By Shell Perris
4 minute read.
Let’s be honest… ‘hoping’ is hard; it hurts. It cuts deep to the very core of who we are and forces a reaction. Do we run away and give up? Or do we press in and ‘hope’ that little bit more?
You see, hope is an action. It’s faith, belief, courage and confident expectation all mixed into one. Hope is not some fluffy, faint-hearted sentiment that makes you feel better. Hope is painful and costly.
The problem with ‘hoping that little bit more’ is that the risk of disappointment and dismay increases disproportionately the more ‘outrageously’ you hope. For every ounce of ‘outrageous hope’ there seems to be a tonne of disappointment at stake.
I wonder if it helps likening it to a superhero’s force field withstanding the darkness that is out to get them. When dark forces are at work, doing their best to overpower and engulf their nemesis, the superhero cloaks themselves in a protective force field, combatting all that is thrown their way. It takes strength, commitment and courage to keep standing and maintain position, pushing against the heaviness that surrounds them with outstretched arms. Only a warrior spirit can hold out through the uncontrollable groans and grimaces that come with such hope, all the while knowing that a moment of disbelief could lead to immense tragedy.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” [Psalm 62:5-6]
Let’s not be British about this – superhero force fields are usually a response to immediate danger. They only make an appearance when there is no other option. Either the force field works, or we die!
But if the risk is so high and the outcome is ‘life’ or ‘death’, why get into the fight in the first place? Why hope outrageously when ordinary, mediocre hope will do. The beautiful answer is this – because superheroes are always willing to put their life at risk and die for a cause greater than themselves. For superheroes, outrageous hope is a lifeline.
Force fields don’t just provide protection. They create space to breathe and time to plan the next move. How many movies have you seen where one superhero generates a defensive force field whilst their fellow superheroes stand protected and strategize? Together, they go on to defeat the darkness.
Outrageous hope is not something you can carry out alone. It goes beyond the parameters of your own mind, heart and soul. It calls for others to stand with you, especially when the need for outrageous hope comes to an inevitable end. Being brave enough to adopt such extreme hope can lead to a whole mix of emotions – joy, relief, pain, grief, motivation, weakness, confusion, disappointment and anything in between. Your survival will depend on fellow superheroes being there to help you heal, regardless of the outcome. You will need the support of life-giving people to help you navigate the aftermath and make sense of all you’ve been through.
‘Outrageous hope’ is not something you enter in to for the sake of it. There is always something you are outrageously hoping for; a greater reason; a greater cause. In fact, I would go as far as saying that it’s not possible to outrageously hope for something that isn’t greater than you. Half-hearted hope can be anyone’s, but outrageous hope can only be rooted in something beyond one’s own dreams and desires.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” [Isaiah 40:31]
Allow me to paint another, possibly more relatable, picture of hope.
I once heard a story of a couple who had been told by two independent fertility specialists that their chances of getting pregnant were non-existent. It was a dark reality that seemed to cast a shadow over every part of their life. Hope was fading fast but a momentary flicker of ‘outrageous hope’ caused them to visit yet another independent fertility expert. She looked through their notes, listened to their story and saw the pain and disappointment in their eyes.
‘Here’s what I want you to do,” she said. “I want you to go home and plaster your home in photographs of babies and young families. I want you to put sticky notes on your fridge and on your walls that remind you of your deepest desires to get pregnant and give birth to a child. I want you to visit friends who have babies, walk around shops that sell baby products and join your friends at their baby groups – and I will see you again in three months’ time.”
To some, this could appear to be the cruellest form of torment possible. Why would anyone purposefully put themselves through such agony when the odds are so stacked against them? Because ‘outrageous hope’ knows no boundaries and this particular couple were far from ready to give up on their dream.
Three months passed and they did exactly what the fertility expert told them to do. It was painful. It took courage in measures they didn’t know existed, but they persevered with this last attempt of ‘outrageous hope’ until they found themselves sat in the fertility expert’s office, receiving the news that they were, in fact, pregnant!
I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t have hoped quite so outrageously; if they’d have listened to the third fertility expert’s bizarre suggestions and point-blank refused to act upon it? No one would have blamed them for saving themselves such heart ache. Most would have left that appointment feeling emotionally bruised and confused. I’m sure their car journey home was interesting as they wrestled with whether to follow the advice given and whether they were strong enough to deal with the disappointment if it didn’t work. Or maybe that idea was never entertained?? Who knows!
What I do know is that the power of hope is unfathomable. There really is nothing quite like it. It can’t be seen or heard or boxed up, except in the lives of those who are brave enough to live in it and with it, regardless of the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
Sure, we can hope for things or circumstances or change, but the hope of our salvation and the hope of our future glory in Jesus Christ is the hope that we must cling on to above anything else. The ‘outrageous hope of heaven’ is what causes us to display outrageous hope on earth.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” [Romans 8:24]
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]