Hope attends the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. In one sense, that’s no surprise. Hope often ushers in new beginnings, and watches over difficult times. Today qualifies on both counts. But hope began journeying with Obama long before today. His second book is titled “The Audacity of Hope,” a phrase he used in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention as well. And for the last two years, hope has been a rallying cry for his campaign. No quick fixes exist for the substantial challenges Obama inherits today, but hope will serve both him and the nation well in the years ahead.
At the 2004 convention, Obama referred to hope’s spiritual source. “In the end,” he said, “[hope] is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen….”
The Apostle Paul confirms that hope comes from God. His second letter to the Thessalonians speaks of “God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace” (2:16). And in a letter to the Romans, he sends this blessing: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (15:13). In ancient Greek, “the God of hope” means “God, the author of hope,” an even clearer description of hope’s divine source (James A. Thayer, “Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,” p. 206).
But it gets better. The definition of hope has shifted over time. Earlier meanings had no connotation of fingers-crossed wishful thinking. The archaic meaning of hope is to trust or rely on, suggesting strength of conviction and confidence. We can think of “the author of hope,” then, as the source of confident trust.
God isn’t just the source of hope, though. He’s also the object of it – we’re supposed to hope in Him. (The Psalms, in particular, urge us to do so; see Ps. 42:5, 119:114, and 130:7.) At first, it may sound silly for God to give us hope – only to have us place it back in Him. Actually, though, it makes perfect sense because God rewards our hope. As Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (17:7). Since God blesses those who hope in Him, it would be cruel for Him not to supply us with the means to be blessed.
But we’re not off the hook entirely. We need to be receptive to the hope God gives us. Fortunately, that receptivity comes naturally to us as children of God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor’s founder, described our divine Parent this way: “Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (”Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 332). Nothing could be more natural than accepting our Father-Mother’s gift of hope. Negative thoughts keep us from doing so, but fear, cynicism, and anger aren’t from the Almighty. Therefore, they have no power behind them. Like a mirage, negativity has authority over us only if we believe in it.
It’s good that Obama has given hope a high profile. The world needs hope desperately – along with the blessings it brings. We can help spread those blessings by rejecting negativity and opening our heart wide to the abundant hope God gives everyone everywhere every day.
For the law made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did.