For the last few months, God has been inundating me with hope. It’s Aaron’s fault. Late last spring, he informed me that God had laid a vision on his heart for our fall teaching emphasis at church- Hope. And over the course of the summer, that direction was confirmed over and over again, through conversations with students and adults alike. So we plowed forward, reading widely on the topic of hope, preparing to launch our fall teaching series. At the end of August we started Monsters, Zombies, and Things that Go Bump on Wednesday nights. Little did we know we were going to be living this out this fall.
Over the last four years, my mother in law, Nancy, has been battling ovarian cancer. At the end of September she had her fourth surgery to remove a tumor and give her the best chance to prolong her life for another year or two. Two more surgeries, sepsis, weeks in the ICU, and countless procedures later, and we now sit in her room at a hospice facility.
Earlier this week Nancy received a package that contained cards made by children in a relative’s Sunday School class. Most of the cards had carefully written words copied from the board in the classroom. But one little girl named Savannah simply wrote the word Hope and signed her name.
Hope. We toss this word around quite glibly. “I hope I get a pony for Christmas.” “I hope that boy asks me to the dance.” “I hope my mom makes meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for dinner.” We use the word freely and frivolously lowering the true meaning of hope to the same level as wish or desire. But true hope, Christian hope is nothing like making a wish or desiring a specific outcome.
As Christ followers, our hope is rooted in our salvation. Paul reminds the Corinthian church of this in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. Because of what Jesus did on the cross and through his resurrection, because of his work of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption, we have the hope of an eternity with him. As Paul says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
But hope isn’t just for one day at the end of life here on earth. We can also experience the hope Jesus brought through his advent here, right now. Mark Oestreicher defined hope this way: “the faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action” (Hopecasting*).
Hope is the confidence that God is continuing to author a story.
Regardless of circumstance, God is still at work, making beauty out of our messes, leading us and guiding us through the storm, walking us through life’s dark valleys, and celebrating with us in life’s joys. God is at work everywhere.
And we have definitely been experiencing this as a family walking through this dark valley. On the day we rushed back to Fort Worth for Nancy’s emergency surgery, we got a call from our adoption agency telling us we did in fact qualify for their China program after months of no progress. HOPE. We also found out the timeline for bringing a child home could be shorter than we originally thought. HOPE. We have seen God working in the hearts and lives of students calling them “further up and further in” to his love, and we have seen them respond to his call. HOPE.
The faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action. Hope for now. Hope for later. So yes, Savannah, hope is a perfectly fitting word for this time.
*For further reading about hope, check out Mark Oestreicher’s book, Hopecasting, a well articulated, interesting, and accessible book on hope and how we experience it as Christians.