I gave a talk in church awhile back on HOPE. One of my very first blog readers heard it and asked me to post it on my blog.
I agreed to post it because I believe that the amount of hope one has is directly related to the quality of happiness in one’s life. I kind of just spoke from my heart and didn’t write it all down so this is my best rendition of my talk. Please remember that this is not an all-inclusive resource on Hope. It is what I could say in the time I had.
I have been intrigued by the principle of Hope for some time. Partially because I can’t quite figure her out and to be honest with you I may understand her even less than I did before I started studying for this talk.
But hope also intrigues me because I can relate to her. Hope is the “misunderstood, middle sister”. (Larry Hiller, June 2009)
Hope is the middle sister because she is almost always sandwiched between Faith and Charity. And she is misunderstood because Faith and Charity both get more pulpit time, lesson time, talk time, and scripture time than Hope. In fact Faith and Charity are both in the Bible Dictionary, but Hope is not.
I can relate to Hope because I am the misunderstood middle sister too– sandwiched between two beautiful, dynamic, talented, important sisters that are way more popular in this world than me. But don’t feel sorry for Hope and me. We know who we are and our purpose, others just don’t quite understand us yet.
At church, I couldn’t go up to Laurel class (16-18 year olds) without my older sister being there and I couldn’t stay in Mia Maid class (14-15 year old) without my younger sister being in the class with me. I always shared a bedroom. Basically, I never had my own space.
And so it is with Hope. You can’t talk about Hope without talking about Faith and Charity. They are too closely woven together.
Larry Hiller continues to point out that Hope gets little direct attention despite her pivotal position between the other two words. By the mere fact that Hope is in the middle, we can surmise that she is an outgrowth of faith and a prelude to charity.
I will briefly make some small distinctions between the three words so that we can see them as separate principles.
Faith is rooted in a knowledge of Jesus Christ- His life, His teachings, His example. But Hope centers more around His Atonement and sacrifice for us. And Charity is the manifestation of the pure love of Christ.
Also we know there is opposition in all things and even Faith, Hope and Charity have their opponents. I found it helpful to look at their opposites to differentiate them. The opposite of Faith is doubt. The opposite of Hope is despair. The opposite of Charity is failure to care for our fellowmen.
Since the opposite of Hope is despair, I want to go back to a time in my life when I was in total despair. I learned more about Hope while I was actually in despair more than at any other time in my life.
Rewind 15 years ago…
I was sitting on my bed alone in my apartment in Idaho Falls and there were boxes surrounding me. I think my first husband and I were separating for the 3rd time, but this time I knew was different. We wouldn’t be getting back together. He had left and it was up to me to pack up the apartment.
We had been married for 3 years, and about 6 weeks after we were married I found out that my husband had a pornography addiction. Despite seeing different marriage counselors, his addiction kept escalating. By this point, besides the pornography, he was failing school, working in a bar, spending more money then we had, and lying. I couldn’t comprehend how his addiction could be getting worse and worse despite my best efforts. Over a 3 year period, I eventually lost Hope that things would ever be better.
One night in particular I was in utter despair about the course of my life.
I grabbed my New Testament and basically said to God, “Show me what you got.” I closed my eyes and just randomly opened my scriptures. My eyes fell to 4 words in the chapter heading of Matthew 8. I read
JESUS HEALS A LEPER
In that moment, Hope instantly flooded back into my life. The darkness of despair was overcome by the brightness of Hope. I remember the feeling clearly.
I am going to use the 4 letters of the word H.O.P.E. to share with you what I learned about Hope from my experience that night in my apartment:
H– Hope is a Healing Heart
My broken heart began to heal that day. I knew in that moment that if Jesus healed a leper he could heal my husband of his addiction. And he could heal me of my heartache. I knew that Jesus Christ could heal all wounds. He could heal any addiction, sin, pain, temptation, insecurity, disappointment, or heartache. This knowledge of Christ’s healing power was enough. Interestingly, the next year of my life may have been the most difficult yet, as the divorce was finalized and I started a new life, but I was still healing because I had Hope.
This is why Jesus is the Hope of the world. In Alma 7:11 we read “And he [Jesus] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.” He felt our pains so he could know how to help us heal.
(Note that I chose to make Healing with an -ing not an -ed. Healing is a process that can take years.)
O– Hope is an Optimistic Outlook
In that moment, I was no longer without Hope. It was not that my circumstance would change, it was that it could change. I believed things could be better. The future seemed doable. Now in my case it did not mean that my husband stopped doing what he was doing and that we got back together and lived happily ever after. In fact we still got divorced and he actually got worse. But I finally had Hope for my life and my future. I knew that it would be okay in the end.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches us: “No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ we may hope and be assured that the ending of our lives will exceed our grandest expectation.”
I testify that this is true. In my little apartment in Idaho Falls that lonely night, I never could have imagined my life as it is now. With a kind, loving, dedicated husband and 4 beautiful, good kids.
P– Hope is Peace in the Promises
Hope is trust in God’s promises. We have a quiet assurance that we will receive our reward if we are obedient. Since I did not break my covenants I was still entitled to the blessings of eternal marriage and the promises of happiness. I felt peace that night that I was going to be okay. It doesn’t matter what we are going through, when we have Hope we can have peace.
My sister lost her son two years ago and I asked her what Hope looks like in death. Shes said it is Hope that the promises are true– that families are forever, that we will live again, and that she will see Beck again. She has peace in the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. These promises bring her Hope.
“ye shall have hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.”
E– Hope is an Expectation based on Experience
Hope is not a wish but an expectation. In the language of the world, Hope has a hint of uncertainty. “I hope it rains soon.” Or “I hope Locke sleeps through the night.” Larry Hiller of the Church Magazines says “Used this way, the word Hope is the verbal equivalent of keeping your fingers crossed. But in the language of the gospel, Hope is sure, unwavering, and active. It is a belief and a confidence that His promises are sure.”
Because of that experience I now have the expectation of hope. I have seen Jesus’ hand in my life over and over again and that breeds greater hope. I now expect that all things will work out for my good.
President Uchtdorf says, ” Each time a hope is fulfilled, it creates confidence and leads to greater hope.”
I would like to emphasize here that Hope is not a trait to be inherited like blue eyes or red hair. Those that have Hope just didn’t luck out like those with long legs did. Rather Hope is a quality to be developed and cultivated. It takes action and obedience on our part.
Hope came back to me that day 15 years ago as I was reading my scriptures. Not as I was lying in bed with the covers over my head or while I was crying on the bathroom floor (although these are necessary sometimes too). Hope came back to me as I turned towards the scriptures.
Romans 15:4 says “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
In addition to the scriptures, President James E. Faust teaches us that Hope can also come from personal prayer, priesthood blessings, personal revelation, prophets, repentance, and of course obedience to the commandments of God.
Elder Maxwell teaches us that “Hope needs to be carefully and constantly nurtured, however, whereas doubt and despair, like dandelions, need little encouragement in order to sprout and spread.” Hope takes action and obedience on our part. If left unattended or unnurtured, Hope will fade.
It’s a bummer that Hope takes work and doubt and despair don’t. But that’s how the universe works. It is called the Law of Entropy.
Having Hope does not mean that we will never have another problem. But we can be sure that Hope will help us through any problem. She heals wounds. She gives us Optimism and Peace in our future despite our current circumstances. And Hope is an Expectation we can have that all things will be for our good.
Afterall, Jesus Christ first healed a leper. And then he suffered and died on our behalf. Jesus Christ is our Hope and the Hope of the World.