Last week wrote about a topic that has been key to my survival the last few years entitled “End of your rope hope.” This is hope that is gritty and tough. It’s different from blind optimism or toxic positivity.
Gritty Hope is the kind of hope that can persevere during small changes in life and gut wrenching tragedies. It isn’t cynical or bitter. It is a steadfast kind of hope that considers the realities of the world we are living in but chooses to believe that God is good and that He has a better future for us in mind. Not only that, He gives each of us the opportunity to be a part of that better future, if we choose love and compassion as our path forward.
A week ago we were able to crack the surface on why this is important.
If you remember, I wrote “We thrive on hope during difficult circumstances.” We need it during the good times and the bad. As a matter of fact, hope is super charged when it is submersed in suffering. Our pain and our trials act as a greenhouse for hope and, as a matter of fact, it thrives in that environment.
I wanted to take a few weeks and talk about some of the essential elements of this kind of hope, as I have experienced them. Today I want to talk to you about keeping the BIG PICTURE in mind. For me, the big picture begins and ends with faith.
Faith is trusting in someone or something. It could be trust in yourself, in someone you love dearly, a political leader (barf), an institution or in a higher power. My trust, when I am having a good day, is in Jesus. When trust is practiced day in and day out, it strengthens our relationship with God and provides a better future for others through selfless service. At least that’s how I see it. Speaking of which…
Faith is also a way of seeing. It is seeing the world and other people with new eyes. The eyes of faith sees others (including yourself) in the same way God sees them; with love, grace and compassion. When we view the world in this way, we are able to see the BIG PICTURE.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from John 9. It is a beautiful story of a man who was born blind. His entire life has been lived without the capacity to see his surroundings. After a life giving encounter with Jesus, and some messed up commentary from His disciples, his sight was restored.
To be honest, the details are a little gross. Jesus spit in the mud and then wiped that mud in the eyes of the blind man. Pass the antibacterial soap please. The man then washed in a pool of water, that required some hiking skills, to get the mud out and then he could miraculously see. This is a nod to the creation story where God formed Adam out of the earth and then Eve out of Adam. It points to Jesus being more than human and in fact God.
The guy who received this miracle, I call him “the guy” because we never learn his name…maybe its Ralph, after receiving the miracle Ralph was asked all kinds of questions about how this happened. His response remained pretty consistent: “I don’t know”. This apparently wasn’t good enough for the “religious experts” of the day so they kept asking him questions, each one more hostile and rude than the last. They had all kinds of conspiracy theories about how Jesus and Ralph were in this together and maybe thought they’d go on the road with it. Exasperated, Ralph finally says:
“Whether or not he’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know; I was blind, and now I can see!” John 9:25
For the first time, Ralph had sight. He could see the big picture, little picture and medium sized picture. He saw it all. Not only did he gain physical sight, he also saw Jesus for who He really was. When he finally came face to face with Him after his healing, Ralph exclaimed “I believe Lord!” He had faith, belief, trust…whatever you would like to call it. This faith gave Him a larger view of His life and the world around Him.
It changed his future, just as much if not more, than his physical sight. Jesus was linking physical and spiritual sight together.
Jesus called himself the light of the world. Meaning, through Him, we can see even when we are in the dark. That kind of sounds like hope to me. Light is displayed most clearly in the dark. It shines brightest there.
Here’s another truth, without light, we cannot see. The group of men that were charged with investigating Ralph, were puzzled by this event and never came around. They heard Jesus talking to this man and got their egos bruised a little. They didn’t like how Jesus was getting all of this attention and they were not. All of this talk about spiritual blindness and spiritual sight was too much for them. They piped in:
“We aren’t blind too are we?” John 9:40
I imagine that the people present elbowed each other and giggled a little bit when they said this. The Pharisees thought that was a pretty good zinger for Jesus. They were looked up to and revered at their temples and places of worship. Certainly they had all of the answers and were the one stop shop for all things related to God. If you wanted to connect with God, you would have to go through them, or so they thought. Their giggling was interrupted with an answer they did not expect.
“I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” John 9:39
I know what you’re thinking, “I didn’t think Jesus judged people!” I think what we can take from this verse is that what we see in Jesus, is what judges our current spiritual state. If we don’t see Him for who He truly is, we are blind. I love what William Barclay says:
“If they see in Jesus something to wonder at, something to respond to, something you reach out to, then they are on the way to God.” William Barclay
The judgment comes from their realization of their need, or lack thereof, for Jesus. They either “SEE” it or they don’t. The religious zealots that judged the blind man were deemed blind because of their judgment of him, and more importantly, their lack of ability to see Jesus for who He is. They saw Jesus as a threat to their way of life, a rule breaker who didn’t give them the respect they “deserved”. They were blind to who He really was because their desire and egos got in the way.
They couldn’t see the big picture.
We have spiritual sight because Jesus illumines the way for us. He even calls Himself “the way…” (John 14:6). He does that in the darkest of times, even when it seems like the light is barely visible. The more we allow Him into our lives, the more we reflect the light that He gives us. That light acts as hope to others but only if we love in the same manner in which He loved us. That love affects the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Hope is built on a way of seeing God.
My hope is built on how I see Jesus.
I see Him as Someone who loved me so much, He would do anything for me (even death on a cross). He stands with those who are hurting, pushed to the margins and often maligned. Jesus promises to never “leave or forsake” me, meaning there is nothing I or anyone else can do that would make Him walk away from me. He stands with the woman caught in adultery, feet planted firmly between her and the accusers who wish her harm. He puts his healing hands on the leper, the afflicted and demon possessed when others see them as unclean. He eats meals with the tax collectors, sinners and outcasts.
He shows love to the unlovable, purpose to those who have given up and eternal life to those who are perishing.
He does all of those things for me, and the truth is, He extends that to all who would see Him for who He truly is; the Prince of Peace, the Bread of Life, Wonderful Counselor and Savior. For me, this is the big picture. That type of hope is an anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19) during difficult times. It keeps me tethered in this life and prevents me from drifting into hopelessness.
If you are having trouble hoping, zoom out from the problems that are facing you right now. Don’t ignore them or pretend they don’t exist, just zoom out for a bit. Look at the big picture. When it feels like this world is going to hell in a hand basket, as it often does, remember that God is with you and for you. No only that, He is currently giving you opportunities to be hope to others who are perishing.
You can be hope to those who desperately need hope. Zoom out and look at the big picture. Let that big picture remind you that you are not alone and you are not without direction. See the light and be the light to others.
“See” you next week.