This is a summary of a talk that I gave in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. I hope this summary might be helpful for someone out there. Preparing this talk was very helpful for me. :)
What exactly is hope? Hope is the word that we use to describe an emotional state or attitude in which we hold the belief and wish for a positive outcome in our circumstances. In many cases, we tend to treat hope as a noun... a simple object... easily described and dissected. Therefore, the idea of hope in our lives tends to become simplistic... almost wishful as in “I hope I pass my test” or “I hope it doesn’t rain.” In this way, hope can almost be described as an irresponsible or fickle friend... the friend who follows through on agreements sometimes or not at all. If we view hope through this lens, there can be very little wonder as to why the word has become trite and trivial in the majority of ways that it is used in our lives.
When I was asked to give this talk and was given my topic, I will admit that I didn’t want it. I have been having a really hard time feeling hopeful about much over the last few months. Trying to look at my uncertain and unknown future has felt more appropriately fearful than hopeful. And doing random 'scripture opening' for inspiration was no help at all – do you have any idea how many verses in the Bible contain the words 'there is no hope' or 'hope is lost?' It wasn't funny the first few times it happened, but as time has moved closer towards the date that I must present something, I have started to find it pretty funny.
So, instead of using the scriptures to start.... I tried to stand back and think about what hope means to me in my life. And I found something a little extraordinary. The first clear thought that I had is that hope is a verb... very active. When I have truly felt that I understood hope, it has been when I have been busy doing good things. When I conjure up an image of hope in my mind, it reminds me more of a cheerful, quickly moving beam of light the color of the clearest blue. Quick moving, but not frantic. Purposeful and kind. So to understand hope, we must truly understand that hope has three important aspects for true understanding.
First - hope is a voluntary and changing mindset. To feel positive and hopeful towards the experience that you are living through and to believe in good for your future, you must actively cultivate the aspects of faith and gratitude in your life. Good thoughts, optimism and true joy are things that we must work to gain and do not necessarily come from doing the right things. It has been my experience that some of the most faithful and charity-filled members that I know can also be the most depressed and find the challenge of negative thoughts to be one of the strongest wars that they have had to fight in their minds and their lives. So to be hopeful is truly an active process. Elder Wilford has stated clearly that “Hope, with its attendant blessings of peace and joy, dos not depend upon circumstance.” It is a constant awareness and recalculation of our thinking and or emotions... an unending process where we must actively through our circumstances seek to cultivate an environment where hope can feel welcome and can thrive. I will not pretend that this is an easy process and it is truly easier said than accomplished.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.”
Second – is that Hope is a call to caring and to active work. Hope asks us to care... and to care intensely! Yet also asks us to understand that things may not always be the same so we should not care too much. Hope tells us and pushes us to work because there is much to work for... even though what we are working for may sometimes be unseen or elusive to our understanding. However, hope also calls us to play and to celebrate... to be active in our joys as well as our tasks. Hope is not passive.
2 Nephi 31:20 - Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Close your eyes and think about the verbs in your mind and the images they create.
'ye must press'
Can any of these words been seen as passive... easy... weak? All require action on our parts.
Third – it must be stated that hope is an action that we are asked to give others. This is one of the only times that the word should be treated as a noun. It is by our actions towards others that we can give hope to people whose trials have overwhelmed their ability to actively cultivate hope. It is through the actions of love and charity that we are able to share the burdens of others and bring them the small but exquisite and beautiful pearl of hope. We cannot provide hope to those who struggle with a small pat of our hand and our 'hope that tings will get better for them'... it is provided through active work – thought, prayer, and service. In this sense, we are able to be hope for someone else and to give them the temporary ability to be buoyed up in hope so that they can again commence the personal work of creating their own foundation in hope.
Elder Neal Maxwell stated, “Genuine hope is urgently needed in order to be more loving even as the love of many waxes cold; more merciful, even when misunderstood or misrepresented; more holy, even as the world ripens in iniquity; more courteous and patient in a coarsening and curt world; and more full of heart felt hope, even when other men's hearts fail them. Whatever our particular furrow, we are to 'plow in hope' without looking back or letting yesterday hold tomorrow hostage.”
My brothers and sisters, may we be inspired to do the work necessary to cultivate hope in our minds and our lives and to give hope to others. May we allow the things that we hope for to lead us to a greater faith in Christ and our Father and that the things that we find hope will lead us firmly towards charity and love. I saw these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.