What Does Hope Look Like?

What Does Hope Look Like? (Meditations Over a Stained T-Shirt)

“Hey, do you think you can get this stain out, Mum?”

He handed me his T-shirt, still warm from his body, and I assured him that boiling water would make short work of blueberry juice on cotton. As the kettle boiled and the water poured and the steam rose from the kitchen sink, I thought long about what I would like to have said in that moment to this suddenly-grown-up son, this man scheduled to begin basic training with the U.S. Army in a week’s time. I wish I could have said to him:

“Yes, the stain will come out, and, incidentally, all manner of things shall be well with you. And also, this next step you are taking will lead to a secure future and certain success.”  I wanted to assure him that my prayers for his safety and his flourishing would all be answered swiftly and to assert that young men who walk in God’s ways will always mellow into older men with happy marriages, fulfilling careers, respectful children, and long, God-honoring ministries.

Unfortunately, I happened to be reading in 1 Peter on the Morning of the Stained T-shirt, a letter written to persecuted, first-century Christians living under the cruel and oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire. When the great fire of Rome destroyed much of the city in the year 64, Emperor Nero quickly latched on to the occasion to blame Christians for the destruction and to clamp down on their growing influence. Who better to frame than the members of an upstart offshoot of Judaism?

A Meditation in Hope for Hard Times

Writing into this dark context, Peter’s goal was to encourage Christians in their long endurance of arrest, torture, and execution. Tradition holds that not too many years after finishing his second letter, he would be forced to look on as his wife was crucified—and then, later, would, himself, be crucified, upside down.

We’re told that Peter called out to his wife in her suffering, “Remember the Lord!” and I’m left to wonder how he would ever have come through that agony of watching and waiting for her death if he had lost sight of the Lord?

Is it possible he was recalling these words from his first letter addressed to “elect exiles of the Dispersion?”

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

1 Peter 1:13

Certainly, it was a solid remembering Peter prescribed to his readers—and to me as well on a morning when I was tempted to despair over the passing of time and the unwieldy way in which small boys become young men.

His letter comes alongside us all today with wise counsel to engage our brains purposefully, to use our minds to stoke the fire of full hope. Peter invites his readers to think hard for the sake of our hearts, to gather up energetically all the loose ends in our thinking. Even on days when our emotions might feel out of control, by grace we are empowered to employ our wills in the task of applying our minds soberly to known truth and then living forward in confident expectation.

What does it mean to be sober-minded? It’s thinking hard for the sake of your heart. It’s engaging your brain purposefully, using your mind to stoke the fire of full hope.

“REMEMBER THE LORD!”

Peter’s instruction manual shouts to me across cultures and centuries:  “Remember the Lord!”

Is that how he, himself, faced a Roman cross?

Hoping through hard times requires a sinewy faith, a determination to trust the good intentions of a God who sometimes takes us through hard times when we would much prefer to steer around them.

As he planned the content of his letter, Peter would have known that empty promises of happy-clappy joy could not sustain his fellow believers in their hard choices and daily challenges. In fact, he acknowledged the reality of difficult times and even insisted that some suffering is necessary, sovereignly ordained by God as a refining fire:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6 ESV, emphasis mine).

In his greeting, Peter found just the right mindset for wishing his readers well. He blessed them with words I want to write on my own heart for all of my family’s comings and goings:

“May everything good from God be yours!” (1 Peter 1:2 MSG).

May it all be yours, my soldier son!

In the good that looks like blessing to my eyes and in the good that leaves me wondering, let my words to my sons and my prayers for them every day be steeped in the reality that, for the believer, hope has nothing to do with circumstances, but is a solid reality, anchored in timeless truth. The God who invented and then created all good things stands ready to guide this mum’s heart to a right understanding of true “goodness.”

Ten weeks of separation?
A demanding drill sergeant?
An unknown future?

Let me trust that it is all from God and all for God’s glory.

Let me remember the Lord.

Holding you in the light,

Hoping through hard times requires a sinewy faith, a determination to trust the good intentions of a God who sometimes takes us through hard times when we would much prefer to steer around them.

