Back in mid-March, I began devoting my Sunday posts to the theme of Christian hope, calling the collection, “The Hope Project” — for hope is as much of an ongoing spiritual project for me as it is for anyone else. My intent, at the time, was to keep writing about hope every week until the pandemic was over, not knowing how long it would last.
Two dozen posts later, the pandemic rages on. As of this writing, there have been over 22 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The good news is that over 15 million have recovered; the bad news is that nearly a million have died. The jury is still out on the other 6 million, though only 1% of them are in serious or critical condition.
How long will this go on?
I only wish I knew.
I have wrestled with the question of whether to keep the project going, and have decided that the best answer is yes. Well, sort of. Starting with September, new posts for the Hope Project will go up on the last Sunday of each month only.
Of course, I’ve had to ask myself, is that a hopeless thing to do? (Surely you knew that was coming.)
I don’t think so (or, “I hope not”?). Here’s why.
Part of the cultivation of hope as believers is learning to live inside God’s story, a story whose ending we know. Whatever happens in this life, whatever the twists and turns of joy and suffering, we know that brokenness will be replaced by wholeness, and death will be swallowed up by life — eternal life, resurrection life, life in the presence of God. For some people, coronavirus and all of the problems that come with it is making this life a living hell. That’s why we need hope — to know that hell is not all there is, is not the end of the story.
God’s story is not one in which the faithful don’t suffer. Ask the prophets. Ask Jesus. Ask Paul. To the extent that we believe that Christians should be able to live a relatively painless existence, or reliably get the things we want here and now as a reward for our faith, we are not living biblical Christianity. The sooner we get the story straight, the better.
And that means that the work of cultivating a robustly biblical faith goes on, indeed must go on if we are to have true hope. As some have said, you don’t achieve psychological or spiritual well-being by aiming straight at it. Instead, you aim at living a good life; then these other things are more likely to follow. If you want Christian hope, in other words, you don’t just aim at hope. You aim at consistently seeing yourself and the world we live in through the lenses of Scripture.
Thus, the Hope Project will now come in monthly instead of weekly doses. I won’t be directly planting as many seeds of hope as I have been over the past few months. But I will be cultivating the kind of soil the seeds need in order to grow and thrive.