Continued from Hope, Part 1: The Four-Letter Word…
I have never wanted to fall for wishful thinking – I have only ever wanted the truth. Before I became a true-believing Christian, as a preteen, teenager, and young adult, I viewed Heaven as a comforting fairytale and a false hope. Coming to know the real Christ, however, and growing in relationship with him, my understanding of Heaven was inevitably going to change.
I am still growing in my understanding….
I love life here and now and I love God, here and now. There is still a small part of me that is fighting against the thought of Heaven, not wanting to be patronized like a child told to hope.
However… I’m beginning to understand that I am behaving like a child by fighting the reality of Heaven….
Hope Is a Virtue
As a believing Christian and committed practitioner of the Catholic Faith, I know that I must take seriously the theological definition of hope:
“a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.”
Hope As Part of the Big Three
The theological virtue of hope presupposes belief in the existence of eternal life and, specifically, in the existence of “eternal felicity”, or, namely, Heaven. Hope, then, is a firm faith, or kind of knowledge, that one can, through Christ, enter into this eternal life, because the way through which to enter it is given to us by God in Christ Jesus.
I had been thinking that it shouldn’t be hope that helps Christians through rough trials and tribulations. I had been thinking that faith is what does that – the assent, the trust in, and the commitment to God and to what God has revealed. But, if it is not to be mere wishful thinking, then hope, which is that “confident expectation” of “eternal felicity”, is a result of faith. It’s the natural living out of faith.
And that faithful, “confident expectation” that is hope can only exist and be realized through love.
The Reality of God’s Love
Although I am naturally an optimistic and content person, there are, of course, many times when I have been laid low by my disease and disability. In these times, I have been sustained and carried by love… By my love for life and for my family – and by my family’s love for me. Now that I have given myself in faith to the reality of God, I know that this sustaining love comes from God’s love. And believing Christians experience spiritual aid and comfort, not only from human love, but also (and more deeply and profoundly because it is the source of human love) from God’s love and the willingness and eagerness to love God in return.
Christianity is not all about rewards after death – it is fundamentally about the giving and receiving of divine love from pure and generous hearts. I understand, now, that “eternal felicity”, that Heaven, is the reality of God and God’s love for me. And so, too, is the divine disposal of “the means of securing it”. We can never earn Heaven or wishfully think our way into it – it is purely God’s gift, freely and graciously given to all who are willing to receive it.
As a committed lover of God, I am willing to receive all that God wills to give to me.
And, so, yes – Heaven is real, and hope is good.
Living Hope Every Day – Eternal Perspective
One way that I think that we can describe the practice and the effect of the theological virtue of hope in our lives is as eternal perspective. One can say that one believes in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. But, does that belief influence and effect one’s daily life? To live in hope is to have an eternal perspective in the mundane living of every day. For, surely, if one is confidently expectant of something, then one lives in preparation and readiness of its coming.
Real life example: let’s say you’re arguing with someone whom you truly love. The argument won’t last forever and the two of you may even forget the very thing over which you were fighting. Because you truly love each other, you will forgive each other and continue to live your relationship rooted in that love. The argument is finite. But the love experienced, expressed, and manifested through your relationship is infinite, it belongs to eternity – because it is the experience, expression, and manifestation of God’s eternal love, which is the Source and Sustainer of all love. And, so, even in the midst of the argument, you can step back for a moment and regain this eternal perspective. Having this eternal perspective fosters the true forgiveness, healing, and continuation of your relationship’s joyful love, which is carried into eternity itself.
So, I don’t do this-or-that hoping, like some kind of wishful, fingers-crossed-wanting, that it will turn out fabulous in the end. I live with confidence. I trust in God’s Word and, so, have faith that eternity is real. The things of God last forever and other things don’t. This knowledge, this “confident expectation”, our Christian hope, is the fruit of our Christian faith, brought into true being and sustained through Christian love.
Thankfully, God is merciful… If my human weakness cannot yet handle the word, then I do not need to think of this thing called “hope”. I need only to live it.
unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase