All over the world Scripture Union has been focusing on 'hope' and 'hopelessness' and the causes of both as we have embarked on the Living Hope initiative and undertaken community listening. Amongst the various definitions of hope is 'the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life' or 'to look forward with reasonable confidence'. As the feedback is received it seems that hope is particularly impacted by change, uncertainty, and a sense of vulnerability.
In the Old Testament, particularly as expressed in the Psalms and Proverbs, hope was related to a sense of safety and security, and refuge in the sense of 'shelter' and a sure and certain expectation. In the New Testament it is closely connected with faith and love (1 Corinthians 13), and with the expectation of salvation.
One of the most striking examples of a lack of hope in the Old Testament is found in the journey of the people of Israel through the wilderness at a time of change and uncertainity. The people were despondent despite the presence of God in the pillar of fire and cloud, and at one stage even wanted to turn back to the 'familiar' life of slavery. They felt insecure and unsure. They seemed to often have little expectation that the journey would take them to the place God had promised, to a better future. Followers of Jesus, too, seemed to lose all hope when faced with loss, change, and uncertainty in the death of Jesus. Some went back to what was most familiar, fishing. Their loss of hope is well expressed by the two followers on their journey to Emmaus when one said, 'we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel'. They had little understanding that these things must happen for God's promise to be fulfilled in bringing about the salvation of the world. As Jesus revealed himself, they took a first step in their understanding of what Peter describes in 1 Peter 1 as 'new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead'.
We live now in times of constant change and uncertainty. This is more marked in areas of the world that are politically and economically volatile. One of the questions we are asking is how we bring the hope of Christ to children and young people in these changing and uncertain times. I am grateful to God for the ways I have seen this happening already in SU ministry. Characteristically this ministry requires a depth of relationship and a willingness to 'walk the journey' with children and young people through the changes and uncertainties in their lives. This type of ministry is not a 'quick fix' and takes time and long-term commitment. As we continue through the process of community listening and as we enter into discussion of the outcomes in November, I pray that God will continue to give us insight and wisdom as we consider the changes that may be required as we seek to bring hope to a young generation.
Words by Janet Morgan Janet is Scripture Union International Director, and will be part of the Living Hope gathering in Malaysia next week. The gathering will be broadcast each day (accessible through the website) and you are invited to participate and feedback via email and Facebook. Learn more on the Living Hope website.