Hope and Despair

In Christianity, faith, hope, and love, are the big three. Yet, I think that often we forget about hope, and shift our focus, perhaps slightly too much, onto only faith and love. After a low period, I began to read Theology of Hope by Jürgen Moltmann. About 20 pages in, I realised that the reason for my low period was that I has lost hope. I’s forgotten the events and situations which nurtured the hope that I’d had, and I didn’t expect many good actions to come from God. Quoting Calvin, Moltmann writes, “For as no one except him who already believed His promises can look for anything from God, so again the weakness of our faith must be sustained and nourished by patient hope and expectation, lest it fail and grow faint… by unremitting renewing and restoring, it [hope] invigorates faith again and again with perseverance.” I had nothing invigorating my faith. What I’d try to do to stimulate my faith and life: listening to and thinking about various theological ideas, does not cultivate hope in me, and therefore did slim to nothing to invigorate my faith. Without hope, faith has no edge and no action. Believing in God without expecting him to act is tiring and disheartening. A heart of faith needs to hope.

I think we as the body of Christ sometimes compound hope and faith into only one word: faith. I suggest that this is misleading and that the two actions are far easier to develop and hold on to if we were to explicitly differentiate between them. For Christians, faith could be defined as the sustained belief in God despite questioning his existence or integrity. Hope is a trust in both His integrity to do good without our prayers, as well as to answer our prayers that line up with his will.

Moltmann writes, “Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.” This hope is what I see in the people whom I admire. The expect God to do good. I desperately need this hope, and I believe so too do all of God’s people. We all too often sink into despair. I think this is the devil’s ploy. “Despair is the premature, arbitrary anticipation of the non-fulfilment of what we hope for from God. Both forms of hopelessness, by anticipating the fulfilment or by giving up hope, cancel the wayfaring character of hope.”

Moltmann continues, “…it is usually said that sin in its original form is man’s wanting to be as God. But that is only the one side of sin. The other side of such pride is hopelessness, resignation, inertia, and melancholy… Temptation then consists not so much in the titanic desire to be as God, but in weakness, timidity, weariness, not wanting to be what God requires of us. God has exalted man and given him the prospect of a life that is wide and free, but man hangs back and lets himself down. God promises a new creation of all things in righteousness and peace, but man acts as if everything were as before, and remained as before.”

Moltmann really hits home, hey. For him, “Hope alone is to be called ‘realistic’, because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught.” Those who hope are the game-changers. “…hopes and anticipations of the future are not a transfiguring glow superimposed upon a darkened existence, but are realistic ways of perceiving the scope of our real possibilities, and as such they set everything in motion and keep it in a state of change.” They instil hope in others; “[they] keep faith alive and would guide obedience in love on to the path towards earthly, corporeal, social reality.”

Friend, work out how to hope.

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