Image provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
During what is often professed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” many struggle with exceptional burdens during this holiday season. Loneliness, financial struggles, academic stress, anxiety, depression, and many other emotional and physical difficulties become particularly pronounced with the change of season and the increase in societal expectations. At times it seems the earth rocks with the impact of innumerable tragedies—some striking frighteningly close to home.
I’m discovering that none of us is immune to these hardships. I am frequently surprised to learn of what a friend is going through, especially those who seem to “have it all together.” But here is a reality check: no one has it all together. We are all struggling, we are all fighting battles, and we all need a little help to believe that there is hope for us yet.
This past week was especially dreary for me. Things that had once fallen into place were suddenly scattered, and nothing I did seemed to bring them back together. I was beginning to believe that my efforts to bring peace back into my heart were futile, that I may as well stop trying. That I was, and forever will be, a hopeless cause.
But the Bible pulled through, as it often does, providing a miracle I didn’t even dare look for. It leapt from the pages, brought me to an immediate pause. By pure chance (read: divine intervention) the study I’m following had outlined hope as the study topic for the day—specifically hope as one of the names of Christ. Each verse built upon the last, testifying that hope is gained through experience, that it is a protection to us, that we can find hope in God’s promises. All things I’ve heard before, all beautiful and timely reminders. But it was the verses that followed that took my breath away.
Titus 2:13, which begins,
“Looking for that blessed hope.”
Looking. Do you see that word? Take a second to think about what that really means. If the Bible speaks of looking for hope, then that means that there will be times when we don’t feel it. God knows this, and He has planned for it. There are many, many times in my life when I do not feel hope. When it’s not as simple as “looking on the bright side,” or distracting myself with something I enjoy. But in five short words, God has made it abundantly clear that it is okay to be simply looking for hope.
So often, we speak of hope and faith as if they were synonymous. This has made hope a particularly difficult concept for me to navigate. If I don’t feel hope, does that mean that my faith is insufficient? Because if I believed in Christ, wouldn’t I be filled with His hope? How can a person of true faith be filled such darkness, when Jesus is the Light of the World?
The Bible offers a beautiful new perspective on this.
“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
Wait. Wait for the hope. To wait for hope is an act of faith. It is inspired by the Spirit of God, and it brings us closer to our Savior. The fact that there are moments (or hours, days, or weeks) when I don’t feel hope does not mean that my faith is wavering—quite the contrary. It is especially in my times of hopelessness that I rely on my faith in God and His infinite goodness.
The acts of hoping and waiting are deeply intertwined—so much so, that in many languages they are the same word. In Portuguese, for example, the word is esperar. Some days may lean more towards hope and others more towards waiting, but in the end they are always inexplicably linked with and by the power of faith.
So in this time of decking the halls and secret santas and general merry-making, I want to share my simple belief and knowledge that there is One who is the source of all hope and light. One who, even when we feel alone, even when we feel hopeless, sits with us as we look and as we wait. He understands us completely. And while we may lack the courage to sing of Joy to the World, He stays with us still and whispers that there is a thrill of hope worth waiting for in the days to come.