Monday, July 21, 2014

On Hope

    Hope, one of the three eternal virtues which never faileth, had always struck me as an oddity. To me it seemed the furthest from anything eternal, as the hope that people express in their daily lives is so often and so easily crushed. At least that had been my experience. 

    To be honest, due to my own struggles with hope or the lack thereof, I found it difficult and even felt almost hypocritical writing this entry. However, ultimately I felt that it was of greater importance that I publish this article, not only for others, but to reinforce to myself the eternal nature of true hope. 

    The hopes, dreams and wishes of men are so fleeting and so easily crushed it is hard to imagine that hope could possibly be an Eternal principle. As I have discussed before, that which is not based upon eternal principles will inevitably end up in failure.

    If I hope for a better job, a better life, a better relationship, for all manner of things that would make my life less painful, more carefree, then is it not easy for such expectations to be dashed? Does not raising hope increase the fall? Is not hope merely a precursor to greater despair? 

    This is true only if our hopes are based upon men, and our own limited time frame. By framing my desires and expectations in a certain light, we discount other possible ways wherein we may achieve happiness, the greater way which the Lord has in store for us.

    Without hope there is no impetus for action, no reason to endeavor, no attempt at a better world. This hope is key to life and living. And yet, as hopelessness and despair are the inevitable end result of all hopes that are rested upon the strength of men, what is it that we can possibly hope for? 

    What I had always thought was hope, was not at all what the Lord had defined has hope in ages past. The feelings of expectation in my own time frame, my own dreams and wishes, my fantasies and delusions, these aren't hope, but rather optimism, the same fake optimism spoken of in my last article on faith.

    See, the problem is that our worldly definition of hope has been watered down with the selfish ideas of men, putting their own desires and thoughts at the center of hope, rather than having an eternal hope spoken of in the scriptures. 

    And what is this “eternal hope”? If we turn to the Hebrew words translated as hope in the Old Testament we find various words to describe hope, however almost all of the words come from two main root words qavah and yachal, both of which are related to waiting.

    To wait, to tarry, to look eagerly for, to look forward to, the word for hope in Hebrew is not just flimsy wishful thinking, but rather demonstrates the inner tension related to a tense rope, that rope being bound to the Lord on high. 

    In 2nd Nephi 31 we read: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

    Here we clearly see a parallelism between “a perfect brightness of hope” and “enduring to the end”. This enduring isn't a long slow suffering wherein we must be bound down by the world, but rather the opposite, a hope that pulls us forward to him, just as a child looks forward to rejoining his father. 

    That waiting patiently for the lord, that looking forward is the key. When a father goes on a long journey, the child looks forward, patiently awaiting the day of his return. This hope is hinged upon our faithfulness to and reliance upon Him.

    This “waiting” hope sets no time-limits just like faith, it is that steadfast waiting upon Him that sets it apart from worldly hope. True eternal hope cannot be crushed for we are eagerly awaiting, and even wondering in awe and excitement as to how in the world the Lord is going to get us out of this one this time, knowing full well that He will as promised.

    Of course, that is another key, which is our awaiting upon the promises of the Lord. Obviously waiting for the day that a luxury sports car and Mansion fall into my lap is ridiculous, as such things were never promised by Him. Such false hopes will eventually end up in disappointment.

    So what is it in which we must have a “welcome anticipation”? What is it that He has pledged to us through the covenants of old? While writing about the promises of the Lord itself deserves its own article, we can boil it down to two main things. A spiritual and temporal salvation, based upon our willingness to follow Him. 

    In Jarom we read that the prophets were “persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.

    This Messiah, who is The Christ, and the spiritual salvation which he has brought about is clearly spelled out in the scriptures, especially in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. 

    Unfortunately, it is just about all we hear about Him, how someday, somehow we will not have to go to hell for our sins, but only if we're good enough. How in the end, after this world is over, after everything that matters in front of us is long gone, how after my struggles with this life are over, THEN He will help us.

    I don't know where this distant god image has come from, or why no one speaks of the here and now, for it is abundantly clear that His salvation is not such at all. 

     In Alma 32 we read “But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

    And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. 

    Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

    Firstly the fruits of spiritual salvation spoken of above are not just about our post-mortal existence. While our eternal destination is indeed a vital part of our salvation, the fruit that we partake of is a joyous strength that buoys us up in the here and now. It is an anchor that binds us to Him, wherein we can rely upon Him and His miracles. 

    Many at this point try to fall into self-satisfaction, saying that what we receive of the Lord is “emotional” or “spiritual” support, that He will strengthen us but we must to do the everything ourselves, thinking “for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;” (2nd Nephi 28:5); with nary a word of His miraculous works in times of old.

    When Moses and the Israelite were crossing the Red Sea, did they part the waters using shovels? When Daniel was in the lion's den, did he somehow beat up the Lion? When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the furnace, did they survive because had acclimatised to the furnace's heat? Of course not. 

    For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

    And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles. 

    But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles...

    The fruit spoken of is not merely some internal fantasy. It is joy that comes from knowing of His strength and His love, that He will save us and cover for us when things go south. 

    The temporal salvation spoken of in the scriptures is a vital key to our belief. The Jews awaited a temporal and political savior, because that is what is contained in the scriptures. While it is true that they overly focused upon the temporal, ignoring his Spiritual salvation, we do just as much damage by doing the opposite.

    The clear message of the Book of Mormon is that He is here and will save us from our temporal troubles. “If ye keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” this line was repeated 19 times times throughout the book in different variations. We need to believe that He has power to fulfill His promises. 

    We need to trust in a savior that will straighten up the mess that is this world, a God that can save us from this filthy and broken state, one that can affect the here and now, that He can save me and my life from the impending crisis that is soon to come. This is the Lord in whom we must trust. He is Power, He is Justice, He is Salvation.

    When we finally stop bowing to Babylon, when we finally say “enough!” to the arrogance and wickedness of men, when we stop condemning and start toiling for the benefit of others, when we finally turn to Him for our salvation rather than wisdom of the world, that is when He will answer, for He is waiting for us to return to Him. 

    This doesn't mean that all our trials and tribulations will vanish, but it does mean that we need to seek and ask for salvation from our sufferings. When enough of us turn to the Lord, he will reply.

    As I mentioned before I myself have struggles with this hope, for due to my own blindness, I cannot see the path to take, the salvation to come, the way in which He will save us. It is due to my own selfishness that I need to know, that I find it difficult to welcome this Hope. 

    For Hope is the waiting despite not knowing, or rather especially because one understands their own ignorance and trusts in the omniscience and omnibenevolence of Him, it becomes possible to await with joy, feasting with gusto upon His words, enjoying and even looking forward to seeing how the plot that is our life will unfold.

    And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Amen.