Scary Hope


Guest post from Glen:

Hope is a good thing, right?

But hope is also hard. This struck me as I read the atheist, Julian Baggini’s reflections on hope

Baggini seems to have four problems with hope. He argues that:

First, it’s groundless. How do we know “the sun will come out tomorrow”? It might not.

Second, it breeds inactivity. In common parlance we say “we can only hope” when there’s literally nothing else to be done. It’s a feeble and enfeebling thing to hope. We want to work and plan and strive for things. Hoping for things seems horribly passive.

Third, it disturbs us. It opens us out to possibilities and destroys our chances of equilibrium in the now. Baggini quotes from Sam Harris (an atheist and Buddhist):

“Hope and fear are completely natural responses to uncertainty. But they are two sides of the same coin: if we would be free of fear, we must let go of hope. Easier said than done, of course. But it is possible. And being without hope is by no means synonymous with despair. Rather, it is tranquility.”

Fourth, it distracts us from here and now. Hope takes your eyes off the future and focuses them on what really matters: this life, this world, this moment. If we forget about hoping we might just appreciate and enjoy what we have.

I think this diagnoses exactly why we find hope so hard, but also why we need it so much.

You see, it’s not just atheists. We all struggle with hope. We don’t naturally find hope a nice thing. We find it seriously disturbing. Hope  strikes at our unbelief, our self-justification, our fear and our selfishness. Here’s some examples:

First: I’m not very grounded in my faith. I don’t know why I hope in what I do. I lose sight of the risen Christ and become unsure of the future. I start to give up

Second: I hate being still. I’d far rather work and plan and strive than trust Jesus to bring it about. So I stop hoping and work at coping.

Third: I’m afraid to hope because I don’t want to open myself up to disappointment. As the Proverb says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Stepping boldly into the future is too frightening. So I limit my hopes.

Fourth: I’m in love with the here and now. I don’t want the delayed gratification of living for the new creation. So I abandon hope and live for today.

But the Christian life is all about hope.

Who wants short-termism when Jesus calls us to inherit the nations? Who wants busyness when we have a secure future? Who wants tranquility when life in technicolour beckons? Who wants the trinkets of here and now when a glorious inheritance is ours?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)


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