|Our first snowfall on December 18, 2012|
It was either this post title or the "The Anatomy of Hope." But then the next analogy would be "dissecting" hope, so naturally "anatomy" got tossed.
What is hope anyways? We hear people use the word all the time. In our everyday language, it seems to mostly refer to wishing. "I hope Grandma sends money for my birthday."
If someone asked you to describe the essence of hope, what would you say?
I didn't have an immediate, satisfactory answer of any real depth, so I've been contemplating it.
One thing became clear, the Gospel uses the word differently than modern culture. For example...it would sound really off to say - "press forward with a brightness of wishing" [referring to the 20th verse from 2 Nephi 31].
The standard Sunday School answer I've heard whenever hope comes up is:
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
Except the verse really describes faith using the word "hoped." So back to the original question...what is hope? The Bible Dictionary has no explanation! Typing in "hope" on my iPad scripture app brings up many scriptures which speak of hope, but no verses which actually explain hope (that I could find). In fact, I don't think I've ever heard the topic brought up in Church.
Finally I looked up hope in "Guide to the Scriptures" on the Church lds.org website and it says:
Hope (see Faith).
It kind of works, except they're not one and the same and both Paul and Nephi make a clear distinction between the two. In fact, both these men list faith, hope and charity as the three essential qualities for our salvation. We've already figured out faith, as used in both the Bible and The Book of Mormon, is a "do" and a "be" word rather than just a "believe" word . Although they're related, the definition of faith doesn't really embody all of what hope is. Hope doesn't completely cover faith either.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. 2 Nephi 31:20
Not only are we to have hope (yet to be quantified), we're to have a brightness of this same hope too. Very different from the diminishing hope of today's world.
Honestly, the majority of people I know (both in the church and out) ...I would not describe as having this truly buoyant, effervescent quality about them. For sure, there have been phases in my life I have lost my sense of hope even with gospel understanding.
Brightness of hope can be elusive.
I think I know what it is, or at least I can take a shot at it here.
Brightness of Hope = Trust + Attitude
Let me explain that equation!
I once read Trust was the highest form of worship we could give Christ. This makes sense to me. We believe God is there. We believe He is good and powerful. We believe that He has many blessings to give. But we don't trust ourselves to be the actual ones to merit the blessings or His attention or His promises. We don't trust the difficulties, set-backs and tragedies in our own life are part of a worthy human existence. We're sure we're broken, damaged goods. We don't trust He knows what He is doing in regards to OUR individual situation. Life is unfair. Life has wronged us. We don't trust Him with our problems.
Trust is saying to ourselves..."I choose to believe You know what you are doing and I'm going to trust we can get through this together, that it will be OK and that all of life has purpose - even the difficulties."
28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28
Part of hope is the attitude we feed. I've heard it said, "Attitude is everything." The state and quality of our attitude is a decision on our part. Waiting for everything to go right and for there to be no vexations before we adjust and lighten up our perspectives will be a long, long wait.
What happens to our souls when we implicitly trust Him with our life right in the here and now? And repent our gloomy sense of entitlement to an upbeat, humble perspective about it all, including gratitude for so many things we don't normally acknowledge in our conscious thinking?
Rather, what I see in many people including myself, is our mortal natures tend to gravitate towards the Opposite which equals Suspicion + Pessimism.
Suspicious God has forgotten us.
Suspicious any of the grand and glorious promises apply to us.
Suspicious God plays favorites and we're definitely not on that list.
Suspicious we're not good enough to merit asking for attention or blessings.
Suspicious that life is not operated the way it should be (i.e. not fair or just).
Pair suspicion with pessimism and a negative outlook and you have the opposite of the brightness of hope.
How do we get our brightness of hope back?
Mormon gave a step by step formula to his son Moroni in chapter 8:
26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. Moroni 8:25-26
Repentance > Humility > Holy Ghost = Hope + Love. Love is then kept alive by diligent prayer.
Brightness of hope comes from the Holy Ghost, but we're the ones who have to let Him in through a conscious choice of setting down pride, self-justification and disgruntled entitlement (i.e. "this shouldn't be happening to me").
The companionship of the Holy Ghost is there waiting for us. It's like a coat hanging in the closet. As soon as we decide to put the coat on (going through the steps to meekness and lowliness of heart), the Warmth is in full operation.
By the way...prayer changes things!
May your brightness of hope burn through it all and lead the way.
Mortality is hard. I tell my children, "put the coat on and don't brave the storm alone."
Love to your life!