The Gates of Hope

UPDATE: Please go to this link to read how I have recovered my health using The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS)! 


I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
     and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
     For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
     and with him is great power to redeem.  –Psalm 130:5-7

I will wait for the LORD,
     who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob,
          and I will hope in him.  –Isaiah 8:17

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
     “therefore I will hope in him.
 –Lamentations 3:24

Light at the heart of the storm.

A major theme in each of the above verses is hope. These verses collectively beg the question: What is hope?

But the question as it is posed is already leading us down the wrong trail. Permit me a very brief grammar lesson. In the question “What is hope?” the word “hope” is a noun; it is a thing, something you can think about, talk about, try to conjur up in your spirit, or pray to receive more of. In each of the verses above, “hope” is a verb. Hope isn’t a thing here, it’s an action, something you do, not something you have or get.

Over the last 12 years Mariah and I have had a lot of conversations about hope – what does it look like to hope? Who is this God whom we put our hope in? Under what conditions is hope borne and under what conditions does it flower?

As a Christian, a pastor, and a seminary professor, I believe that the Bible is uniquely capable of helping us faithfully respond to experiences that transcend our understanding. Life is full of mystery and pain, and the Bible acknowledges that mystery and acknowledges God’s presence in the midst of it, without pretending that because God is present the pain magically goes away.

In Hebrew, the verb “hope” is often translated as “wait.” To hope in or for something is necessarily to do so over time, often without seeing progress moving the situation toward the end you desire. Perhaps an analogy is the difference between patience and impatience. It’s not that impatient people are incapabale of waiting; impatience does not translate into faster results when the results are out of your control. Impatient waiting simply means waiting without joy. Patience is the capacity to wait well. To hope is to wait with joy for the One who makes all things new to do so in the situation(s) that haunts you and those you love.

Not every instance of the word “hope” in the Bible is a verb, however. This from the book of Romans:

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. –Romans 5.3-5

According to Paul’s logic genuine hope is borne of suffering.

Over the last 12 years of Mariah’s illness, we have learned the difference between hope and optimism. Optimism is the assumption that things are always getting better, so whatever terrible situation someone is in will one day be better. It is influenced more by popular notions of Darwinian evolution than anything else. Hope is the conviction that, despite our circumstances and despite all appearances, we are not alone, and “the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1) is with us and for us and nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8).

We recently encountered a beautiful reflection on hope by Victoria Stafford. Parker Palmer read it at the conclusion of an interview conducted by Krista Tippit in an On Being podcast. It articulates well what I’ve been trying to get at here, the singular power of hope in contrast with all hope-imposters who, in the face of suffering, seek either assylum, avoidance, immunity, or ignorance.

Gates of Hope
by Victoria Stafford
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope – not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (our people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right,’ but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle – and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”

One significant part of our journey has been, and continues to be a whole lot of waiting. Waiting for test results to come back. Waiting for doctors appointments for months. Waiting to see how Mariah’s body responds to slight changes in her diet or supplements or medications. Waiting for the long-awaited change we hope for in Mariah’s body. Thank you for waiting with us. It means the world to us.

Sunset From a Hill Near Jerusalem

If you would like to donate toward Mariah’s medical costs, follow this link.

UPDATE: Please go to this link to read how I have recovered my health using The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS)! 

Categories: Uncategorized


  1. Beautifully expresses friends, Reminds me of expressions in Christian Wiman’s MY BRIGHT ABYSS, which I have completely devoured. What a tortured, hopeful soul he is. I wish I had been at the colloquy between him and Todd, but I’m getting the picture by reading Wiman’s book. Glad to be in partnership with you. Both of you. JRK

    *John & Sharon Kleinheksel*


  2. Thank you, Travis, for this thoughtful pause in my busy Monday–what hope is and what it isn’t. Pondering still and praying into the truth that “hope does not disappoint.” It will not, cannot, end in disappointment. God’s Word declares it so.


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