How is your hope meter? — You know, that feeling inside that tells you whether the cup is half full or half empty. Are you up or are you down?
These days it seems that there are lots of reasons to feel empty. It has been a spring and summer of disasters, trauma and discord from natural disasters and the famine in East Africa to the violence in Norway, the downward economy and congressional gridlock. Add to all of that the stuff that happens in our personal lives, and life can seem overwhelming.
But in spite of it all, I am full of hope. And not just hope, I am excited and filled with wonder to be part of this family Jesus has put together! I count on this hope and trust this promise no matter what comes my way because it comes from Christ and not anything that I am or do or say. It is a matter of faith, faith that has been given to me.
That’s a very different hope than the hope some churches are dishing out. If you listen to the radio or watch worship services on TV, you will probably hear their version of gospel that says that if you are a faithful Christian, you will be healthy, wealthy and wise. Life will be good and you will be happy.
The preachers and leaders are charming, smiling, and if not pretty, are certainly not dumpy. Some will even go so far as to attach specific criteria: There are specific prayers to be prayed in the right way or verses to be “claimed” or behaviors to be followed faithfully such as the amount of money given to the church, services to be attended, etc.
It follows that if your life hasn’t been “blessed” yet, that it has to do with the quality of your faith and your rightness of action.
Seeking the good life
It’s no wonder that this kind of religion is very popular in uncertain and difficult times. It offers a way out that seems much surer and more available than winning the lottery. Surely Jesus wants us to have the good life, right?
Well, it’s not that Jesus doesn’t want good for us. The truth is that our Savior himself lived a life that was not “blessed” in that way.
Even for the birth of God’s own Son, there wasn’t a room available except in a stable. He wandered in ministry and said that he had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20).
And as the great arc of the Gospel story makes clear, his own life ended early in suffering and pain.
Jesus never promises the disciples an easy beautiful life. In fact, he often warns them that following him is hard, as in Mark 8:34-35.
We read in Matthew 14:22-33 of how the disciples ended up in a boat all night, tossed about by wind and waves. They were afraid and the text makes it clear that Jesus made them get into that boat.
We often find ourselves trying to be faithful in difficult places. I find that hopeful.
Look to Jesus with hope
When life turns to chaos around me, or is hard and painful, instead of that being a sign that I am somehow not being “faithful” enough, I look to Jesus with hope. I know that Jesus is with me especially in those hard places.
As the morning began to dawn on that storm-tossed sea, Jesus came walking to the disciples and got into the boat with them. And then the waves and wind ceased.
We do not have to pray our way out of the boat or off the sea; the real promise is that Jesus comes to us and gets into the boat with us.
By himself, outside of the boat, Peter lost faith and began to sink; then Jesus reached out and saved him and put him back into the boat with the others. It is so with us.
By ourselves, it is easy for us to lose heart and hope in the storms of life. It is when we are back in the boat with Jesus and each other that our faltering faith is strengthened and hope is restored.
Join me and climb back into the boat that is life together.
Originally posted August 9, 2011, at Halstad Parish. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Christine Iverson’s entry on the blog Halstad Parish at Lutheran Blogs.