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Listen, the eye of the Eternal is upon those who live in awe of Him, those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may save them from the darkness of the grave and be kept alive during the lean seasons.

We live with hope in the Eternal. We wait for Him, for He is our Divine Help and Impenetrable Shield.

Our hearts erupt with joy in Him because we trust His holy name.

O Eternal, drench us with Your endless love, even now as we wait for You.

Psalm 33:18-22, The Voice

Definitions of the word hope tend to focus on a desire for something in the future. Wikipedia defines hope as “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of a positive outcome.” In Desiring God, John Piper interprets the Biblical definition of hope as “a confident, expectation and desire for something good in the future.” Piper goes on to categorize Biblical hope as 1) a desire for something good in the future, 2) the thing in the future we desire, and 3) the reason for thinking our desire may be indeed fulfilled.

I confess, I find this focus on a good outcome unsettling. As a professional Grief Counselor and Spiritual Director, many of my clients and directees seek counseling and spiritual direction around the emotional and spiritual pain of feeling their hope was in vain. For those grieving, their hope had been in a cure for their loved one. For directees, there may have been an expectation that if they colored within the lines of their faith tradition or adhered to their perception of what God expects from them, their prayers would be answered with a positive outcome.

Let’s look at the meaning of hope through a different lens. Hope begins in the dark, that liminal space where outcome is unknown. A place where our prayers may feel dry, and doubt may tap us on the shoulder, vying for our attention. As a Christian, hope is a beacon of grace, grounded in love. In the words of Julian of Norwich “all will be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things will be well.” It is wordless trust.

Hope is not passive; it is active listening and trusting in the faithfulness of God. It is linked to prayer in the present for a desire in the future. It is ultimately surrendering our hope and desires to the will of God, standing firm in the conviction, with our arms and hearts wide open, that we are loved by God – then letting go.

“Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).   

May this Advent kindle new hope on your journey to the manger.

Our hope is in you this day, O God, our constant help and robust shield. Be with us in our lean seasons and our seasons of plenty alike, that we might join with Julian of Norwich to confidently say “all will be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things will be well.” Amen.

Reflect on this:
Where is your hope? How do you weave your hope into prayer, surrender and trust?

Joyce Vidal-Thornburg lives in Scottsdale, AZ

I am the Executive Director for CFDM Arizona and a professional grief counselor, currently working with Hospice of the Valley. In addition, I have a private practice as a grief counselor, a spiritual director and supervisor.

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