The Character Of Hope
Creating Foundational Hope That Can Weather Storms
For the majority of my childhood and adolescence, my “hope” sounded a lot more like wishful thinking. I didn’t have many experiences until my later teens that caused me to even think twice about the meaning of hope, because I had never experienced feelings of hopelessness. It wasn’t until I felt hopeless that I had to dig and search for hope.
People “hope” for all sorts of things. “I hope it will be sunny tomorrow,” I hope he likes me,” “I hope my parents don’t get upset with me,” “I hope I feel happy again.” These statements are not strong, anchoring, foundations that will keep me grounded through difficult times; they’re heartfelt wishes.
A foundational hope is based in character. I can hope a night will not last forever because I understand the character of night-time; morning does come. I can hope there is a light at the end of a tunnel because I know the character of tunnels. I can hope the intensity of grief felt after a goodbye will lessen with time because, unfortunately, I am familiar with the character of grief.
These character-based hopeful statements are not wishful thinking–they’re 100% rational and true statements about the way things work, unchanging despite my current feelings. This is also true about my own character. I am a patient, loving, and honest person. These are traits I value, and consistently show are a part of my character. However, being human, I can’t operate 100% in line with my character, so these character-traits may be true 80% of the time. Regardless, they are a more secure foundation than the wish that circumstances outside of my control will go my way.
Sometimes I go home and worry about whether someone thought poorly of me, if a suicidal client is going to pull through, if someone else was upset with me, among many other things. I could “hope,” wishfully, these things get resolved, everyone will like me, my clients will all pull through, and no one will feel ill towards me. Or I can choose to hope based on what I KNOW of my character. Regardless of whether they like me, I WILL respond with patience and still attempt to show care. Or that I am skilled at communicating care and had the opportunity to do so towards someone in a low spot.
While the concept of drawing your hope from unchanging truths based in character applies to everybody, I’d like to end speaking a little about hope for those with a faith in God. Applying the concept of character-based hope to a God, who by faith I believe is consistent with Biblical truths, my hope is VERY secure, because God CANNOT operate outside of his character. The beliefs that He is good, He is close, He is available, attentive, unchanging, all powerful, loving, tender, just, knows and understands my aching heart, are beliefs that can give me a foundational hope in chaotic circumstances with unknown outcomes.
“3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”