Where Hope Is Found

 

My social distanced birthday party. These friends sat in the cold for HOURS to laugh and talk and celebrate with me. I'm so blessed to have them! (It was also the girl on the bottom right's birthday, so she got a birthday crown too. :))













I'm having a time trying to get these pictures to work, so since my blog really has nothing to do with them, I'll list captions here:

  • Above, my birthday party
  • Apprentice sermons held at our church on a very cold morning with all the doors open and fans blowing to create ventilation because of COVID. It was cold, but so good to hear God teaching through them!
  • A Christmas photo with my handsome guy.
  • Some Faberge egg matryoshka my grandmother got me for Christmas! I love Russian things, so I was thrilled!
  • The first snow I've seen in almost 5 years! It was so beautiful!
  • I also got a chiminea for Christmas so I can continue to meet with girls outside in the safety and warmth of our back patio. It has been really fun learning how to use it!

(And here I will finally begin on my actual post about hope.) My church has recently wrapped up a months-long series on hope, and it has gotten me onto the beat of this question, where do I think hope can be found? Not intellectually, but really. Practically. Where do I live like there is hope to be found?

Conversations with C

I wrote to you about my friend, C. It has been a gift to spend time with her and to befriend her. She is a girl with the world at her feet; smart, kind, resourceful, creative. It has been a tough time for her, yes, and she's tripped herself up some, but she's got so many opportunities ahead of her. In this season where she's choosing who she wants to be and what she wants to be about, she's asked me a lot about how I chose those things for myself. How did I know I wanted to teach or do ministry? How did I know who to keep as a friend and who to let go? How did I know I wanted to stay in Dallas and live in a suburb? How did I know I wanted to marry Chris? When I ask her what she's thinking for her own life--how she's thinking about who to be friends with, who to date, what school to go to, what career to pursue--so much of our conversation that follows comes back to this same idea: What am I hoping in? Where is hope found?

C asks a lot of these questions because she has for the last several years hoped that an entrepreneurial spirit, impressive degree, and small stroke of luck would be her answer. She hoped in the security and freedom that a successful, innovative new job would bring her. It's only now that some of that has come into question that she's starting to feel the insecurity in even a job or in money. In other words, she's starting to see the uncertainty in putting her hope on those things, so at the heart of what she's asking me is the question of how I knew where to put my hope.

Money and Power

Over the break, our staff read the book Money and Power by Jacques Ellul, and I have been mulling over his very challenging take on the Christian's relationship to money (and its power). Though I do not agree with everything he suggests, after reading his book, I have found myself rightly confronted with the reality of my hope in money and even socioeconomic systems. Jacques Ellul looks at the Bible's perspective on money and its systems (capitalism, socialism, etc.) as a god to which we can give our allegiance unwittingly. He spends a whole chapter laying out the ways in which the Bible talks about money the same way it does idols of wood and stone. He goes on to suggest that the nature of money makes it a much more enticing thing to trust, but that the nature of money should also clue us in on how hopeless it truly is. He says, "Just as it is normal to find security and happiness in wealth (and what harm is there in that?), it is also normal for one's fortune to collapse--this is part of its nature--and it is normal for everything based on wealth to disappear with it. The only mistake is to count on wealth, to be convinced that what one builds with gold and silver is solid, to believe that a virtuous use of possessions protects them" (Ellul 53).

Later he talks about how simple it sounds to just love God instead of money, but that we fool ourselves when we think of love as an easy thing. He asserts that "although it is possible to say, following biblical guidelines, that the conflict is ultimately a conflict of love, a decision to love either God or money, we must be careful not to take love to mean a rather vague sentiment, a more or less valid passion, in any case a limited relationship. In reality love, in the Bible, is utterly totalitarian. It comes from the entire person; it involves the whole person and binds the whole person without distinction. Love reaches down into the roots of human beings and does not leave them intact. It leads to identification and assimilation between the lover and the beloved. Jesus Christ teaches us in great detail that our love binds us to the spiritual future of our beloved... Ultimately, we follow what we have loved most intensely either into eternity or into death. To love money is to be condemned to follow it in its destruction, its disappearance, its annihilation and its death. It is thus extremely important that we never try to justify, however little, an attachment to money or the importance we attribute to it. Nowhere are Christians told that their love for money justifies it or causes it to be used to God's glory or elevates it toward the Good. The exact opposite is said: that our attachment to money pushes us with it headlong into nothingness" (Ellul 83).

It is hard to give an adequate picture of his complex argument here, but that snippet above--

"we follow what we have loved most intensely either into eternity or into death"

--is what has struck a chord in me. When I say I love God, does my bank account look like it? When I say I love the poor, the sick, the widow and orphan, does my life show it? What am I really loving? What am I going to as if it is the source of hope?

Personal Reflections

I know this year many of us have had more reasons to reflect on the state of our lives and our society. I've watched the circumstances and events of 2020 slowly depress so many of my friends. I've felt it tear at me a lot of days. It is hard not to get anxious about the state of my country, my relationships, our health. But when I find myself feeling those things, I have to stop and remember that countries crumble, money comes and goes, even the best of friends must say goodbye to me in the end. My answer to C and my conviction in reading Money and Power is that God is the only place where my hope is sure. Nothing in this life can guarantee my wellbeing but God because nothing and no one else has that power, really. Not money, not government, not my friends or family, and not even myself.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very ready help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shakes
And the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

There is a river whose streams make the city of God happy,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth quaked.
The Lord of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has inflicted horrific events on the earth.
He makes wards to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Stop striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth."
The Lord of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

That is Psalm 46. I echo the psalmist in saying God is worthy of my trust. God is sure. And I find, after living that truth out in some very tough seasons, that I can say that and feel the hope in it! God is the only thing that is sure, and he gives me friends! God is the only thing that is sure, and he provides me food, shelter, work, and everything I need. God is the only thing that is sure, and he is so good.

I hope this winding blog post leaves you encouraged in the end! This is why I do campus ministry. This is what we want students to test out and find to be true. There is no hope like our God!

Thank you for investing in this mission and in people like C. Please let me know how I can be praying for you in this new year. May God bless you all in and teach you more and more to hope in him!

Much love,






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