The Paradox of Hope

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hope. Of the three virtues—faith, hope, charity—hope has traditionally been the one I thought about least, because on the surface it seems like such a simple virtue, even for a habitual pessimist like me.

But I’m starting to get that hope isn’t that easy, or that simple.

Yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, a couple of women bore testimony of miracles they’d seen in their lives. As they spoke, their faces radiated the assurance and hope that led them to the miracle in the first place.

I have to admit: I struggle with testimonies like these because they seem to link faith, hope, and miracles in uncomplicated ways, even though I know such testimonies are important. In the last thirteen months, I’ve lost two pregnancies (one of them in the second trimester). I have some idea what it’s like to plead for a miracle that doesn’t happen—at least not the way you’d like.

Statistics are funny things. We recite statistics to ourselves because we find comfort in reassuring ourselves that the odds are in our favor. But it only takes one time of finding yourself on the wrong side of a statistic (80% of women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time; less than 2% of women miscarry after a heart-beat is detected), to realize that you’re vulnerable. While my husband and I still believe that God wants us to add to our family, the thought of pregnancy scares me, because this time I know there are no guarantees.

So I’ve been reading a lot about hope. And here’s the paradox I keep stumbling into. Miracles require faith. Faith requires hope—the assurance that God can, in fact, achieve miracles in our lives. But at the same time, we’re told to reconcile ourselves to the will of God—to accept that what we hope for may not, in fact, come to pass. Here also is my struggle: how do I maintain faith and hope when my experience has taught me that hope may be fruitless?

In his talk “Trust in the Lord,” Richard G. Scott said, “To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience.” This is powerful—and for me, sometimes damning. I want to trust God, but I’m also afraid. I’m afraid of going through the same disappointment of loss, even though I’ve been luckier than some women (I have two healthy children). Even though I know from experience that God would be with me, I don’t want to go there again.

But maybe that’s what hope—real hope—requires. Larry Hiller argues that hope is not “the verbal equivalent of keeping your fingers crossed.” He points to the puzzle of Romans 5:3–5:

We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

In this passage, it’s those same difficult experiences that make it hard to hope that create hope.

I’m not sure exactly how this works. Maybe our experience in trials shows us that God will be with us, no matter what happens. Maybe a genuine hope recognizes that all things (even apparently bad ones) can ultimately work together for our good (D&C 98:3). Maybe it’s because what we hope for is not the specific miracle, but the idea of miracles–and experience teaches us faith in God’s power, even when that power isn’t exercised as we had desired. Or maybe it’s simply because the exercise of hope increases our capacity to hope, allowing us ultimately to (as our thirteenth article of faith suggests) “hope all things.”

What have your experiences with hope been like? How do you see the role of hope in your daily life? What helps you sustain hope even when times are hard?

About Rosalyn

(Prose Board) currently lives in Southern Utah with her husband and three small children, where she teaches writing part-time at the local university. She has a BA in English from BYU, and an MA and PhD (also in English) from Penn State. She served a mission in the Hungary Budapest mission. In her spare time (what's that?) she likes to read, write, try new recipes (as long as she doesn't have to clean up), watch movies with her husband (British period drama is her favorite), go for walks, and generally avoid anything that resembles housework.

38 thoughts on “The Paradox of Hope

  1. Your questions really resonated with me. 25 years ago my husband, 18 months after our temple marriage, announced that he didn’t love me and because of my discovery that I was pregnant, was leaving. I dropped everything in my life and read the Book of Mormon with real intent. I got to the promise of Moroni that ties faith, hope, and miracles together, and I prayed with every particle of my being for a miracle. What could be wrong with praying that one’s temple covenants be protected? They were not, and he left.

    Since that time I’ve raised that sweet child that I birthed alone, married again in the temple, had that husband (who had multiple hidden addictions) threaten my life, had three miscarriages, and been divorced to raise the five beautiful children from that marriage alone.

    In it all, I’ve learned a considerable bit about miracles, and faith, and the power of hope. This morning I rolled over in bed and opened the scriptures that I leave there from my night reading (Luke, inspired by watching Pres. Beck’s training in Arizona on lds.org) and saw the words “seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.” That is hope: to nest our needs within a framework of trust in the Lord’s ultimate plan, to seek his will and his work first and allow the desires of our heart to find expression through that. After all, we’re not developing hope in our miracles, but in the Lord, the difference is vital.

