Author: Steve Hay
Heartbreak, sorrow, disappointment, abandonment, and betrayal are part of a pastor’s call to follow Jesus. “Take up your cross and follow me” is not part of the invitation offered most Sundays across the US. It doesn’t sell. But it is reality. So how do we live a life ‘overflowing with hope’? How do we lead our congregations and our own hearts towards hope in these days of COVID-19?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
As Christ-followers, a good place to begin is to differentiate between the everyday way we use the word ‘hope’ and the Biblical or theological meaning of the word. In the first two paragraphs of this blog I used ‘hope’ in our everyday way. A synonym for that meaning is ‘wish.’ I wished Colton would live into old age, and I wished he would be a pastor, and I wished he would be alive when I returned to the States. It is a valid use of the word ‘hope’ but not the Biblical way. So let us differentiate between ‘wish’ and ‘hope’.
Also, let us recover the understanding that hope is not something we gin up within ourselves like a positive mental attitude. Rather, it is a by-product of our friendship, fellowship, and faithfulness with the Lord. God is the God of hope and when we spend time with God, and faithfully follow Jesus, hope springs up within us. God is the source of hope, and it is a gift for us, and the outcome of faithfulness. We do not manufacture it; we receive it. Wesley’s means of grace are also channels of hope, the true Biblical hope, that provides God’s strength in the face of heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, and grief.
‘Hope’ is not wishful thinking. Its source is God. But what is it?
Hope is reaching into heaven and pulling some of what will be into the present. It is trusting that our prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” will be accomplished finally. Hope is trusting that our Heavenly Father will complete the renovation project that history is and will make all things right in the end. Hope is trusting that God can and will take all the pain and beauty of life and make something even more beautiful and overstuffed with meaning out of this current pain, pandemic, and problems. Hope is heaven brought into the present.
Hope trusts that everything we place back in God’s hands can be used in beautiful ways, no matter how ugly it is now. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
About Rev. Steve Hay:
Pastor Steve Hay serves Asbury Church in downtown Harrisonburg. He and Cynthia have been married 34 years and have 2 adult children, Kate and Elliott. The family hiked coast to coast across England and plan to hike the Camino Portuguese post-pandemic.