Is there any hope?

“Is there any hope?”

My grandfather used to ask this question all the time.

Sometimes it was his greeting. When we’d go for coffee, Grandpa would come in, sit down, look at his huge hands as if for the first time and ask, “Is there any hope?” The sentence began- almost melodically- on the lowest note in his range, but the word “hope” slid up to some dissonant pitch an octave or more above the opening note. He wasn’t despairing but he wanted everyone to think he was. He didn’t bother to look for a response, he’d just look up at familiar pictures on the wall and wait for someone to respond with their spin on the daily news, the weather predictions or a crop report.

barn pic

Grandpa and I worked in the shop quite a bit. We always had an impossible mission… we were like the A-Team, building advanced equipment from the steel scraps and throw-away parts that Grandpa hoarded. Every day there was a point when it seemed- this time- we were doomed to fail. At the moment when all hope seemed lost, he’d ask with a sigh, “Is there- any- hope?” It was still melodic, but this time the word “any” got the highest pitch and the word “hope” sounded minor and ominous like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Grandpa was a Democrat and Dad was a Republican, but neither one of them looked for hope in government. Hope didn’t come from politicians, televangelists, faces on TV nor voices on the radio. To them, hope wasn’t something that could could be given, received, bought or sold. It was something that was earned. It came day by day when calloused hands found a way to make tomorrow a little better. It’s what they worked for. It’s never guaranteed. It’s always fleeting.

I think that’s why Grandpa always asked about hope. Like water in your hand, we never really possessed hope but we always worked for it. This is biblical. Romans 8:24-25- For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. He was no religious man, but he knew that hope came by working faithfully.

Hope came through- and in spite of- opposition, not absent of it.

For years I failed to understand hope. Hope is hard work, but I wanted hope realized. Read the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. I was that guy. I was trying to build big barns and fill them up. I wanted to get to the part where life was arranged, planned, set up. I wanted to set up enough dominoes that I could spend the rest of my life watching them fall. I wanted insurance. I wanted guarantees. I wanted the politicians that would create the government that would perpetuate a system I could rely on. I wanted hope that did away with difficulty.

Is this where hope comes from? Does having enough insurance, assurance, paychecks, government promises, laws, houses, cars or food ever constitute hope? I think this kind of hope is a deception of our world. The Israelites wanted this kind of hope when they asked Samuel for a king in 1 Samuel 8. Republicans and Democrats want this kind of hope when they look for salvation through their candidate. People look for this kind of hope in anything from careers to lottery tickets.

Real hope is much more like Grandpa’s hope.

Real hope that cuts through the opposition like a flashlight in the dark. It lies outside the system, not within it. It is life in the face of death and victory in the face of defeat. Without the risk failure, there would be no hope. Like a seed, real hope is planted in difficulty and watered with perseverance. It blossoms into character and matures into hope.

This, too, is biblical. Romans 5:3-5- And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Grandpa asked if there was any hope. I say there is Hope.

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