    I think you’ve hit upon the key. Like the seed that swells and begins to grow because it is nourished, over time, we gain true hope in the Lord through experience trying our hope in the Lord. I’m much more likely to proceed without a doubtful mind that I was 25 years ago because God and I have some serious history together. I expect to have an even longer history in another 25 years, but I have to be patient with where I am. Trees nourished don’t bear fruit for awhile, and that’s okay.

    Hang in there. You are doing such amazing work as a mother. I know, from study and experience, that the Gods have a keen empathy for our sorrows and will give us strength to face our vulnerabilities.

  2. I have some idea what it’s like to plead for a miracle that doesn’t happen—at least not the way you’d like.

    Especially when the experience repeats more than once.

    Yet, yet, hope is important. I wish I could say more, I’m trying to find more in my own life.

    But my heart goes out to you.

  3. Hope is important, but I have trouble having the hope and faith needed for a miracle, while also realizing that I need to accept what the Lord wants, which might not be what I want.

    Thanks for sharing your feelings on this. You make me realize I need to study faith and hope.

  4. The most persistent thought that comes to mind is simply that God is a God of miracles. And often in our narrow perspective we only see the disappointments, setbacks and heartache. Having been acquainted with such grief I must admit that I still hope. For I know the Lord’s promises are sure and the compensation for our losses will come. Miracles have not ceased. I just don’t know what form those miracles will take.

  5. Might I share a personal experience, with hope that it might help in some way? I, for whatever reason, miscarried once in between each of my children (5 babies, 5 miscarriages). The last two miscarriages were in the second trimester, which are much more emotional and difficult, of course. After the final miscarriage, which was emergent for me and very scary for my husband (who followed the ambulance to the hospital envisioning himself the widowed father of our four young children) I still had a strong desire for one more baby.

    We made the prayerful decision to try just one more time. I gave it to God, so to speak. I promised my husband that if we miscarried, we would be done.

    Do we consider that last little boy — who is unbelievably beautiful and lovable — to be a miracle? Yes. But I really think they all are. Every baby. And I don’t know why God answered that prayer the way I’d hoped he would. (My smart OB did some additional therapies with that pregnancy that may have helped as well.)

    I know that had I lost another child, it would have been hard. But, I had gotten through it before and knew I could again. And I think my acceptance of that possibility was a growing and strengthening experience. Some people won’t agree with this, but now that they are long behind me, I have some gratitude for those lost pregnancies. They made my children seem all the more precious.

  6. I have never thought of hope quite like you described. I think it must be especially difficult when you have such righteous desires (wanting another baby) and then it’s not working out.

    I think so much of what we experience in life…the hard times especially…don’t make sense til years later. I remember all the pleading prayers I said decades ago when I was so sick and just could not get better, for months and months. I had 2 small children at the time that I desperately wanted to be a good mother to, which was very difficult doing from a reclining position. My desires were very righteous– I wanted to go to church with them, make their meals, play with them, and it made no sense that the Lord would not bless me as I wanted and needed. But looking back I can see now, all these years later, He had a bigger plan. I got better, had 2 more children and in the long term, my experiences with my health made me a better mother. I can see that now, but I sure could not see that then.

    I think hope and faith go hand in hand. If life were easy, we would need neither of them.

    Thank you Rosalyn for sharing your heart. I know I will be thinking about your post throughout today, at least.

  7. Thank you to all of you who have shared such personal experiences–Bonnie, Liz, Grandma Honey. I’m starting to think we talk about faith and hope together so much because they’re impossible to separate: we have hope in the future, in God’s plan for our lives, because we also have faith that He lives and loves us. I’m grateful for you all for sharing your wisdom and experiences!

  8. Thank you for this fabulous post, and bonnieblythe, I very much appreciated what you added.

    Hope is a principle of power and action, and vitally important. I think when we lose hope we open the door to Satan and his tools of discouragement. I LOVE what bonnieblythe shared here:

    After all, we’re not developing hope in our miracles, but in the Lord, the difference is vital.

    When our hope is in the Lord, we know that whether we get the miracle we wanted, or a different one, that the Lord will provide. Sometimes he provides the blessing we asked for, other times he provides the healing and comfort of the atonement and friends and family to see us through.

    I think clinging to my covenants has gotten me through a lot, and now I cling also to the hindsight of past blessings which helped me through the worst of times before. My experiences have shown me that the Lord is often more fully present in my life when I feel the most heartache…even if I have not always felt that at the time.

