Series On Hope #1: Defining Hope

Everything that is done in this world is done by hope. —Martin Luther King

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. —Nelson Mandela

O God, let something essential happen to me, something more than interesting, or entertaining, or thoughtful. —Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

Hope —the word—has been thrown around in conversation without much thought. I am really hoping that…. Or, What I am hoping for is…. I bet you have used the word multiple times in the past six weeks. Sure hope this CoVid virus passes quickly.  Hoping I can get back to work. I hope I stay healthy.  Hopeful we can get back to church soon. I hope our vacation plans won’t be cancelled. I hope we won’t go bankrupt. Add your own sentence to this list.

Defining Hope

Truth be told, this week’s topic has been keeping me awake at night. I wished I had time to hold a focus group on what people thought hope was. I asked my husband, friends, and a few pastors. Twenty or more years ago, Rhea and I were already talking about hope when we ran a series of conversations called Enlightened Lunches. One of the topics over the course of that year was hope. What is the difference between false hope and real hope? How can we know? What is the difference between hoping and wishing? Or a hope and a desire? Talk with your friends about this. It’s not an easy word, or concept.

Hope - Galaxy ImageSecularly, hope is defined as an emotion of expectation or anticipation that something good or positive will happen in the future. It involves a positive state of mind and a sense of future thinking. Spiritually, hope goes beyond this definition and adds another quality, that of confident expectation that God will provide what God promises. So either way, hope is about the future, it is positive, and it may involve a Higher Power of some sort or at least faith in the best humanity has to offer.

But the more I thought about it, (you know, in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep) hope is also rooted in the past. We can hope for things because we have seen them happen before. And hope, especially spiritual hope, is rooted in the present as well. After all, the present is all we have and we can certainly have a hopeful present.

So what is our past, present, and future hope right now, at the apex of this pandemic? Do we even know what to hope for since we have never been through this before?

False Hope

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is the Psychology 101 research we often do not want to believe. So hoping that an addicted partner will magically decide to sober up is not hope. It is a wish, a desire, maybe a prayer or a plea, so to speak. Hoping that you will, after many years of remaining idle, begin an exercise regiment is also not hope. It is an image, a desire, perhaps even an intention. Hoping that we will soon be over this pandemic and that everything will return to “normal” is also not hope. This attitude belies the consequences of this crisis and diminishes the opportunity for redemptive change.

So What Is Hope Anyway?

Hope has something to do with knowing the good we humans are capable of because we have experienced it before. It isHope - Plan B Toilet Paper rooted in our past experience, in our history.  Hope may also includes action on our part. My father use to say, “Hoping isn’t going to make it so.” Actions can be hopeful. One of the pastor friends that I polled, Pastor Emily Edenfield, linked hope to a possible outcome when she said, “Maturity comes with suffering, and that brings hope.” I would add the word “potentially” to the front of her sentence. Not everyone who suffers chooses to grow from the experience.  Potentially, maturity comes out of the present suffering. We can hope the suffering we are all experiencing due to CoVid19, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation, will increase our maturity.

Hope has something to do with knowing the good we humans are capable of because we have experienced it before.

What is hope for people of faith? We have seen the work of God, the faithfulness of the community, the witness of the communion of saints, the new life after death and destruction. Because we have seen it, we can have hope that we will see it again. In fact, we can, right this very second, have hope without needing to know anything more. We can have a hopeful present moment.  Frederic Buechner says that the hope of Easter is that the worst thing is not the last thing. So hope ties the past to the future, through the present moment.

So hope ties the past to the future, through the present moment.

Will You Be A Part Of The Hope?

At the beginning of this blog I have a quote from Ted Loder’s powerful poem.    We must “hope” that something essential will Hope In Lightshappen to us. Right now. In the present moment.  We have witnessed the human spirit’s creative, imaginative powers repeatedly throughout history. The resilience and fortitude of communities and nations is easy to see. We have all experienced our own capacity to change and to look at things through a new lens.  We have all helped in some way to make the world a better place. Our lives have been altered by revolutions that have led to progress and circumstances that have positively impacted our lives.

Something essential is happening to us right now.

Hope, like justice, might have a long arc.  It may take us a while to get where we are going.  But we will (we don’t have to even “hope”) get through this because that is what we do.  We will make necessary changes. Our creative genius will be front and center as we take important, progressive steps forward, not only for ourselves but for all humanity.  We will gather together again, and though it may be different, it will matter deeply. Something essential is happening to us right now. It really is. Will you name it for yourself? What essential is happening in you? Can you witness it, name it,  and then pull it into the future moment? We can hope for that.

This is still so messy. Keep hoping with me, in humanity and in God, that our choices will reflect our hopes and that we will be changed in essential ways.


Amy Sander Montanez

Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year.  Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning.

You can email Amy at [email protected]


5 thoughts on “Series On Hope #1: Defining Hope”

    1. Thanks, Pinky. You are such a supportive friend/reader and we appreciate all you do for MessyMarvelous. Glad you liked this post!

  1. Shared with friends on Facebook. Wonderful words. it can be useful to encourage folks who are so inclined to write their stories of hope, ways they have come through other difficulties, ways God has gotten them through, ways they have experienced supportive community. That can be a source of hope for the future.

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. So glad you are sharing these will people who may benefit from them. Blessings to you, Michele.

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