Some recent thoughts. While not necessarily profound or an agreeable point of view for everyone, they are both meaningful and heartfelt to me.
I find it interesting how at certain times in my life a specific book or passage of the Bible really speaks to me. I remember well, finding much truth and inspiration in the book of 1 Peter, in particular the first chapter, during a mission trip to Calgary I helped lead on behalf of Bethany College in 2002. The combination of a great group of first year students (miss you N.T.), a new experience doing missions in inner city Canada, a strong sense of God’s Spirit, and readings in 1 Peter all made for a memorable week. I have gone back to 1 Peter at other times since and find myself there again this week. The book is written to a group of Christians suffering for their faith, a group in whom Peter is trying to inspire a sense of hope – not only for the future but for what their struggles are producing in them at the moment. Here are a few sample lines from 1 Peter 1:1-12:
“he has given us a new birth into a living hope”;”an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade”;”for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds”;”your faith maybe be proved genuine..and result in praise, glory when JC is revealed”;”you… are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”;”for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
So what does it mean to me to have a a living hope? To me its not simply a wishful hope but a powerful hope, a hope for goodness, peacefulness, and renewed life, a hope that transformation and reconciliation individually and corporately are possible. If I can believe that a man can be raised from the dead can I not also believe and have hope that these things can and will come to be? I am by nature a more pessimistic person, often prone to think of negative consequences, and feeling the need to anticipate the possible negative outcomes of situations. Being married to a more natural optimistic has presented challenges to this thinking, challenges in the sense of frustration in both his optimism and in my pessimism. Yet recently, I read an article that presented a third alternative, hopefulness. And while I can not find the original reading I came across another that points in some of the same direction (I’m not sure if I like this as much as the other nor I have done no research on the author, but oh well…).
I think it worth pondering the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the superficial view that everything’s going to work out fine “because it has to.” That’s not true, and in fact is a dangerous illusion. Hope, on the other hand, is the confidence that there is ultimate meaning, even in loss, and that (from a Christian point of view) everything works to the good in the fullness of time, even if it is only given to us to know defeat and suffering in our place and time. People can live without optimism — indeed, I suspect most people in the world do. People cannot live without hope.
For example, when facing a simple situation like loosing something I try (while asking for God’s help) to not focus on the thought – its lost, i’ll never find it- and instead think well perhaps it will show up, and if not I guess I can still be happy without it. A second important step for me is to take some kind of action as a means to carry myself past my disappoint and move on to something else. Obviously life can present itself with much more heartfelt concerns and difficulties than this, but in wanting to change I find it important to start with small things that seem more feasible to work through. In general, my attempt to turn from pessimism to hope is perhaps brought on by a desire to have more confidence and trust in God’s love and plan for me, and for the world in which I live. Or said another way, to work on letting go of the real fears and frustrations that I am prone to dwell on and instead embrace and live with joy, thankfulness, and peacefulness based on the good things I do experience everyday. I do this in the knowledge that there is an end goal that has been bought for us, and promised to us – not only to be experienced ultimately in a world to come, but also partially and meaningfully in the present.