Through the Lens of Hope Theory

My posts seem to be getting longer and longer, so I’m going to try and course correct. Part of the reason I committed to doing this every day is because I knew it would force me to fix some of these bad habits. Not that writing long is necessarily bad, but I know I don’t like to read anything terribly long online. Do unto others would seem to apply here.

Today I was reminded of some connections I’ve been making lately on the subject of hope. Hope is one of the three “Christian virtues” along with faith and love, and it’s one that I’ve blogged about before here and in a now-archived post about Five Iron Frenzy lyrics from my old blog. It really came to life for me in seminary, but lately I’ve been meditating on something a friend of mine wrote about the importance of hope in making it to the finish line.

In my friend’s case, it was his doctoral dissertation, which he also captured in a journal article. His finding was that hope played a significant factor in a person’s ability to complete his or her college degree. When theories like grit and mindset and stress are in vogue, it’s often easy to forget they are a small slice of the overall pie. Hope theory belongs right beside them.

Where it gets personal is I have no doubt that the main reason I didn’t complete my PhD is that I lost hope. There were other obstacles, but I could have overcome them if not for the fact that I lost hope in the idea that I could get job in my field when I was done.

I also realize I’ve done this in relationships. I like to think of myself as a faithful, patient person, but once I lose hope that the relationship will get better, it’s hard to stay committed. In fact, this is part of the reason I left my church this past summer. I lost hope in one specific relationship.

Now I know in theory that I should keep my commitments and that I should love people without expecting anything in return. But it should be no surprise that human nature requires some amount of hope to stay engaged.

As a Christian of course, I know what I should do: put my hope in Christ. Indeed, to paraphrase Billy Graham, I know of no other hope for the world. He will not let me down. When He returns, He will put everything to right again. Every worthy longing will be satisfied, and every unworthy longing purified.

Where I tend to run into trouble is not my hope that God can fix a relationship or that God can provide a job. I know He can! I know He is good. My problem is not God’s power or His character, it’s His plan for me. I lose hope that God will. I lose hope that this is the direction God is leading. I lose hope that what I want and what He wants are the same thing.

So at this point I’m left with a few questions:

  1. What should I have done differently in those situations? Is losing hope always a bad thing?
  2. Are there any situations now where my hope may be waning, where my ability to follow through needs help?
  3. How does my hope in God relate to my hope in being able to carry on?

Hope is such a powerful gift from God. But I still have much work to do if I’m going to take it up as an everyday virtue.

I suppose the great promise of hope is that I won’t have to do it alone.

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