Several months ago, Shawn Smucker wrote a piece that contained the following quote:
“Faith in God without hope in his promises is tainted trust,” ~ Brennan Manning
“Faith with hope feels vulnerable, tender to the touch, like fingertips freshly healed from a burn. Faith with hope means staying vulnerable when I want to withdraw, truthful when I’d rather deceive, unmasked.”
And he’s right.
I talk so much about having strong faith, but not about having strong hope. It’s easy to say, “I have faith that God will work this out for my good”, but I’m so often afraid to hope that “good” will not involve pain or sacrifice.
The truth is that even when I have faith that God is working for my greater good, I’ve come to expect I will be required to give something up or go without something I desire, all so that God can shape me into the person He wants me to be.
Where did I get this idea that God’s good always involves pain? I think it’s because faith implies that no matter what the outcome, it is God’s perfect will, but hope opens the door for disappointment when the answer to a prayer is “no”.
In talking about the armor of God, Paul names such pieces as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:14-17). If faith is a shield, designed to block an attack, hope is a balloon, easily popped with the thinnest needle.
But as Brennan Manning and Shawn point out, faith without hope is incomplete, and thus weakened until it more resembles doubt. Faith and hope go hand-in-hand. If I claim to have faith in a god in whom I cannot also wholeheartedly place my hope, I have faith in a weak, ineffective, and even cruel god, because if I do not hope that His goodness will bring me joy, I expect that He is out to cause me pain.
This is not to say that I should always expect God’s answers to my prayers to make me happy or be what I want. But if I always expect His answers will bring grief, I don’t really know God, and I can no longer say that I have placed my faith in Him. Instead, I have placed my faith in my idea of Him.
The more I think about it, the less I like the god in my mind. The more I think about it, the god in my mind is not worthy of my faith, let alone my fragile hope. The god in my mind has betrayed my trust, has abused me, has abandoned me.
But God, Holy God, True God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). He is gracious and kind (Exodus 34:6). He will never abandon me (Psalm 94:14). God is more than deserving of my faith and my hope. With the Psalmist I say, “I believe I shall look on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”. (Psalm 27:13)
What does the god in your mind look like? What truth counteracts it?