I've been thinking about this lately: true hope is linked to grace. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Isaiah 40I appreciate the oratorio Messiah by G.F. Handel. I begins with a number of pieces taken from the text of Isaiah 40. Its first words are "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned..."
In this passage, God is speaking to a people who are being sent into exile for their acts of disobedience. According to John Calvin's commentary on Isaiah 40:1, the verb "says" ought to be rendered "will say." In other words, despite the difficulties and trials that the people will experience, God will speak comfort to them. A time will come when they can make a new start. God will forgive them and give them a true hope to rely upon.
As readers of this passage so many centuries later, we are the recipients of this grace today, not in some future time. This opportunity to be forgiven and given a second chance is here for us right now. It enables us to walk in hope.
The Butterfly CircusThis short film illustrates the link between grace and hope in a powerful way. A character named Will is treated as a freak in a circus sideshow; the showman introduces him as "a man who God Himself has turned his back upon." Will has no limbs (and is played by Nick Vujicic) and is treated as an undeserving excuse for a human being. Will despairs that this is the only life for him, to be gawked at and to be attacked with rotten fruit because he can do nothing to defend himself.
|New born butterfly, Aug. 2014|
As the story unfolds, Will becomes open to the possibility of hope and leaves the place where he is being exploited.
Where the harsh, merit-based way of thinking takes special note of how persons do not measure up to strict standards, grace sees intrinsic value, possibilities and a new beginning. Those who have been shown such grace need to extend it to others, sharing with them the basis for true hope.