“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things — the weather, human relationship, the economy, the political situation, and so on — will get better. Hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Hope is one of the great themes of the season of Advent. Hope means many things to different people. There are probably as many definitions of hope as there are of love. For the Christian, Nouwen reminds us that “hope is trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom.”
Ah, and there’s the rub. Hope involves trust. As people who live in a world steeped in sin, we are raised on the mantra not to trust, to read the fine print, and to suspect everyone and everything. It is hard to break from that frame of mind but we will not grow deeper in the faith until we are able to do just that.
Trust doesn’t come easy for many of us. Some of us have been hurt by others whom we trusted over the years. We have seen others for whom we care hurt by those they had trusted as well. When we hear the words, “Trust me”, we almost invariably look for how we are being duped. Having people say that we need to trust them is not going to help a situation, it will only make it worse.
If we cannot trust, we cannot hope. This, I believe, is another reason that the Church gave us four weeks of the season of Advent to prepare for Christmas because Christmas demands trust and the development or deepening of that trust takes time. We are challenged to trust that Jesus was more than a made up figure. We are challenged to trust that Jesus died for us to ensure our resurrection. We are challenged to place ourselves into God’s hands trusting that He knows what is best for us.
As humans, it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to place ourselves into anyone’s hands, most especially into the hands of someone we cannot see. That is why it’s helpful throughout the season of Advent to look at the story of our salvation history and see how God has walked with His people throughout the ages. Many put their hope and trust in Him and they were not let down. God came to their aid then and God will continue to come to the aid of His people now when they call upon Him in their need.
It’s bad enough having human trust issues. It’s much worse when we have spiritual trust issues. As this season of Advent is still very young, take the time to reflect upon your lives and see the number of times that God was, indeed, there for you, leading and guiding you, and ever keeping you from peril. Ask Him to help you to trust Him more each day so that you can place your hope firmly in His promise, the promise that we call Jesus Christ.
FAITH ACTION: Pray and reflect upon this prayer for hope: O God, in whose image we were all created, as we continue our Advent journey, fill us with the hope that comes to us in your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.