Keep hope alive

Originally published as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

In today's news cycles of turmoil and uncertainty, hunger for hope is a universal craving. And the heart's yearning to believe that good is coming is nothing new either. It's as old as recorded history. Despite wars, factions, rising and falling dynasties, and fractured personal and family relationships, the holy power that restores and heals has never been extinguished. Faith in God's wisdom and provision has continued to sustain individuals and nations.

One of history's most hopeful chapters is in the Bible's book of Hebrews. The 11th chapter provides a "Who's Who" of those whose hopes were fulfilled - people whose faith helped them triumph over all kinds of trials. Such as Abraham, who left everything familiar and moved, not knowing where to go. And Sarah, who endured lifelong infertility until unexpectedly conceiving in old age. And Moses, who was separated from his family at birth and then, as an adult, was chased by an army to the edge of a sea - which then parted.

Hebrews 11 also tells about David and Samuel, who "subdued kingdoms" and "stopped the mouths of lions." Out of weakness, they "were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, [and] turned to flight the armies of the aliens."

So when today's headlines provoke sadness or anger, or when our well-being seems at risk, we might ask ourselves: "How strong is my hope? Is it strong enough to have the patience, no matter how long it takes, to give God a chance to show me what He can do?"

When things get tough, and a solution - even just a clear sense of direction - doesn't become obvious, that's the very time to nurture hope's close kin, trust in God. And often that means making an effort to get to know better the One who made us "in His likeness." It stands to reason that the likeness of a supremely good Parent would mirror that Parent's own peace, harmony, love, and ability.

Prayer is the desire to see the divine peace and harmony right here and now. When hope is the only avenue we choose to travel down, and when faith in God and His power and presence are unshakable, the result can be beyond our imagining. As with Sarah's giving birth to a son - she delivered not just any son, but Isaac, whose progeny became the Jewish people. And as for Hagar, whom Abraham sent into the wilderness with their son, Ishmael, she appeared to have been cast out of God's grace and care. But God didn't abandon Hagar. He heard Ishmael's cry and saved them. Neither Isaac nor Ishmael, both sons of Abraham, could be disinherited by God - regardless of how their prospects looked before hope was rekindled.

In her bestselling book on spiritual healing, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy answered the biblical question, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" with another question: "What cannot God do?" (page 135).

There is nothing needful that God cannot do. And a natural follow-up question might be, What can I do to see this fact proved true in my life? Here are a few starting points:

• One of the purest forms of prayer is giving thanks. Try thanking God just for being God, for fathering and mothering all life. Such prayer can have breakthrough force.

• Even if your personal prayer agenda seems crowded, make room for one of the world's trouble spots in your heart - any conflict that tends to carry the label "hopeless." You can always find reason for hope as you turn to God in prayer.

• Remember Winston Churchill's words in the dark days of World War II: "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Apparently overwhelming might, Churchill said. Actual force rests with the unseen Infinite - and in His presence hope grows.

Faith means that we have
full confidence in the things
we hope for, it means being certain of the things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1, J.B. Phillips

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