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Hope is a dangerous word.
Statistics have proven that just saying or reading the word stress can instantly spike someone’s blood pressure, however subtly. I believe the same is true for the word hope. It often causes a visceral reaction, however slight, of positive emotion. One doesn’t speak the word hope, so much as exhale it. It’s a breath and a prayer intermingled in one jam-packed syllable.
Hope is dangerous because in today’s culture, it’s so drastically misunderstood.
The definition of hope is “to want something to happen to be true and think that it could happen or be true.” A second definition is “to expect with confidence: trust.”
See the difference?
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Which definition do you live by?
As children, we hope our best friend will play with us at recess and hope Santa brings what we want for Christmas and hope we aren’t the last ones to get our training wheels off our bikes. As teenagers, we hope there’s a substitute teacher in our math class and hope our crush will ask us to the Homecoming dance and hope our parents will buy us a car. As adults, we hope to pay the bills and hope to find Mr. or Mrs. Right and hope for a specific result on a pregnancy test.
Hope is important to me—as a believer. As a woman. As a single mother. So important, in fact, I tattooed it on my wrist. I figured if I glanced down and saw hope always before me, I’d quit forgetting to possess it.
But do I really understand what hope is?
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I had lunch some time ago with a wise man I consider a brother. Across a table laden with chips and salsa, we shared heart stories and fears and dreams. We have many of the same ones—a godly marriage. Family. As we talked about the difficulty in navigating dreams as a believer, I asked him “How do you maintain hope for what you want but protect your heart at the same time?”
I figured it was a rhetorical question. But his answer rocked my world. He said "All of those things I desire are a longing of my heart—but they’re not the hope of my heart."
Ever since that moment, I’ve investigated the true meaning of hope. After all, we're told to "put our hope in Christ"—but what does that translate to in our daily lives? How does that concept mingle with our desires? How can those two co-exist?
It all boils down to a tiny preposition—in.
Not hope for.
All of the things we hope for are casting our hearts onto things—people. Items. All guaranteed to fail us. Even the most happily-ever-after crafted story will fall short on some days. Spouses disappoint. Friendships falter. Health fades. Finances crumble.
Hoping for is a dangerous place to live. For is vague, distant, and grasping. For is a shot in the dark.
But when we hope in, we’re putting our hope somewhere—in someone. In a safe place. A place more than capable of holding all our “for’s.” We’re tucking our “for’s” away inside the hands and heart of Jesus.
And we’re living out that second definition—“to expect with confidence, trust.”
When we place our hope in Christ, we’re trusting Him with all the rest. It’s not a trade. It’s not instead of. It’s not saying “I’m trusting in Christ, so I don’t want to be married anymore” or “I’m putting my hope in Jesus, so I no longer desire to have children.”
Quite the contrary. It’s putting our longings in a secure spot, and acknowledging our hope isn’t in temporary wishes. Our hope is in the person, nature and character of Christ. It’s acknowledging the difference between longings and hopes—and trusting Him with it all.
Because your closet might end up with a few more bridesmaids dresses and not a single bridal gown. Your bank account might drain to the red. That substitute might not show up for math class and that pregnancy test might keep on screaming negative.
Our circumstances aren’t trustworthy.
Only Jesus is.
My friend went on that day to explain that for him, hope meant focusing on the eternal and on his real purpose as a Christ-follower. Wanting to get married and have children were, he believed, God-given desires. But they were not and are not his chief purpose. When he defined his desires as temporary longings, and defined hope as his ultimate perspective as a Christian, it fit better in his heart.
When we mix up those labels, things get cluttered and cramped inside rather quickly.
Are you finding yourself hoping for, or hoping in, today? What shift do you need to make to create room to breathe?
Exhale it with me.
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Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww