Hope Redeemed

Turn the news on, and we hear story after story that seemingly affirms what we’ve suspected: the world is out of control. Invasions, crime, political divides, corruption, and religious failures scream to our fears, “There’s no hope!” Add to this list our personal burdens–family conflict, financial strain, failing health–and it’s no wonder we’ve become the anxious, hopeless generation.

I watch people’s responses to such stresses and situations. Some choose to stick their head in the sand and pretend life is rosy–”no problems here!” Others have spiraled into cynicism, believing that no one and nothing is any good any more. Still others cling to an optimism that circumstances will get better, much to the dismay of many who can’t see how anything will ever change.

My own responses vacillate among all of these, depending on the day or season. But as I dwell more in God’s presence and Word, a holy unrest has been boiling up in my being–a type of “there has to be a better way” feeling. And as I’ve begun researching Scripture and books about my word of the year, I believe I’ve landed on what I’ve been longing for: a deep, abiding hope. Not in myself. Not in circumstances. Not in people or systems or knowledge. 

But a hope that can only come from God.

It’s Personal

Just this week I sat in a doctor’s office, yet again, lamenting my lungs and their unwillingness to work properly. Tired of the cycles of sickness and fatigue, even more exhausted with not having a name or treatment for what’s going on, I felt myself slipping into despair. Tears flowed. And my thoughts spun negatively into all the superlatives of “always” and “nevers” that only keep me in the cycle of cynicism.

Awaiting test results, I tried clearing my mind in the moment to call on God to help me pull myself together, to stop my mental and emotional spiral–but I’d lost control. So I cried some more.

Then my phone dinged. A group text from my long-time prayer partners asking how we could be praying for one another. My weeping started up again, but this time from a source of gratitude because I was sure God was reminding me that He was, indeed, right there with me. And so were my praying friends. 

I quickly typed out a message asking for prayer, and within minutes my heart rate returned to normal, and peace flooded my mind and body. I was able to process my situation and what the doctor was doing objectively, at last; I rested in the process, asking God to lead the way.

So now I wait. For test results. To see if infection is setting in. But not without hope.

It’s Collective

As I’ve been talking about my word of the year with a few friends, I’ve been surprised by their reactions. One completely pushed back, saying she was sick of hearing about hope. It turns out her workplace shoves the not-so-God-kind-of-hope down the throats of their employees. The word itself elicits quite the negative, visceral reaction in her.

Another friend told me she’s on her own journey with hope because most of her life she’s been afraid to hope. I took her to mean that out of self-preservation, she coaches herself not to hope so that she won’t be hurt. As she reflected on this way of living, she admitted that she gets hurt anyway…

I have a couple of friends who seem to have lost all hope–in anyone or anything–because life has been so hard for so long. As an outsider looking in, I wonder if this loss of hope is tied to their inability to see a way out of present circumstances. Without a “light at the end of the tunnel,” despair sets in for the long haul.

I’m part of a denomination that has been feuding for decades over key things like Scripture, its relevancy and authority. As the schism has become wide and irreparable, the long-familiar feeling of anxiety in our churches tempts us now to fall into the dark pull of despair, as if there’s no hope at all for us or our future.

How about our world? Throw a pandemic and its growing list of ill-effects into the hot mess of war and economy and violence and injustice, and you can very nearly hear the collective sigh of every person on the planet–how will things ever get better?

Despair hovers over our families, work places, churches, governments, nations, and planet like a dark, black cloud that suffocates all life. 


(There is a but!)

But, despair doesn’t have to win. Without succumbing to circumstance-based optimism or ostrich-like behavior, we can overcome despair with hope.

Redeeming Hope

It all starts with God. And these verses:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV

This is my Word of the year. These verses prophesied by Isaiah thousands of years ago still speak a truth to my heart, to each of our situations, and to all our collective challenges. God never grows weary!!!! He never tires of our worries or complaints; He’s never worn out by our constant need for help nor our failure to seek Him when we need it. He is always strong, always present, always ready to give us wisdom and strength.

And all we have to do is put our hope in Him.

