Hope is one of those notions that is hard to grasp… is it a feeling, is it a fact? Does having ‘hope’ really matter in a humdrum world where having enough money to pay the bills seems much more important?
For most people hope is rather like a like a balloon: pretty but lacking any real usefulness.
When we work up enough ‘huff and puff’, hope flies high.
When we are full of hope ( literally ‘hopeful’) we bob about like brightly coloured balloons, we feel positive, we look cheerful and life feels brighter.
But balloons are fragile: they are easily blown away, popped or deflated. They are really very temporary.
And sometimes people tell us ‘don’t get your hopes up’ so all balloons are stoically pushed to the back of our mind and we dig in and simply deal with things with grim determination.
The Bible uses a very different image for hope (and not just because balloons were not an available analogy!). This word picture is opposite in every way to the idea of a balloon. This item is very, very heavy, it’s something extremely useful, it doesn’t float up, it sinks down. It is robust and not the least bit fragile. What’s more it isn’t brought into existence through our efforts, its strength really lies in what it connects us to rather than what it is in itself. It links us to an objective, unchanging reality outside of ourselves.
It is an anchor.
‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ (Hebrews 6:19)
An anchor is not something light and insubstantial that you have to put a lot of effort into maintaining. An anchor goes down deep and holds you in place. No one really sees your anchor so being ‘hope full’ is not about having a jolly outlook, its about being held steady, not being blown away, dashed on the rocks. An anchor keeps you fixed to something that doesn’t move and the ‘something that doesn’t move’ for the Christian is God. His reality and the promise of his compassion towards us underpins our lives.
Having hope matters, it really matters. For about a month recently I was on a drug for a physical problem that had the unpleasant side effect of inducing depression. It took me some time to realise that disillusion, cynicism and asking ‘what the point of everything’ were classic signs of depression and maybe not just me being pathetic. Thankfully as soon as I made the connection, I asked someone for advice and stopped taking the drug. The chemically induced gloom lifted within twenty-four hours. But it was a sobering experience, I have been depressed before and understand well enough that many people suffer from life-sapping lethargy and despair through no simple direct cause such as I experienced. Being bounced back to a happier state of what passes for normality for me made me really appreciate the difference hope makes. Without it our life and actions have no meaning.
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ Romans 15:13