What is hope? Where do you go to find hope? Can hope be found? Is it real or is hope just a feeling you get when things go well? I had a jar sitting on my bathroom counter and the label said it all. “Hope in a Jar.” It sounded so reassuring. Part of the reason I purchased this smooth concoction of age reducing moisturizer was that I actually believed what it said, at least in part. I fell for the alluring advertising. It appealed to my desire for a more youthful complexion in the midst of my aging reality. Of course, looking for hope in a jar is like looking for anything healthy at the theater snack counter – it is just not there! Thankfully, we have a better, more reliable and sure hope. Hope is a person This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day. For some, it is a time of celebrating love with a person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. For others, this holiday is nothing more than a painful reminder that a romantic relationship is not currently part of your life. Whatever relationship situation you find yourself in, you still long for hope. God has hardwired you to long for what only he can give; unconditional love and eternity with him. Hope has come down. His name is Jesus. “And his name will be the hope of all the world” (Matthew 12:21). Hope is founded on God’s promises Think about your relationships. Is there one that has completely satisfied you? Has there ever been one person that has perfectly performed all that they promised? We are all in relationships and the truth is that every one has failed us and we have failed at every one. Broken promises and unkempt vows litter the landscape of our friendships and our families. That is why the good news of hope in the person of Jesus Christ shines through the bitterness and regret of our relationships. Is there a promise God has ever broken? The Bible says, “Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). Hope is fueled by God’s providence Unlike our attempts to plan our lives and control the outcomes, God’s plans and his control over outcomes is sure. What we set out to do and what we actually accomplish are radically different from each other. Just ask yourself, “How am I doing with my resolutions so far this year?” Although I did not make any resolutions, I did set out to accomplish some things this month that were derailed when I came down with the flu. Eighteenth century poet and hymn writer William Cowper wrote, “Deep in unfathomable mines, of never-failing skill, he treasures up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.” God is at work in all things at all times. We cannot always see his divine mercy at hand accomplishing his purposes for his glory and our good. Hope is ignited in God’s performance Our performance is paltry and pale set next to God’s performance. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Our accomplishments are not very impressive. I am not saying that God does not gift us with talent, intellect and perseverance; he does. Those gifts enable us to serve those around us. However, what ignites hope is the amazing God who has acted perfectly on my behalf, who created everything by his word and sealed my ransom and my eternity. My fate has been determined from the foundations of the earth and that hope is what I am banking on. Hope is freely given in God’s perfect son The era of performing for God’s favor ended in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. What does that mean for us? It means that God demonstrated his unconditional love for us by sending his only Son to die in our place. He did not require our obedience to put that chain of events into play. We were not expected to pull ourselves together prior to our deliverance. God saved us while we were yet sinners. Our hope is freely given in Christ. His perfect record and love is now ours. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21). Hope came down to rescue the hopeless Apart from Christ, it is all just wishful thinking. Apart from Christ, we have no hope. Hope is not found in a jar or anywhere else for that matter. We cannot manufacture hope. If Christ had not come for the rescue of sinners, where would we be? Is there anything sure and lasting to hold on to? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Is this time of year difficult for you? Is your heart broken? Be encouraged. Hope is a Person, namely Jesus Christ. He has come to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. No creative scheme, inventive action plan or person can do what only Christ can. In the midst of a broken and fallen world, Hope has come down to rescue the hopeless. Author Brennan Manning declares this glorious truth: “Religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.” That alone is our hope! Lori is the Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. She blogs regularly at lorileighharding.blogspot.com.