Peel: Where is your hope?
Jan. 27, 2017 at 11:44 p.m.
Václav Havel once said, "Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
Hope has been a slippery commodity among Americans for the past few months. Before the election, many social conservatives felt hopeless about the future of our country, convinced that things would not turn out well. After the election, the hopeless meter moved to the left as social progressives continue to recover from election results.
For many of us, conservative or progressive, hope has been hard to hang onto. And that's a wake-up call that perhaps we're placing our sense of security in the wrong place.
It reminds me of Charles Dupee Blake's well-known 19th century nursery rhyme.
"Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock, When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all."
The thought of hanging a helpless baby in a cradle at the top of a tree is ridiculous, and anyone caught in the act could expect a visit from Child Protective Services. Of course, we would never literally hang a baby in a treetop.
But in a similar way, many of us are guilty of hanging our hope on frightfully fragile boughs like who's in the White House or which party controls Congress — or in any circumstance for that matter. Not that these are inconsequential in the least. However, they are no place to attach our hope. The political weather on our planet is far too unpredictable.
The question is not whether gale force winds will blow against us, but when they'll blow against us. Just as surely as a Colorado weatherman can predict snow in January, we can predict that piercing and powerful winds of life will rock our world, postpone our plans, disturb our dreams, and arrest our hope if not attached to something solid.
The Bible assures us that the world will be transformed one day, but it also reminds us to be careful where we put our hope until then. Psalm 146:3-7 tells us: "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day, his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free."
Hope comes from faith that God is at work — from looking past circumstances and our own finite perceptions to see reality through God's eyes, a reality defined by the immeasurable possibilities of God's power, his fierce love for his creation, and his commitment to make the world right again.
Elections matter, but hope looks elsewhere. It gazes into the future and visualizes the world as God meant it to be — the world we long for, the world we were created to live in — where there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
Hope gives us the faith, courage and strength to continue today to work to bring tomorrow's reality of human flourishing into what small part of this fallen world falls within our domain of influence, whether it be at home, in our workplaces, or in the public square.
Until the day when faith becomes sight, whoever may sit in the Oval Office, we can fix our hope in the only safe place — in him who sits on the throne of heaven, the sovereign ruler of the universe who promises to make all things new, and today, empowers us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
— Bill Peel is the executive director of the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University. A former church pastor, he holds a doctorate in workplace theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, and an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University.