    Thanks again for sharing. And you’ll be in my prayers.

  9. Sorry this is long but I have been wanting to share this and I wasn’t sure where to do it.

    It is amazing to me that when we really start opening up we find so many people who have similar experiences. I have had 7 miscarriages and I have experienced much of the same wondering about how I am supposed to have faith and hope but still not get so terrible depressed when it doesn’t work out.

    Not only have we had all these miscarriages but we are also sturggling to even get pregnant in the first place. Anyone who has ever “tried” to get pregnant knows that it is torture.

    This last week I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. I then came downstairs and opened up a message from one of my sisters saying she was pregnant. And I wasn’t jealous but my thoughts were just “You have got to be kidding me!” I allowed myself one day to be depressed and then I decided to be done.

    I am done “trying.” I am done getting terribly depressed. I am done lettting the desire for more children rule my life. Do I still hope for more? Yes. Do I have faith that God can make it happen? Yes. Will he? I have no idea. But I am going to stop worrying about it. I am going to focus on what is great in my life. I do have 3 great kids. I am going to delve in to all my projects I have going. And I will just see what happens. If I never have another child I will be okay.

    I guess this to me this has become what hope and faith looks like. I will just go on and see what happens, trusting that what ever comes I will be okay.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I really appreciate it. I am sorry you have dealt with such loss. I know it is so horribly hard.

  10. I still struggle to distinquish between faith and hope – does anyone have that down well enough to explain it?

    I keep coming back to Neal A. Maxwell’s statement “the only thing we really have to place on the alter of God is our free will”.

    So, its a delicate intertwining, for lack of a better term, of what we hope for or have faith for that is what we are willing to lay on God’s alter as our sacrifice of what we really want – i.e. our will to have things our way.

    I’m not sure that makes entire sense – the limitations of human vocabulary. (I could express it better spirit to spirit)

  11. That third paragraph was badly written. Can we lay down the things we desperately hope for, that is,what we “will or want” to happen, on God’s alter, as our way of actually meaning that He can do with us what He wants?

  12. After being deeply hurt by someone who should have protected me, I prayed and prayed he would change. In fact, people still tell me to have hope he will repent and change. But I’ve learned to WORST thing I can do is have hope in another person; it’s soul crushing. But I can always, always have hope in Christ and the solemn assurance all things will work for good.

  13. Thanks for this. I don’t know what to do with it, but it certainly helped to know that others struggle with this, too.

    I have no real hope right now. And while people say “hope even in the face of experiences which deny that hope,” that directly contradicts Alma’s seed analogy. If the seed doesn’t grow, at what point do you quit watering it?

  14. Thank you for this post and the comments. I have been trying to understand hope for a few years. I feel like I have plenty of faith, but I really lack hope. I know the Lord can bless people, but He doesn’t seem to choose to bless me. I don’t know why. I think I need to trust in Him more, to really feel that He does have my best interest at heart. I am not really sure how to do that. Lots of things to ponder.

  15. Sharon, I also have struggled to distinguish between faith and hope. In my health work I ascribe to a belief that at least one force that influences our health is our bed of thoughts and feelings and the chemical changes those each cause. To me, faith is the thought part of my conversation with God and sometimes with myself – the words I use and ordain with a power to direct my body. Hope is the feeling part of my relationship with God and often with myself – the powerful emotions that are the chemical soup of my life. When I hope for things, there is a feeling more powerful than any thought that motivates me, and when I work with people who are dealing with poverty, this is the thing I concentrate on first. We can work with self-talk (their faith) once we can reawaken their feelings that life is good and that they are loved. To be loved and to receive that love is hope. When I teach Gospel Doctrine we talk about that all the time: faith is loving God, hope is receiving God’s love, and charity is loving like God. Maybe that helps?

    SilverRain – I’ve been in that hopeless place. Sometimes circumstances collude and we are simply there for awhile. I’m reminded of what Alma says about “if ye can only desire” – to believe, or to hope. Like it or not, we’ve probably all had times that we held on by our fingernails, even though we know that a whole life can’t be enduring like that. I am praying for you. It’s worth it to water the seed, but sometimes it won’t sprout until the weather is warm enough to sustain growth. The Lord has need of people whose hearts haven’t failed them, and it doesn’t sound like yours has yet, even as hard on yourself as you’re being. I bet everyone around you thinks you’re holding out pretty well.

