Hope survives in difficult seasons

Hope: some may associate this word simply with wishful thinking; others may see it as a solid anchor and foundation. No matter what one thinks when he or she thinks of the word “hope,” everyone daily walks and lives out of some sort of hope for the purpose of their life’s activity.

Last Saturday, professor Arrington and nine intercultural studies students had the opportunity to travel to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend the annual Faith and International Development Conference. The overarching theme of the conference this year was The Power of Hope.

Speakers and organizations came to present on mission work through community development in business, agriculture, and social justice. They readily recognized the darkness and despair we encounter. Events do not go as planned, people fail, accidents and tragedies happen, injustice seems to have the upper hand and our expectations in life fail us.

Thankfully, hope is different than expectation. Expectations are not bad, they are the good things we want and desire to happen, but hope is more secure. Hope is anchored in a story of reality that is bigger than the moment we are living in, bigger than what we can see. For Christians, our hope is anchored in our faithful God.

When we look around and have trouble seeing God’s light in the current situation, we can trust in our God who has not failed in the past, will not fail now, and will make everything whole and clear in the future. When we cannot see his hand in the big, global problems, we can see His active presence in the way He speaks and works in small ways in the lives of His people. We can trust that if he is present in and has a plan in individual lives, then He is present and has a plan for all of the world.

As Christians, our hope is more than wishful thinking. Our hope in God does not require us to ignore the reality of darkness. Our God so recognized the reality of darkness that He willingly entered into it and died in that cruel reality. Following Jesus in His death, we can face the darkness and suffering, and because of His resurrection, we can do so with the living power and hope of the Holy Spirit.

While I learned about asset-based community development, agronomics and appropriate technology, the biggest thing I will take away from this conference is hope. As individuals and organizations were quick to point out the good that they are seeing, celebrating even the small victories, I was challenged to be a beacon of hope.

As I listened to personal stories, I saw God giving me hope in His active presence. As I read the scriptures, I saw God’s faithfulness through all eternity. I often can be caught up in the problems, injustice, pain and sadness in my life, in the lives of those close to me, and in the world around me. While I should not hide from these realities, and while it is important to speak up and point out injustice, the world needs more people to point out the areas of goodness, growth and God’s presence, and be quick to remind us where our secure hope lies.

I would like to pass on this challenge to you as well – daily remind yourself and others of our steadfast hope and point out the places, small and large, where you see God working, for our God is not dead, but truly alive.