An Invitation to Hope
For many of us, late 2021 feels like a wilderness time. As we approach the Advent season, we invite you to join Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology Mark Glanville in this reflection on the meaning and formation of Christian hope, even in the wilderness.
In Exodus 15:22–17:16, we read how God taught the Israelites to trust him in the wilderness. Day by day, God provided manna and quail—enough, but not more than enough, to sustain them for twenty-four hours. Every day, Israel had to choose trust.
It’s the same with God’s people through the ages, isn’t it? When our life is cruising, we have little need to trust in the Lord. I’ve never heard anyone say, “the year I really grew to trust God—what an easy year!” No. The Lord meets us in the wilderness.
When I was in my late twenties, I spent two years lying in bed with chronic fatigue. For me, those were wilderness years. They were also among the most formative years of my life.
Here in late 2021, it feels like we’ve all spent years in the wilderness. A global pandemic, political turmoil, social upheaval—and through it all, cries for justice that too often go unanswered. How is this wilderness experience forming us? Can we learn, even now, to be people of hope?
It’s interesting to think about the meaning of the word “hope” in the English language. In everyday conversations, it usually refers to nothing more than a desire or wish for what may—or may not—happen. “I hope it will be sunny.” “I hope I get that job.” “I hope they notice me.”
The Christian concept of hope is different. It’s more than a wish—it’s trust. Just as the Israelites trusted God to provide food each day in the desert, we are called to trust that God will recover the divine purposes for creation. Trust that God will mend this good world at the renewal of all things. Trust that God won’t give up on what God has made.
Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke of hope in this sense: hope that sees the brokenness of the world as it is, but trusts in the possibility—the inevitability!—of a better future. King expressed this Christian hope when he observed that “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That’s why he could also say, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”
The hope Dr. King spoke of, and lived out, is not passive but active. Christian hope displays a future that compels us to live into Christ’s Way. Broken and corrupted the world may be, yet it belongs to God. In Christ, God is working for restoration, and he invites us to join him.
The final prayer in the Bible is a cry of hope: “Maranatha; come, Lord Jesus.” As we remember Christ’s first coming, can we cultivate hope for his return? Can we make this our prayer, our ache, our longing? May the Spirit of Christ help us live into the hope we have in him.
In this year's Christmas letter, President Jeff Greenman explained how Regent forms people of hope in an anxious and divided world. Would you invest in this community of hope by making a gift this year-end?