  16. I loved this post. As one who has had hopes blasted from time to time, I know how hard it can be to endure sometimes. But this is how I understand hope: (Webster’s Dictionary) “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out well” and “the desire of faithful people to gain eternal salvation in the life to come”–Bruce R. McKonkie.

    I especially love how Ether (in Ether 12:4) put it: “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety HOPE for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which HOPE cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”

    What I understand him to be saying is that true hope springs out of our faith in God–so because of our testimony of him/our experiences with him, we are able to have hope that a “better world” is waiting for us. These two together (hope and faith) make an “anchor” for our souls which then allows us to have charity. I like that there seems to be an order to it, that hope doesn’t just emerge without something to stand on, that it has to have a reason or basis for existing. If I know that God lives and loves me, it makes sense that I can then begin to hope that he has a plan for my own personal happiness, even if I don’t know completely what that plan entails. It also helps me to better handle it when what I think is best for me doesn’t always pan out. When I feel stable in my faith and hope, it becomes easier for me to look outside myself (charity).

    One more–from the Bible Dictionary under Resurrection: “To obtain a resurrection with a celestial, exalted body is the center point of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

  17. I have thought so much about faith and hope in the last couple of years, and I’m still pondering. This post was poignant and beautiful to me and yes, even hopeful. I loved this:

    “Maybe our experience in trials shows us that God will be with us, no matter what happens. Maybe a genuine hope recognizes that all things (even apparently bad ones) can ultimately work together for our good (D&C 98:3). Maybe it’s because what we hope for is not the specific miracle, but the idea of miracles–and experience teaches us faith in God’s power, even when that power isn’t exercised as we had desired. Or maybe it’s simply because the exercise of hope increases our capacity to hope, allowing us ultimately to (as our thirteenth article of faith suggests) “hope all things.””

    I’ve found that faith, hope, and charity have all been literal choices I’ve had to make lately. I will say to myself, “I am choosing to believe that God can make up what I lack” when I’m feeling weighted down with my weaknesses. I say, “I am choosing to have hope that one day I will rest from these afflictions” when I’m feeling the most overwhelmed by life circumstances. I say, “I am choosing to love these people who have hurt me so deeply. I am choosing to change my thought patterns when negative thoughts about them come to my mind and to say a prayer for them at that moment that the Lord will bless them in their lives.” It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I have found that the literal choice to change my thought process pays off in moments of peace, joy, and grace. I, too, struggle with asking for miracles anymore, but maybe just choosing to ask for them, knowing in my bones that the answer may well be no, is an act of faith and an act of hope.

    I’m so sorry about the losses you’ve suffered.

  18. This is a great post, with some wonderful and insightful commentary.

    Like anybody else, I think I’ve had to learn about real hope the hard way…through losing things I fought hard for and thought were worthy of all my efforts and the Lord’s miraculous hand (my first marriage). And yet despite my faithfulness and hope, “circumstances” still resulted in failure. For me, the best awakening I have had as a result of those failures was similar to what bonnieblythe wrote – that Hope should be IN THE LORD and not necessarily in a fortuitous circumstance.

    I posted more about my thoughts here when discussing the difference between hope and faith as my current wife and I battle infertility.

    Trials like divorce and infertility have taught me that my faith is in God and the sure connection I can have with Him even when He does not see fit to relieve me of the burden I bear. It is exactly as the scripture you quoted says…

    1)tribulation has worked in me patience (an active virtue and not just the ability to “wait”),
    2) and patience has given me experience (that God is completely reliable when it comes to delivering me spiritually even when temporal deliverance seems far away or impossible),
    3) and experience yields greater Hope (not just for desired outcomes, but that I am learning how to more consistently tap into His Peace, His Joy, His Love, which are not dependent upon circumstance),
    4) and that Hope does increase my Love for Him, for myself, and for all others as I work to teach them how to achieve the more sure promises of spiritual deliverance, and
    5) that kind of love makes the Holy Spirit abound.

    Every ounce of that rings true to me, and has only become more clear with my “failures” of the past, and “failures” of the present…and it actually makes me kind of excited for what I will learn (perfecting my Hope and Faith in God) with all the future “failures” that are yet to come.

    I still believe in miracles, but I find the one most worth seeking has little to do with temporal deliverance at all…it is a spiritual deliverance that yields a greater oneness with God, and is far more valuable to me that anything else.

