“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
The classic 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” based on a Stephen King novella, follows the unlikely friendship of two prisoners across several decades of their incarceration. Ellis Boyd Redding, better known as “Red” and masterfully brought to life by Morgan Freeman, is the self-confessed “only guilty man in Shawshank,” while Andy DuFresne (Tim Robbins) is an innocent man framed for the murder of his wife and her lover.
Early on in the movie Red warns Andy, that in a place like Shawshank “hope is a dangerous thing my friend, it can kill a man.” But it turns out, hope is precisely what propels Andy to chisel his way inch by agonizing inch out of his cell over twenty long years, ultimately crawling through 600 meters of a sewage tunnel to freedom. In a note he leaves behind, Andy writes: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
And Andy DuFresne certainly wasn’t wrong. Hope is absolutely a good thing. Sometimes it’s literally all we’ve have.
As the Bible tells us in Isaiah 40:31 (NIV), “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
This is such a beautiful and vivid promise isn’t it?
Not only is your strength renewed by your eternal and heavenly father but you’ll fly like an eagle and run without getting tired. And as a Dad to an extremely rambunctious two-year-old toddler, I need all the additional help I can get on the tiredness front, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis.
More seriously, this verse is about trusting in God and the promises he has over your life – especially and particularly when things seem bleak and bereft of hope in the natural. As Christians we need to put all our focus and hope in God regardless of circumstance. And one of the most quoted (and arguably misapplied) Bible verses reminds us of just that.
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
It’s important to note here that this verse doesn’t guarantee us an easy life of prosperity and ultimate happiness here on earth. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get that beachfront Malibu house, a two-million-dollar Bugatti Veyron or a month in the Maldives each year – far from it.
To give some context on the passage of this verse: Jeremiah is actually telling the people of Israel then living in Babylon that they would be facing seventy more years of exile before God’s promises would come to fruition. Jeremiah’s message is about patience and obedience and trusting in God’s masterpiece of a plan. And on the subject of waiting patiently:
2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Put in simpler terms, God’s timing is always perfect, it’s just rarely your own. This is a point reinforced in Lamentations:
Lamentations 3:25-26 (ESV)
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
“Quietly” is a very interesting choice of words here isn’t it?
In times of intense strife and disturbance in our day-to-day lives we have a tendency to make rash, loud and emotionally fueled decisions. Quiet is not normally a word in the lexicon of someone going through just that. I’m certainly guilty of this, that’s for sure, I could point you to a whole litany of poor choices I’ve made in haste and regretted at my leisure. In fact, you could say this about me even more so when I’m on the mountaintops. God gave us two ears and one mouth quite deliberately – a lesson I’m yet to fully comprehend.
So, brothers and sisters, remember today that our infinitely good God is in control. His precious gift of salvation through Jesus being the perfect expression. Surrender yourself to God in every aspect of your life. Now I will admit that sometimes this isn’t easy, isn’t easy at all. We want to feel like we are directing every step of our own lives through a combination of intellect, savvy and wise choices but the truth is we can’t do it alone however much we want to do so. Only God has the answers for our lives.
Romans 15:13 (ESV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Normally to finish up, I try to give a practical example for your daily life but this month, I want to end on a song – Raise a Hallelujah from Bethel Music and in particular the chorus which I hope (see what I did there?) encourages you greatly as you go about your day and week.
I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!