I think a lot about hope. In fact, you could say it is the most defining word in my life. I run an organization called OneHope, I coauthored a best-selling book on changing your world with hope as a central value. My favorite quote is from St. Augustine, “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
What happens, as I’m experiencing lately, when no amount of anger or courage will seemingly change the reality of the present situation?
I wake up every morning with two vicious realities to confront: people I deeply care for in Ukraine are facing a menacing and imminent evil that is trying to kill them and my stepmom, Helen, is battling an aggressive cancer that has her in almost constant pain. No amount of vitriol on my part is changing these realities today. War and cancer rage on, and I feel powerless to stop either.
For a person of action, not in pride but in the authentic reality of my existence, I am accustomed to making things happen. I have lived with an unfailing belief that is rooted in hope. I believe this because I have experienced its power, and I am convinced of it because I believe the Bible tells the story about the foundation of my hope, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 ESV). I have even become a student of the science of hope, believing it is more than an emotion, but it is an action, that it has three elements: willpower (inspiration), strategy (goals), and management (short-term objectives).
What happens, though, when no amount of science, theology, or experience can fix the reality of orphans trapped in a bomb shelter in enemy territory or a loved one whose insides are chemically on fire? No amount of money or missional strategy can stop a war, and no doctor or pain med can relieve Helen’s agony. All the hope verses that I have memorized feel empty today:
“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25 ESV)
“We who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12 ESV)
I don’t feel bold, patient, or glorious today. I feel angry, frustrated, and powerless. The most annoying verse comes from Paul’s account of the life of Abraham:
“He believed, hoping against hope, that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said….” (Romans 4:18 ESV)
Hoping against hope? I’ve been to almost every one of the cities I see being bombed; I know people in these cities, and any small action I can do feels like pitifully nothing. I can’t heal Helen and take away her pain or feel like I’ve done enough to take away my dad’s deep sadness. Instead of having hope against hope, I have anger against God because He has the power to stop this and yet He doesn’t.
Hoping against hope means never giving up even when the present reality seems impossible. This is the crux of the dilemma: our present reality and our ultimate hope.