Exploring the Spirituality of Hope: Is Hope More Than a “Feeling”?
Is hope more than a feeling?
More than expecting the good guy to win at the end of the movie or that the weather will be pleasant for your event?
Yes. It is.
We tend to relate hope with our feelings, and operate with a vague understandings of hope.
But hope has dimensions that reach beyond the things we hope for on the surface. It’s bigger than our internal sparks of optimism and looking on the brighter side of things.
Hope as a force, an intense strength, energy or power, the way love and faith are forces.
Hope isn’t self-generation, nor is it only defined by how we feel.
Hope allows for possibility.
Brother David Steindl-Rast says that hope is the ‘willingness to be surprised.’
When we are fully aligned with hope, we are able to hold our preferred outcomes lightly.
This kind of hope can’t be understood or experienced without hope’s companions, faith and love. You see, even countries at war are often aligned with hope though the outcomes aren’t the best.
But hope companioned with faith and love undergirds a character and way of being that is welcoming and generous.
Not only is there depth and character to the concept of hope, but there’s also work and a degree of involvement that play a part in living a spirituality of hope.
If we revisit the idea that hope is a force, we can see ways in which hope itself is moving within us and around us and how these are deeply related.
We can see how hope works in real time with us.
Loving our neighbors is a good example of this because hope can provide us with awareness of our neighbor’s needs and ways to assist.
A helpful and hopeful response isn’t trapped in the notion that we must eliminate all problems, suffering and challenges, but seeks the wisdom to attend to outcomes aligned with God’s heart.
This requires spiritual practices of discernment, discretion and waiting. When our hearts are aligned with the creative force of faith-hope-love, we can accept outcomes that are different than our desired ‘best’ outcome. We can persevere in the face of challenges that we may never fully see resolved.
This is why we need others to be a part of our life journeys. We live and experience hope not just for ourselves but with and for others too.
We are a people who journey with others, including ancestors as witnesses to hope as well as contemporary witnesses to hope. People of hope journey with others.
This enables us to be on the lookout for such traveling companions, those that aspire to generate the same forces of hope that we do.
The ones that are holding on to something bigger than what they feel. Our companions of hope allow us to witness and maintain conversation about the role of hope and faith in our lives.
They support our stepping out beyond what we can see or know, our risk-taking for the good of others and the world. They help us remember the why behind our actions and pick us up when fall down.
This helps us see that what we’re truly after is beyond our ability to fully know, and pulls us near the love and mercy of God.
In a world that seems to become more divided and divisive each day, we could use an infusion of hope to undergird our prayers and action in the world, to live as people of hope.
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-Dr. Luther E. Smith Jr.
Dr. Luther E. Smith Jr.’s current research focuses on the writings and correspondence of Howard Thurman, advocacy on behalf of children, and a spirituality of hope. Smith is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. He’s been passionately chasing hope in his research for more than 25 years. His own hope and delight in life radiates through his teaching.