Hope is a tricky thing. Sometimes hope is what keeps us going like a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel. But hope can also blind us and become unrealistic. I’ve experienced both extremes and learned to live in the middle by holding on to hope but also keeping my feet on solid ground. And yet Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love hopes all things (as the NASB puts it).
This hallmark of love heavily overlaps with the others of verse seven. As love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NASB95) It also looks forward to Paul’s grand conclusion. Many things that we worry about and strive after will come to an end. They are really mere child’s play according to Paul. “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB95) When everything is said and done all that matters is our faith, our hope, and our love.
Returning to this hallmark of love hopes all things. How do we do that? Especially in the face of some very stark and hopeless experiences and circumstances. How do we love through hope? My friend Kerry puts it this way. She leans towards hope by “Writing down the ‘gold’ in others, anyone can find the dirt.” Hope is what keeps folks digging, throwing away the dirt in a relationship while searching for the gold even when faced with all the ugliness we can throw at each other.
Perhaps the strongest and most poignant picture of hope is the father of the prodigal son. We can only imagine how each day he hoped to see his lost son return. We know he hoped because he was looking down the road, he ran to the son and restored him without hesitation. Sometimes the only thread left is that of hope, but it is a powerful thread able to withstand much.
Finding the middle between where our hope is dim and an unrealistic hope reaching for the impossible is tricky but doable. For hope to be hope it must reckon all that stands against it and still not give up. The risks do not drive hope away or snuff it out. Hope understands the risk but hopes anyway.
Let’s narrow this a bit for the hope we’re talking about is part of love, which means the interactions we have between people. It is rather obvious how we should continue to hope all things for our spouse. But what about the others in our lives? What are we hoping for them? Are we looking for dirt which is easy to find or the gold that may be buried in them? Can we see beyond what they are like today to how God could shape them tomorrow? Part of the human experience tells us that people are locked in, they never change. Yet Jesus has changed and is changing all of us who follow Him. I give myself room to change and grow, hope gives the same permission to those around me. Love really does hope all things for each other (and ourselves).