“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
— “Hope” is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson
Isn’t that poem pretty? She depicts hope as a small, fragile bird, somehow persevering despite difficult storms. Well, if hope is indeed a frail little bird, it’s taking a pretty severe beating right now. These days, we see sickness and suffering, division and strife, suspicion and doubt everywhere we turn. These are tornado-level winds, people. What tiny bird could withstand them?
I know of another poem that offers a wildly dissimilar idea of hope, but it uses a different word. In the Old Testament, hope is not a fluffy, delicate little thing. Hope is inextricably tied with the concept of trust. The prophet Jeremiah boldly proclaimed to God, “Our hope is in you.” (Jeremiah 14:22) God’s trustworthiness forms the firm foundation upon which hope is built. We do not need to marvel that hope can survive being buffeted around by winds and rains. After all, God is sovereign over the earth and all the weather on it! Because he is completely trustworthy, we can wait expectantly for him, enduring suffering as people who belong to an all-powerful King. He will undoubtedly make all things right and new in his perfect timing. He must; he has promised that he will. And he is fully trustworthy to follow through on his promises.
I hear my brothers and sisters in Christ complaining about the current storms, and I wonder if they have accidentally placed their hope in something far less trustworthy. I worry that they have settled for trusting a political leader, a political party, an outspoken voice on social media. I worry because all of these things will ultimately betray their trust. They were never meant to form a firm foundation upon which hope can stand strong. Here is that other poem I mentioned earlier:
Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
— Psalm 20:6–8
Are you worried that our government is making questionable fiscal decisions? Well, our hope was never meant to rest on financial stability. (Job 31:24–28; Psalm 52:1–7; Proverbs 11:28) Are you concerned that our leaders are making poor military decisions? I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but our hope was never meant to rely on our military might. (Isaiah 30:15–16; 31:1–3; Hosea 10:13) In fact, our hope is misplaced when it is focused on an earthly leader (Psalm 146:3–7) or any person for that matter! (Jeremiah 17:5–8)
My brothers and sisters, if you find that you have accidentally misplaced your hope, today is a great day to set it on the only fully trustworthy source: God. In Christ, you have been given what you need to shift the focus of your hope to him. Recenter your hope squarely on his shoulders. He is no fragile bird. He is all-powerful, completely able to accomplish everything he has promised. He is the only One who deserves your hope. Place it where it belongs, rise, and stand upright!