawyer. He certainly had the attention to detail and verbal skills. He passed his bar exam. On the job he found that his conscience afflicted him. He said, “I was too honest to be a good lawyer.” So he became a leader among IT systems analysts.
Susan, another student I knew, hoped to become a nurse. She made straight A’s in nursing school. But when she got out, she found something for which college had not prepared her: “I didn’t like to be around sick people!” She was happier as a medical researcher. Guess what? Eventually she became a successful lawyer.
With no far hope for happiness, would they have pursued anything?
Beware of imitations. Hope's likeness is sometimes faked.
Don't blame hope if you use unwise means to achieve some hope. In teaching statistics students, I used the quip, “The lottery is a tax on people who do poorly at mathematics!”
Later, my observing principal took me to the window. “See my blue SUV?” I did. “I won that in the lottery.” Oops.
Blue SUV noted, there were 3 million tickets that yielded nothing for their buyers. Most SUVs are won from work. Though not as a terminal hope, I do hope for prosperity. I aim to choose wise means to attain prosperity.
Life often presents conflicting goals. I can pursue this career or that career. I can date this person or that person. I can spend my hour with my career, with my family, or with my case of beer. Choices = riches. Decision is a good problem to have, usually better than no choice. Choices are not Hope’s business. Resolving choices are Wisdom’s department. Hope has an eye for pointing out good features in each option. Hope has a talent for finding improbable ways to have it all. Once with Wisdom's advice you have chosen something worthy and not impossible, Hope smiles and starts her work.
I close this meditation with some family distinctions...
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.