What is hope?

In 2013 I had my Enos moment, where I fell down and begged God’s forgiveness for my sins. I was at the end; I was looking for a hand gun. I have told this story before because it is my conversion story. When I couldn’t find a gun I decided to pray and curse God. I am not Job and I had been dealt one betrayal too many, been abandoned once too often, suffered hardship for one too many days. I had no hope at all. I didn’t believe that God loved me. I didn’t believe the God wanted me to be happy. I believed He was a 3 year old plucking wings off of flies and I was His favorite to torment.

I was devoid of hope, angry, frustrated, and hated God. I believed in Him. I had a testimony of the Gospel, I just didn’t believe that it was for me to have. In order for there to be balance, someone needs to lose. For every happy marriage, someone is divorced. I had no hope that my life would be any different with faith and hope because nothing changed in my circumstances between being in the Church and out of it.

My Enos moment changed my world view, but I still didn’t understand the concept of faith and hope. I always felt faith was a pat answer given by people who didn’t understand real suffering. Hope was for the naive, less intelligent, or perpetually happy to be delusional. Babies die in plane crashes, good people are murdered: why should I delude myself that I am any better to have anything different?

After my miraculous change of heart (because it was rather miraculous), I read the scriptures insatiably. I found where Moroni spoke of hope and faith. I read Paul’s treatises on faith and hope. At first I was confused because the way it is written, it sounded like a “chicken-egg” situation. How am I to have hope when I struggle to believe that God cares about me?

It is choice that is the answer.

I am a hard empiricist. I look for the evidence of regular, similar results for me to be willing to say that something has a close approximation of most likely being right. I hate to claim I know anything, least of all matters of the Spirit. The best I can expect is to have evidence that something will most likely repeat under similar circumstances. Some would say this is a serious conflict with religion – “How can you have ‘evidence’ of anything spiritual?” Well, first comes choice.

I see evidence to support the existence of a loving God, I also see the evidence against it. Any philosophical argument against the existence of God is horrifically flawed, so I find no answer there. Instead, I choose to believe the evidence for His existence.

If I choose to accept the evidence of His existence, I will start to see the evidence of it in other forms, namely spiritual confirmations. Since I choose to believe in a Father in Heaven that knows me personally, I choose to believe that coincidence and chance do not exist – I see these things as Father in Heaven working within my life. Neither a blessing or a curse, all a challenge to make me stronger (as my favorite quote from Carlos Castaneda goes).

I choose to see His hand in my life, this choice leads me to chose to have hope that He will impact and intercede in my life. I finally have my first step of hope. That hope is also faith. I hope He will guide me, I have faith His guidance is for the good, I then hope for the best and have faith it will be as He sees for me. Hope leads to faith, faith leads to hope. I understand the scriptures.

But then, after the telling interest of a beautiful, brilliant, and sweet woman, I am guided to give my heart to her by the Spirit. I have hope in what the Spirit has told me, I have faith that it will be as the Lord has said. I do everything according to the Spirit. Of course, I make mistakes, but I seek forgiveness, I change, I grow.

And she deserts me. Then I am told to wait for her, to have faith, and to hope. So I chose to follow the inspiration with hope and in faith – but nothing happens. I lost hope. I feel I have betrayed the Spirit, so of course nothing happens.

I have felt that way for the last many months; since November when I wrote about how much I love her. I waited as the Lord directed, even though I had interest from other women, I chose to stay aloof as the Spirit directed, but I was losing hope. I couldn’t believe that what would have to be necessary for her to chose me and chose being with me was possible.

I started to feel the slide toward anger, bitterness, and resentment. Not towards her, well mostly, but towards the Spirit because I was being told to wait for someone who clearly didn’t want me, that I believed clearly wasn’t capable of the conversion and choices necessary to hear the same thing I was.

I followed the Spirit one more time, I felt relief that I had done all I could. The problem is I felt that I had blown it with my lack of hope, which clearly meant I didn’t have the faith.

Then I read Mormon and I was relieved.

Mormon went to battle against the Laminates without hope. Mormon refused to lead the Nephites for a spell because of his lack of hope. Several times he said he did what he was commanded by the Spirit, but did so without hope. That’s when it struck me: he had faith and hope in Heavenly Father, but not in man. He had faith that the Lord would provide, he hoped for his place in heaven, but he had no hope that the Nephites would make the choices and have the conversion necessary to save their own lives.

“Trust not in the arm of flesh or maketh flesh your arm.” (2 Nephi 4:34) is not just about trust, it is about hope and faith as well. I trust Heavenly Father, I have hope he will give me the best that He sees for me, I have faith that as I live my end of the bargain, He will provide. But trusting in man is hoping in man as well.

I realized that I was ok. I had kept my faith and developed hope that the Father has my best interest at heart. Not everyone will be the right person, they have to choose. However, if you are placing your hope that a person will make the right choices, your hope is misplaced. Instead, we do all that the Lord has told us and hope for the best outcome. We can do that with no hope that a mortal person will make good choices. We are okay with that, we are not offending the Spirit or demonstrating a lack of faith in Heavenly Father.

Instead, we are living the scriptures as he has asked us to. Hope and faith in Him, not in fellow mortals, bearing all of the pain inflicted by a world designed for our failure, and we can have the best he has in store for us if we but place our hope in the right hands – His.