21 August 2009

Blessed Hope Is Possible

Hope is oft times very fragile, especially during prolonged trials of faith.

We often use the word hope to convey “a hint of uncertainty. For example we say we hope for a change of the weather"; however, "[i]n the language of the gospel...the word hope is sure, unwavering, active” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 85). Hope should be a "confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness" (Guide to the Scriptures, "Hope").

Dr. John S. Tanner presented a beautiful discourse on hope to a Brigham Young University-Idaho devotional audience. I commend the entire devotional to you to read, study, and ponder. (I think I've read / listened to this devotional at least 5 times and still feel the need to continue to study it!). I wanted to quote a bit from it...but couldn't trim down what I wanted to share to less than what is below, so please forgive the long quotation. My desire is for it to help you as much as it has helped me.

Although hope often seems dwarfed by the towering theological terms that frame it, hope is not a whit less important than its big sisters faith and charity, and in some respects is even more demanding than its near twin, faith. Many Latter-day Saints find it comparatively easy to express faith in the foundational truths of the gospel–that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph was a prophet, and so forth. But to feel hope. . . . Well, here the Lord seems to be expecting something rather more personal of us. For hope is more than belief in propositional truths. Hope bids us not only believe but feel. It is an attitude of the heart more than of the mind. It is telling that in English “hope” functions not only as a noun, like “faith,” but as a verb. Hope is the act of a soul expectantly reaching out toward the future. Belief can attach itself to the past, the present, or the future. Hope, by contrast, is oriented emphatically toward the future.

And not just to the future in general but to our own futures. Hope focuses on deeply personal possibilities about our own lives rather than on impersonal facts. As we all know, it is possible to believe wholeheartedly that God’s purposes will prevail and yet lack what the scriptures call a “lively hope” that the Lord’s purposes will prevail in our own lives or in the lives of our loved ones (1 Peter 1:3). To summon up this bright and blessed hope for our own lives can test the capacity of even the faithful, like Abraham, who according to scripture “against hope believed in hope”–that is he hoped even when things seemed hopeless (Romans 4:18). In dark nights of the soul, such blessed hope can be oh so hard to hold on to…..

Think how hope readies your heart to feel love–for yourself and for others. When we are full of hope, which remember is future-oriented, we are prepared to forget ourselves and reach out to others, as the pure love of Christ requires. By contrast, when we feel hopeless, we tend to be self-critical and self-preoccupied and therefore incapable of giving love. It is hard for the hopeless to get outside themselves and approach others with pure love, or to accept possibility in themselves and others for change, as Christ does. Without hope, we feel unloveable and unloving. Hope makes us receptive to the pure love of Christ.

By the same token, charity, or the pure love of Christ, readies the heart for hope. Charity causes us to look with hope upon ourselves and others. Perfect love leads us to be expectant about the future, to have hope for change. As the scriptures affirm, “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16; cf. 1 John 4:18. Note that Mormon is even more categorical than John: love casts out all fear). By casting out fear, perfect love makes room in the heart for hope. Truly, as the scriptures testify, the soul possessed of charity “hopeth all things.”

I know about the intimate relation between hope and charity from personal experience. When I feel hope, I am better able to love. Similarly, when I feel the pure love of Christ, I am better able to hope. The world brightens. Blessed hope is kindled in my heart. And I am reminded of the old truth that the night is darkest just before dawn.

John S. Tanner, “Blessed Hope,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, 16 May 2006 (italics in original text, bold emphasis added).

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