My physical WOTY, sitting on my desk. 🙂

So, instead of hearing the word hope and rolling our eyes because it sounds like we’re just tossing a wish out into the wind, we let the Creator of the ends of the earth be our hope. 

Rather than thinking of hope as a watered-down version of a desire that we don’t actually think has a chance of becoming a reality, we can turn to the One who has promised to always hear us, stand with us, and be our hope.

And, instead of avoiding hope because we’re afraid of disappointment or so tired of its overuse, we step into the presence of the Almighty with our hands held wide open, surrendering our will for His. Because Jesus is our hope.

For Today

I don’t have God’s way of hope figured out, but I’m all in, ready to learn and experience everything about His hope. So, for today, I’m choosing to wait on God with a hopeful expectancy that He is at work in ALL of this because I already see that His way of hope is not based on a feeling or situation. Because, to be honest, my lungs still hurt. 

It’s enough that today, despair doesn’t win. It’s enough to see the pinprick of light waaaaaay down at the end of the looooooong tunnel–because I know that light is Jesus.

It’s enough that today, I know hope isn’t about me or another person or anything but God. So, today, I praise God for redeeming hope–for being our strength and the One who gives us new mercies every single day.

Father God, our hope comes from You! What good news–and what hope we have just in knowing that we don’t have to be (in fact, can’t be) the defeaters of our own despair. You are! Thank You for Jesus–the One who overcame death so that we can overcome so much in life. Thank You that as we choose to put our faith and hope in Your love, we delight You and find our strength in You. Lord Jesus, because of You–your life and death and resurrection–we have hope for our future. A future in eternity with You AND a new tomorrow here on earth because in You we find our hope and way forward. Thank You for forgiving us when we treat hope like wishful thinking that worries You won’t come through–or for putting hope in other people or systems or even ourselves. Thank You for being our light in the dark. Holy Spirit, how grateful we are that You pray for us when we can’t pray for ourselves, that You prompt our sisters in Christ to pray for us, and that You remain faithful to be our power to overflow with God’s hope. We pray that You would continue to be our guide and teacher today, tomorrow, and into the year as we surrender our hearts and minds to You and the hope of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Psalm 62:5; Romans 8:22-25, 26-27, 37; Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 40:28-31; John 1:5; Romans 15:13; John 14:26)

  • Throw back to last week — I found the VHS recording of our 1983 ballet of Pandora’s Box. The recording and performances are far from award-worthy, but it was fun to watch what had only been a memory for decades. I posted a few “screen shots” on social media this week…if you’re curious.
  • Resources
    • So, it’s early in this hope journey. I don’t have many resources to recommend just yet. But I will say two books I’m into right now percolate constantly in my mind and heart, and their effects already surface in my writing though I’ve yet to quote them. You’ll definitely be hearing more about them in the coming weeks–if not months.
      • Danielle Strickland’s book The Other Side of Hope.* Literally, one side of the book is her story and journey with hope, and the other side is more theological. And I’m so grateful for both!
      • N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope.* I’m telling you, I couldn’t be more surprised by the content, direction, and depth of this book. But if I’d read the subtitle with more attentiveness, I’d have been better prepared…
      • And, of course our Spotify playlist, “Revival of Hope.” Did you spot the new add this week? Hint: It’s the last song on the list. So good.
  • Rhythms
    • As I read Scripture and the two incredible books I shared above, I’m already awakening to ALL that I don’t know about hope. Sitting in the doctor’s office, allowing despair to consume me, I had a bit of an aha. THIS is one of those moments I need God’s kind of hope. So–what if–one of our hope rhythms is to intentionally turn our thoughts to Him when despair and all its relatives demand our attention. And, just as I learned this week–many times we need friends to help us find our way back into the light of hope. Look to God. Ask friends for help. Amen!
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!

Featured Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
*affiliate links with which I may earn a bit

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

4 thoughts on “Hope Redeemed

  1. Such truth spoken here! The ultimate truth is that real hope, joy, peace and love can only come from the Lord, creator of all things!! God is love, our joy, our peace and our only HOPE!! So sorry you’re feeling bad! Wish I’d known sooner but I’ll being praying for healing!! 🙏🏻❤️

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: