Walking our Faith: Is there a difference between having hope and having faith? (column)
November 30, 2018
Is one better than the other? Or are they both forms of wishful thinking?
These questions have been on my mind lately as I began doing a year-end taking stock in light of some stubbornly-unanswered prayers. Somehow, I skipped right over Christmas and went to New Year's. Thankfully, Advent stopped me in my tracks and reminded me that there will be time enough for year-end reviews, right now it's time to prepare.
Four weeks until Christmas, but before that a period of waiting expectantly with the Mother of God, anticipating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world whose entrance rips asunder history during the darkest days.
We have been marking these same Advent weeks for 2,000 years. How can we slow our hectic sprint from one holiday event to another to observe weeks that prepare us for not only the birth of a child, but the fulfillment of a promise? How can we view the message of Advent with fresh eyes?
Last week, I saw a graphic which outlined Advent with four words and four corresponding scriptures:
Hope: And Isaiah said, "There's the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall. Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!" (Rom 15: 12-13 MSG)
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Faith: … as described in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "Thunder in the desert!"
"Prepare God's arrival! / Make the road smooth and straight! / Every ditch will be filled in, / Every bump smoothed out, / The detours straightened out, / All the ruts paved over. / Everyone will be there to see / The parade of God's salvation." (Luke 3:4-6 MSG)
Joy: There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12 MSG)
Peace: At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: "Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him." (Luke 2:14 MSG)
Each Bible verse provides a historical guidepost on our way to the manger where we will witness the birth of the Christ child. This is why I want to observe the gift of Advent this year in a mindful way. To savor the preparations that are observed in the Gospel, the miracle of Elizabeth's mid-life pregnancy, the beauty and bravery of Mary's Magnificat, and the glory of the angels visitation to the shepherds.
I want to make time over the next four weeks for stillness and wonder. To read these familiar Bible passages and give myself time to ponder their beauty and the miracle of trust and love God is extending to each of us.
I believe each word: hope, faith, joy, peace, will provide inspiration in our lives as well as imbuing the Christmas story with deep meaning in our hearts. So, I've decided to meditate on one word each week, for the next four weeks.
Which is why I was pondering the difference between hope and faith. When I began, I was hard pressed to come up with a difference between the two. Then I read a definition that made perfect sense: "Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith." (GotQuestions.com)
When I read this definition, suddenly a verse from Hebrews, one that I've struggled with for years, made sense: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
Regarding my unanswered prayers, through a new understanding of this verse, I see them in a new light. I have faith in God's goodness. There are many, many prayers that God in his wisdom chose not to answer in the way I wanted.
But all these years later, I see God's wisdom was greater than mine. So, when I pray, I hope for my desired outcome. But I put my faith in God's greater plan for my life. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)
This means that in the moment, I might face disappointment when my hopes are not fulfilled. But if I place my hope in God, I am stating that I am trusting God, that I have faith in God. When my hopes are aligned in this way, hope is looking with confidence toward the future because with faith in God, I know all will be well.
Let's do Advent together. Over the coming week, will you join me in reading Chapter 1 in the Gospel of Luke? There are 80 verses, let's divide it into 12 verses each day. With these bite-size daily chunks, read that day's 12 verses two times, first for an overview, next focus on a word or phrase that speaks to you, ask God to speak to your life through it. Sit quietly for five minutes with God. I promise this won't take more than 10 minutes each day, but you'll be thrilled with the peace it brings your frenetic holiday vibe. See you next week!
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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