On Hope and Shame

 

…hope does not put us to shame.” — the Apostle Paul

One of the lingering questions I have about my faith is the place of hope. Not that I have conquered all other foes whose forces wield wild arms against my trust in God, but this one will not let me go.

It’s the balance I cannot get right. The hope of things here and the hope of all things to come.

I keep hoping for a new job. I keep applying for a new job. Inevitably I will hear about a job either because I saw it posted on a website or someone told me about it. I will work on my résumé and labor on a cover letter. Then I’ll spend a good chunk of time filling out an online application with all the information that is on my résumé already. Then I’ll tell my wife, a few friends and maybe my mom. And then I wait and nothing happens.

I used to tell a lot of friends and family. “I just applied for a job!” But now, I really don’t even want to tell my wife. It’s now just embarrassing.

Hope is all about tomorrow and the desire for some change to make it all better. Even if nothing is demonstrably wrong in your life, you will hope for something. You will hope a meal is good. A game is won. A good weekend is had.

But mostly hope is about things getting better. A crooked path made straight. A right being wronged. Pain ending. A reason for joy beginning. Fears alleviated.

I know I’m supposed to hope. I seemed to be wired for it. You probably feel it too. There’s the push and pull of contentment, but hope, as the old saying goes, springs eternal and like spring blooms big and bright.

Back when I was a youth pastor I taught Paul’s letter to the Romans everywhere I served. And we creeped through that thing. Slow. But I never knew what Paul meant when he said, “…hope does not put us to shame.” Because hope that is disappointed can do that. You hope and you hope and hope and hope and then nothing. And shame slithers in. Because you were so hopeful but nothing happened. Again. And then people wonder.

You hoped that *this* time he really would change and be faithful to you. You hoped that finally the doctors would be able to help your child. You hoped for the Christmas bonus. You hoped the prodigal would come home. You hoped that after years of trying, you were pregnant.

I don’t know all that Paul means when he says “…hope does not put us to shame.” But I do know this — he is pointing to hope higher than those of the here and now. A gospel hope that has the cross as its surety, the Holy Spirit as its strength, and an eternity of no disappointment waiting.

And it will not put us to shame. For it will be all we have hoped for and more.

3 thoughts on “On Hope and Shame

  1. Beth February 26, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    Thank you for this post. I’m in the hoping-and-being-shamed mode, but you reminded me that I’m putting my hope in the wrong things. God is good all the time.

  2. JoAnn February 26, 2014 / 7:22 pm

    Thanks. I found this helpful. We too have lived through tough seasons and are [maybe] learning that it’s really not going to get better this side of heaven. But hope springs eternal and it’s a higher hope that we cling to.

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