Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. (Psalm 31:24)
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 33:18)
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5)
The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 147:11)
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. (Jeremiah 17:7)
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)
Current societal trends raise questions with regard to individual quality of life and deep seated feelings of hopelessness. The evening news reports in most American major urban cities seemingly focus on the most tragic, disparaging, and dispirited stories one can imagine. From a parent dropping an infant child off a balcony apartment complex (New York Daily News, December 23, 2013) to a Florida mother driving her three small children into the crashing waves of the ocean-side currents (CNN, March 9, 2014), or the mysterious and unaccounted for disappearance of the Malaysian commercial jetliner, hopelessness seemingly abound at every turn.
During these times of unanswered questions and misunderstanding, most of us attempt to theorize or hypothesize reasons grounded in the imagination of self; human oriented and generated understandings meant to build hope not in the God of this world, but, rather, self, government, politicians, law enforcement, corporate C.E.O.'s. A recent USA Today article entitled, "Hope Flickers for Workers Jobless for Years," reports that 3.7 million of the currently unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer. This, some 36 percent of the overall Labor Department's reported unemployed, are part of an even larger group of those who actually reported. Many unemployed persons unaccounted for have simply dropped out of the job search market with a sense of hopelessness.
According to the USA Today article, these persons are considered unemployable: "The longest-suffering of the long-term unemployed are the dispirited faces of a labor market axiom: The more time someone is out of work, the harder it is to find a job. Skills erode or grow outdated. Job applicants with long gaps in their work histories are widely discriminated against by employers, studies show, a barrier to entry that rises as the years go by. Hope flickers after years of fruitless job hunts" (USA Today, April 6, 2014).
Whereas many reported on within the article have adjusted to their unplanned circumstances, essentially downgrading their quality of life, other stories have ended tragically – resulting in severe depression, homelessness, bankruptcy, divorce and the loss of one's family, suicide, etc . . . Yet, for the most part, people opt to survive the best way they can relying on self and others.
The litany of biblical passages that speak on hope is vast. What is consistent is that whether in good times or in crisis situations, hope in the Lord should be constant. The congregational songs sung by saints of the past ring true as it did in past moments of crisis; when Black folks always seemed to face either personal or wider societal trouble the refrain,
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus' Name,"
was more than utterances to fill the quiet space of hopelessness or to drown out groaning of despair. It was about trusting in the Lord and believing that a very present and seen reality was nothing more than a passing trial that would build character, faith and hope in the creator and sustainer of life: Jesus Christ, our Lord, God and savior.
[Jamal-Dominique Hopkins Ph.D., is Director of J. D. Institute and C.E.O. of the Institute for Advanced African American Christian Thought. He is an author and lecturer. Hopkins is available for preaching, speaking or conducting workshops and seminars. You may contact him at www.jdinstitute.weebly.com.]