  19. I’m always humbled by the comments here at Segullah–most of the time, they’re much smarter than my original post!

    Kristin–I love the idea that hope is a principle of action. And yes, I think that our hope has to be grounded in God–the rest of our hope(s) stem from that.

    Heathermommy–I was somewhat hesitant to post this today because I know others (like you!) have had much more difficult struggles with miscarriage. I hope that you–and I–can both find places of peace for our decisions. I don’t know why pregnancy is so hard for some people and so easy for others, but I do trust that God still loves us equally.

    Sharon–I struggle with the distinction between faith and hope too. I think bonnieblythe put it well: hope is a sense of optimism about the future. Faith, I think, is a belief that motivates us to action. I don’t know if that helps you, but that’s how I understand the two.

    Kerri, Ana, Michelle, Stephanie, thank you for sharing your experiences!

    Silverrain–I struggle with that kind of day-to-day hope too, sometimes. I can accept that we have hope in the Savior–hope that someday everything will be made right–but I don’t think God wants us to just have hope in the future. I think he wants us to have hope now–and that, for me, is sometimes the hardest kind of hope to have. I hope (there’s that word again!) that you can find some peace.

    DannyK–thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I love how you explicate the scripture from Romans. I think it’s true–our experience that God helps us through failure does allow us to place more hope in the future.

  20. Last year I lost all hope. Every battered, shrivelled, tattered thread of hope crumbled to dust in my hand, and blew away. It was an awful, terrifying experience, and lasted a long time.

    Now on the other side of the mess that time was, I have a better understanding of hope, particularly the hope we speak of, pray for and want to grab to our chests whenever the Lord or God is concerned. For me, hope isn’t the expectation that things will work out exactly the way I hoped/dreamed/asked for, but the belief that – despite rational knowledge, experience, imagination and my own soaring dreams, ideals and nightmares – good things can still happen. Not perfect things, not fairy-tale style endings, but good, solid, hold-it-in-your-mind’s-eye-and-heart-walls type good things.

    What sustains me when times are hard is that I have been promised “All things will work out for the good of you and your sons”. I don’t know what form that will take, or when it will happen, but I hope I am ready to embrace it when it arrives.

  21. SilverRain–I am right there with you. I often find myself rolling my eyes when I read scriptures or conference talks about hope. And I TOTALLY get the “watering” aspect. For me, at what point does hope become just blatant desperation?

    My problem has been trying to know the difference between having hope in God vs. hoping for blessings. Also wrapped up in all of that is a complete scrutinizing of every little mistake I make as proof that I will never be worthy of any of the blessings I desire. Hmmm…hope in the Atonement, perhaps? :)

    At any rate, the concept of hope is one of those mysteries of God that I’m not sure I’ll ever understand.

  22. SilverRain, having come to know you a bit through your writings, my heart reaches out to you. Is it possible that you are too hard on yourself? You have many strengths, but you suffer so with your failures. Please keep sharing your thoughts on your blog.

  23. I love this post. Hope is different for everyone, yet it is the same. Hope gives us something to cling to when others do not believe or are unsure of things.

    I have seen miracles I thought I would never see in my lifetime. However, I don’t think the miracles were for me, but for others to see if they would come on board or not. To teach others the gospel and hopefully ask what just happened and want to know more.

    My second son came to us after 10 years of waiting and trying. He was born with life threatening birth defects after a very horrible pregnancy where we both nearly died several times. YET I felt peace and comfort as the Lord had prepared me along the way. It was hard to explain to the Doctors of why they should try to save him even though a child his size had never lived through the surgery before…..now babies smaller undergo the surgery because of him. Next month my sweet boy turns 13 years old…an age we were told he would never lived to if he made it to 5 years old. We still don’t know his life expectancy…medically, but through blessings and experiences, we know he is to live passed adulthood.

    For other things I cling to the scripture in Joshua 1:9. I actually cling to it for all things. A card with the meaning of my name was given to me and on it had this scripture on it. I hadn’t really paid much attention to it until on day after a miscarriage and I had to appear in court to give testimony to which the judge ordered me to appear regardless what my doctor had said. I was very weak and needed strength which I received as I read it as I passed by.

    Hope. We must always have hope and it is the hardest thing to do.

  24. This is a topic I’m pondering much lately as well. I believe it’s one of those mysteries that is ultimately only understood through the Spirit.

    And often through pain.