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42 thoughts on “What Does Hope Look Like? (Meditations Over a Stained T-Shirt)”

  1. “…for the believer, hope has nothing to do with circumstances, but is a solid reality, anchored in timeless truth.”
    As I am currently grieving “with hope” the passing of my healthy, 66 year old brother from Covid, this post is a great encouragement to my heart, Michele. Thank you! And 1 Peter 1 contains my life’s verse-1:6-9.
    I know saying goodbye to an adult child can be heart wrenching for a mom. I have watched all three of mine pack up and move to different states making my home seem emptier than it had ever been. I’ll be praying for you over these ten weeks as God brings you to mind. And I look forward to reading what God shows you in the process.
    Blessings.

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    1. Debi, I am so sorry to hear about your brother. What an agonizing loss.
      I wrote this piece last winter, back when my son was preparing to leave for basic, but then sat on it for a long time. I wonder if it was cowardly to wait, sharing it long after the emotion has run its course, but then there was his wedding, and now he’s doing so well, that I can’t possibly be prouder or more grateful.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh yes, there is the good that looks like blessing to my eyes and there is the good that leaves us wondering. I’ve certainly experienced both over the decades of my life. But praise God, we can rest assured in the solid reality of our hope, anchored in timeless truth when we are left wondering. The first chapter of 1 Peter offers just such timeless truth. With others I thank you for your wisdom here, Michele!

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      1. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, Michele?! You never know . . . I’ve had the chance to meet two blogger-friends face-to-face that lived miles away. I’m guessing you have too!

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  3. I really loved this! I loved “sinewy faith” and “hope has nothing to do with our circumstances.” Beyond your poignant writing, your manner in revealing the point is rich and oh so deep-if only we could grasp its full extent!

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  4. Michele, such great words of faith here. We need these reminders in the perilous times in which we live. Yes we all walk hrough hard places of agony at times seemingly more than we can bear. But our hope is an eternal hope that sustains us beyond anything we can imagine.

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  5. It is hard to parent sometimes! Hope is essential as we work through all the stages of life our children must go through. My own son is currently in a five month police academy, so I understand some of your feelings. Glad to read that he made it through it all. Thanks for linking up.

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  6. Now I know what to do with blueberry stains. 🙂

    I had beard about Peter being crucified upside down, but not about his wife.

    I can so identify with preferring to go around trials rather than through them–and wishing the same for my children. I know God uses trials for our good, but I still tend to wince rather than welcoming them with joy as James said.

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    1. You’ve made a good point about our kids, Barbara. I do a much better job of weathering my own trials than I do of the bumps in the road my kids encounter. Maybe it’s the powerlessness of witnessing their suffering and being unable to abate it.

      And of course, we get in the way of the Holy Spirit if we are constantly diverting and running interference for our kids…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Michele … my eyes got misty more than once as I read this post. I would love to be able to tell my girls a version of the same thing you wish you could have said to your son, but no … as you have expressed so beautifully, that’s not how this life of faith works. Lately God’s been turning some new ground in my understanding of my own faith, and this sentence also spoke to me: “Peter invites his readers to think hard for the sake of our hearts, to gather up energetically all the loose ends in our thinking.” This is so needed in our day, and yet, the world seems to be going in the opposite direction. And so my processing continues … 🙂

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    1. Yes, I am also doing a fair amount of processing because it seems as if the things I need God for, present tense, are changing as my life and routines are changing. I know you understand this as well…

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  8. Michele, I did not know about Peter’s wife. These days we are living are challenging and I do think, they will continue to be so. Thank you for encouraging us all to “remember the Lord” with both our hearts and our minds. To think clearly, biiblically, requires we do so and is the way we press on. Now more than ever, we need to “remember the Lord” and keep trusting Him.

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  9. It’s so difficult to hold our children loosely and cling tightly to our God, isn’t it? I always want to do the opposite. Thank you for your words of encouragement this morning.

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  10. Oh, Michele. You’ve done it again. You are past master of using examples from everyday life to illustrate timeless truth. Of course, you learned from a very good storyteller. . . the Master himself!

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

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  11. I can only imagine how challenging the experience of basic training was for both you and your son, Michele. I’m pleased to read in the comments that you both came through it. This is such a thought-provoking piece, but encouraging too. Thank you for being a part of Hearth and Soul.

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  12. What an emotional time for your family as life marches onwards. I hope that your hope is well founded and that the training for your son is everything he wants it to be. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories (we are taking a break this week but hope to see you next Sunday)

    Liked by 1 person

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