There is an intimate relationship between joy and hope. While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will go better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone but will fulfill the deepest desires of our heart.
Joy in this perspective is the fruit of hope. When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps, I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within and around me.
When we trust profoundly that today is the day of the Lord and that tomorrow is safely hidden in God’s love, our faces can relax, and we can smile back at the One who smiles at us.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Here and Now”
Optimism is not hope. Neither is wishing. I realize now that I had been wishing. I wanted to be able to predict the future, feeling I could only let go and hope if I knew somehow that a better day will come. My bruised and weary heart was constantly subjected to a self-inflicted tug-of-war between optimism and darkness. (And I always thought I am kind to myself *rueful look*)
Optimism keeps me from living in the present because I am still waiting. It tricks me into believing that there can be no joy in the midst of suffering and sorrow. Life always has suffering and sorrow…naive optimism would prevent me from being truly present in the here and now and living fully.
Wishing, on the other hand, gives me tunnel vision. My wishes give shape and form to the ‘better day’ that I look forward to. I attempt to define what it ought to be. Without realizing it, the more my wishes take shape, the more I fear that those wishes would be dashed. As my vision gets narrower and narrower, I get wound up tighter and tighter, and it becomes more and more difficult for me to trust. The wishes I form become an unnecessary self-erected prison when I confuse them with hope.
Hope is the fruit of a profound trust in God’s love. A trust that God already knows the deepest desires of my heart even better than I do. A trust that He loves me so deeply that He will satisfy those desires and that He will do it in such a way as to heal me and make me whole. Hope founded on trust has no ‘if’s, and it has no fear. It breaks down the walls of my insecurity and doubt and opens my heart to love and joy even whilst I am still broken.
Very recently I have been marvelling at life’s paradoxes. The most recent one I’m beginning to rediscover is how sometimes profound joy can come at life’s most painful moments. That joy does not come from a change in circumstance, nor does it come from a change of heart. That joy, I think, comes from a change in perspective that comes from a growing understanding and ability to trust and to hope. As fear begins to subside, the beauty, kindness and love all around me touches me anew. I cannot begin to count the blessings I have had my eyes opened to just in the past week.
Nothing has changed in what I value, and nothing has changed in what I wish. And yet, I am beginning to learn how to hope, and to let hope transcend my wishes. This hope will teach me to be joyful in God’s presence even when my wishes are not realized and I am not happy with life’s circumstances. “Lord, You are my hope. You are the source of my joy! I entrust you anew with all that is in my heart to do with as You will. Give me only Your grace and Your love, and I will want nothing more.” Here’s to the liberation that hope brings!