    I have mentioned elsewhere that I’m trying to work my own sort of 12-step process to come to understand more how I might be able to let go of the things that leave me feeling hopeless (about myself, about others, about my unfulfilled dreams) and learn to let God into my life more. The last year+ of my life has left me feeling pretty depleted. It’s odd to have a testimony that feels so strong, and yet to feel like a spiritual infant when it comes to really understanding how to turn my life and heart over to God. How to not let fear and pain and doubt and insecurity dominate my mind and heart. How to allow hard things to happen and to allow God’s healing peace to sustain me.

    The thing that keeps me going in this current quest to comprehend and discern truth related to hope and faith and charity (which I honestly think is ultimately what life is about — I don’t know that we ever ‘arrive’ in understanding these things) is that I’ve tasted enough of what being at peace through God has felt like in other times in my life to know that there is no other way than to keep pressing forward, to continue to try and to try to trust as new tests — and new knowledge of my ‘nothingness’ and weakness (a la Eth 12:27) come into my life.

  25. My life has set me up to expect the worse, not because it has been an awful one, but merely because over and over the ones closest to me in my childhood had experience after experience that threatened to take them away; physically, emotionally, spiritually.

    My first summer home from college I was in the process of a mental healing and purging of all the fear, self-loathing, and inward blame I had accrued up to that point in response to what I really had no control over.

    I realized that summer that for me hope was about trust. Trust in the Lord allowed me to stop shutting down my ability to feel out of fear that I would hurt too much. It also gave me peace that when those things I feared happened He would be there to help me escape despair.

    When I find myself lacking in hope I find I must start small to rekindle it. Set little landmarks to remind myself of God’s love and hand in my life, because then I am reminded to trust, and my hope expands once more. In my experience it does feed on itself. Small hope creates big hope.

    Sorry I am late to this post, I only just started reading Segullah. I think I will stick around.

  26. Rosalyn, this post was on my mind all day yesterday. I don’t have any answers, but I appreciate the discussion. Thank you for being willing to share your soul on such a tender topic. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  27. This was a lovely post, full of many things I have found myself wondering. I believe that God is a God of miracles. I believe that righteousness yields blessings. I also know that plenty of good and wonderful people do not receive the righteous desires of their hearts, at least not now, and sometimes those two concepts are hard to reconcile.

    I found myself struggling through a difficult time recently. I was praying and fasting and hoping very, very hard, seemingly with no result. I guess I feel like sometimes, life is just very hard, and that’s the way it is. We are not allowed to choose whether it will be hard or not hard for that season; it just is. What we ARE allowed to choose is whether we will walk the hard road alone, or with the Lord. I don’t even mean that in the cheesey “Footsteps in the Sand” sort of way (sorry) with a pretty little Ensign-type ending. It’s still horridly rough, but I’d rather it be horridly rough with some Heavenly companionship than alone.

    I’ve though a lot about faith versus fear. For me, there is not a no-faith, no-fear middle zone. I can choose faith. If I don’t, fear is the default mode. Darkness is there unless I choose to turn on the light.

  28. Kris, I LOVED your statement that fear is the default. It’s true. Darkness is the default. Doubt is the default. A conscious act of faith and hope is necessary to bring light. In our most recent stake conference one of the counselors built his talk around this, that once we’ve made our covenants, we aren’t in some kind of default path that will move us right along to eternal life. At every juncture, in every moment, we’re choosing light and life and obedience and all good things, because the default is the mists of darkness. There is no default path to God; it’s a life of conscious choices to transcend Satan’s defaults. I LOVE that. Faith and hope are exercised qualities.

  29. ” I LOVED your statement that fear is the default. It’s true. Darkness is the default. Doubt is the default. A conscious act of faith and hope is necessary to bring light. ”

    I think this describes what it means to be fallen. To act and not be acted upon. “Fight or flight” is part of the natural man, it’s our instinct to run, fear, hurt, recoil. To have that part of ourselves changed from the inside out? That’s hard stuff.

    I was thinking yesterday of Elder Maxwell and all that he used to say about discipleship. When he talked about getting cancer late in his life, he said something like, “I shouldn’t have been surprised.”

    I’m also reminded of Elder Holland from April 2011: “Obviously as the path of discipleship ascends, that trail gets ever more narrow until we come to that knee-buckling pinnacle of the sermon of which Elder Christofferson just spoke: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”13 What was gentle in the lowlands of initial loyalty becomes deeply strenuous and very demanding at the summit of true discipleship. Clearly anyone who thinks Jesus taught no-fault theology did not read the fine print in the contract! No, in matters of discipleship the Church is not a fast-food outlet; we can’t always have it “our way.” Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation can only come His way.”

