Well, I am back in Nicaragua after a great trip home writing this post from my fantastic plastic table. It is great to be back and to continue the work God has put on my heart.
Hope, what is it exactly? Is hope just a feeling? Is it just something we create in our minds to help us get through tough times or is it something more? In the end, does it really matter? I would suggest that the answer to this question is yes, it does really matter. I believe, and hope to communicate through this post, that it is real and can change everything. In trying to understand the meaning of hope, I thought it might be helpful to turn to our old friend Merriam-Webster for a definition. Found in their online dictionary, Merriam-Webster says hope is, “to desire with expectation of attainment” or “to expect with confidence”. In both definitions a form of the word “expect” appears. The word “expect” suggests that hope is more than just a feeling or something that helps us get through the day. In fact, it appears to me that Merriam-Webster is saying hope is born out of a vision or picture of things to come. In other words, it’s not just a fanciful state of mind, but is a true belief something is going happen. I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is the story of an Olympic runner turned U.S. Air Force lieutenant named Louis Zamperini and his incredible journey during World War II. I will allow you to read the book for the whole story, but Zamperini goes from training for the Olympics to being lost in the Pacific Ocean after his plane went down to being captured and imprisoned by the Japanese to, finally, being freed by the end of the war. Over the course of the book, Zamperini continuously emphasizes the difference hope made in his journey and the journey of the men around him. While it wasn’t easy, maintaining hope for the future and the possibility of his life being redeemed from what seemed hopeless allowed him to survive where others didn’t. Hope certainly wasn’t just a word to Louis Zamperini. Where does hope come from though?
If hope is real and does matter, it ultimately has to come from something or someone who really matters as well. If not, then would it really make a difference? In looking at the example of Louis Zamperini and the way it changed his life, it is almost as if we were designed to hope. In my experience, and in hearing stories such as Louis Zamperini’s, I believe this is undeniably true- that there is a God who created us to find hope in him. In Psalm 62:5 it says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” and Psalm 147:11 reads, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (NIV 1984). You see, hope isn’t something we just dreamed up, but is something God gave us a need and a desire to have. As I pondered this, I concluded that this is really the only way hope and its impact on our lives makes any sense. If hope isn’t ultimately from something constant and eternal, then what is it really based on? And if it is something that wells up inside of us, then didn’t someone have to put it there? In Romans, Paul talks about how suffering can produce hope and, if we are in Christ, a hope that doesn’t disappoint us because it comes from a God who loves us and poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If we are a Christ Follower, we are promised a hope that doesn’t fail. As is says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Do you believe this way? I believe if we did believe and live this way, it could lead to real change. We would truly be the hope of the world because we would be beacons of real hope.
Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to experience this first hand. As I mentioned in past posts, a couple of weeks ago a group of guys came to Nicaragua as part of a discipleship program (for lack of a better word) Reid Robinette, the Senior Pastor of Crossroads Community Church and I, led. Over the thirty weeks we were together, getting a real picture of hope and the difference it could make was an emphasis. While the team was in Nicaragua, we had a neat chance to see that lived out. In visiting various ministries, including Nueva Vida, originally a refugee camp created after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, we met people who were living as if hope was real in the midst of suffering. From the bakery created to teach people vocational skills and to provide employment, to the ever growing number of feeding centers for the children who live in Nueva Vida, an ultimate belief in real hope and the God who gives it permeated everything. In talking to Berman, the Pastor of the Verbo church in Nueva Vida, you could hear the expectation for real change to continue in hearts and lives of the people of that community.
I also saw it in the house we had a chance to build in El Canyon. In El Canyon, as is the case in many of the poor communities in Nicaragua, many people live in houses that do not sufficiently provide shelter, especially during the rainy season. Many times, they also live on land that they do not own and are always at the risk of being kicked out. As a group, we had a chance to bring real hope to one of these families. Over the course of a day and with the help of the family and others in the community, we were able to construct a house that is more than likely more than what they ever could have hoped for. Not only did this provide practical hope in the form of a house, but was a demonstration of the hope that God gives and how he almost always exceeds our expectations. You could see the impact on the faces of the family as well as Pastor Josue, the Pastor of the church we are connected to in El Canyon. Our hope and expectation is that this is only the beginning.
I also had the opportunity to travel to the east coast of Nicaragua with my father and two of my good friends. I will write more about our experiences there in future posts, but needless to say, we saw real hope. In seeing this hope, it only reinforced my belief in a hope that can change Nicaragua and the world. As Christ Followers, we get to be living, breathing spreaders of this hope. I believe every human being was created for hope, God’s hope, and our job and opportunity is to point people towards its source. Imagine if we all lived that out? Maybe things would be (could be) different.
Living with anticipation.