    My good friend reminds me that even the Savior was ‘sore amazed’ at the hard He had to experience. Even He needed an angel to strengthen Him. I guess in part to me, then, hope means still choosing to believe when sore amazed, still choosing to turn heavenward and say, Thy will be done.

    As was said before, still choosing light. I think such submission is probably key to feeling/finding hope.

    And if that is exercise, which I think it is, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when it needs to be done every day to maintain ‘fitness’ just as we know we should physically exercise every day or our muscles atrophy.

  30. A wise and experienced older friend going through cancer treatments after a lifetime of having God’s plans be different than hers (she didn’t marry until her forties, for one thing) told me this and I’ve held it close ever since: “We don’t know the why or the how, but we do know the WHO.” That, to me, is what we hope for and hope in — we know our Father and we hope in Him.

    Hope, to me, is not specific to our circumstances — it’s not like wishing on a star for the things WE want. It’s believing and hanging on and knowing that even though we struggle, God will turn them to our good.

    Have you read this talk about hope? http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/the-infinite-power-of-hope?lang=eng I love it!

  31. “We don’t know the why or the how, but we do know the WHO”

    I love this.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this discussion. I was in Deseret Book today, and guess what the main theme of the current ‘flier’ is? Hope. Obviously it’s something on a lot of people’s minds!

  32. For me, the distinction between hope and faith is that hope is about having dreams and a vision for our lives and faith is about our ability to believe in Heavenly Father’s dreams and vision for us.

    His love means both are critical for our happiness.

    Sometimes I have had to look past my own hopes to see how faith in His plan is better than my own dreams. I love His plan better than mine. But I also love the dreaming and planning and possibilities I get from hope.

  33. I love this post and these comments. Such wisdom!

    For me hope is optimism and light. It is the belief that tomorrow will be a better day, even though experience would tell me that it probably won’t.

    Faith is not wanting something really badly, as I think it has come to mean, but aligning my will with God’s.

    They both work together so that in the midst of a trial I can say, “Heavenly Father, I have no idea what you are doing, but I will trust in you completely. I know you have my best interests at heart.”

  34. Thank you all for your thoughts, what a wonderful, tender discussion.

    Rosalyn I’m sorry for your losses. Miscarriage can be a silent loss of hope, literally. What is more hopeful than that tiny bud of life that changes our entire world?

    My choice to have hope comes from deep inside of me where my soul knows that my existence is more than this painful mortal experience. I think it could be some tiny part of me that remembers what it was like to live with Heavenly Father. That feeling encourages me that this is all worth it to be with Him again.

  35. I struggled with this paradox a great deal when we dealt with infertility before being able to have any children. I wondered how I was supposed to have faith in a miracle of healing (faith, that, to my understanding, was required for the miracle to occur) when I was also supposed to have faith in the Lord’s will for me. Which took precedence? Because holding onto the faith in the miracle felt like it was going to kill me if God’s will was that it not happen. I could not deal with the constant roller-coaster emotions for an unending amount of time.

    Reading the Bible dictionary definition of “faith” helped me–we have faith not necessarily in the miracle but in the doer of the miracle, in Jesus Christ, simply because of His nature, His goodness, His love. That made more sense to me and did give me hope at that time in my life.

  36. What a wonderful discussion!

    My thoughts while reading everyone’s posts and comments have been on my hope for a miracle that I think will not now happen despite my temple prayers and desperate pleading. I don’t know if my dear friend who I taught as a missionary has passed away from brain cancer, but I suspect he has from his wife’s message to me using a past tense verb. His family hasn’t updated his facebook and that has been my main means of communicating. We had a special connection from day one, and I always wanted to return to Peru with my family to meet his, but financially it hasn’t been an option.

    But I have great hope that this brother of mine in Christ will be with his Father in Heaven. My heart aches for his family and for me but I am comforted by my hope in Christ. It is so real.

    I wanted God’s will to be a miraculous recovery. I prayed it could be a source of faith for those around him. Yet being denied that miracle, I still hope for reunion through Christ’s atonement.

  37. Just had to pop on here (while watching conference) to say that Elder Holland totally addressed my questions in comment #14 in his conference talk just now. It is amazing how that works.

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